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Now that Rep. Mike Johnson is House speaker, what's that mean for Louisiana?


In his first floor speech as House speaker this week, Mike Johnson recalled his upbringing in Shreveport, La. The son of a firefighter, he hoped to one day become the fire chief of his hometown. But his plans changed, and now he's second in line to the presidency. Molly Ryan, with member station WRKF in Baton Rouge, joins us now to talk about his election and what it means for Louisiana. Hi, Molly.


FADEL: So how have people in Louisiana reacted to Johnson's election as speaker?

RYAN: You know, there's been somewhat of a split reaction, but I'd say that mostly there's a lot of excitement, especially from Republicans in Louisiana. But even Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards congratulated Johnson on his election as speaker, saying Louisianans always find a way to work across party lines and that he hopes Johnson will bring those values to Washington.

Johnson has also received congratulations from Louisiana's Republican Party and from our Republican governor-elect, Jeff Landry. And his election means that two of the House's top roles, House speaker and majority Leader, are now filled by Louisianans. Steve Scalise from Louisiana is the majority leader. But despite that praise and excitement from so many, there's still a host of people in Louisiana who don't share Johnson's beliefs and are probably much less enthused about his election as speaker.

FADEL: What does his election mean for Louisiana and his district?

RYAN: Well, Johnson is the first speaker from Louisiana ever, and he's the first speaker from the South since Georgia Republican Newt Gingrich left office in 1999. Now, Johnson's election doesn't necessarily mean much for Louisiana in terms of receiving more federal funding, for instance. But the fact that he's in that leadership role, with Scalise in the No. 2 spot in House Republican leadership, could mean that issues that are important in Louisiana could get more attention on a national level.

I spoke to former Louisiana Congressman Rodney Alexander about what Johnson's speakership might mean for Louisiana. And he said one of the things he expects Johnson and Scalise to advocate for is the oil and gas industry, which has been a prominent industry in Louisiana for a long time. Johnson is actually a doubter of climate science that links fossil fuel emissions to increasing climate change. Both he and Scalise voted to pass H.R. 1 earlier this year, a GOP-packed energy bill that Democrats argued would undermine environmental regulations.

FADEL: So they're probably not going to work with Democrats on the issue of climate change, the environment. What else do we know about Johnson?

RYAN: He is a deeply religious and conservative Christian who supports far-right conservative policies. He opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage, and he is a pro-Trump guy. He served on the team that defended former President Donald Trump in his first impeachment inquiry. He's also known to deny the results of the 2020 election. He chose not to certify those results. And his views are similar to those of Jim Jordan from Ohio, but Johnson has often been described as having a more polite or kind manner about him.

FADEL: Is there any sense of how he's going to lead a very divided chamber?

RYAN: Well, he's certainly been praised for uniting House Republicans. All House Republicans voted for him and that seemed like a near-impossible feat just a week ago. In terms of working across the aisle, Johnson doesn't have a strong bipartisan record. But if he wants to avoid a government shutdown, he'll have to work with Democrats at some point. In my conversation with former Congressman Rodney Alexander, he said that he thinks Johnson can work with Democrats or at least keep things cordial. But he also said Johnson has never wavered in his conservative views, and that could make it difficult to work in a bipartisan manner.

FADEL: Molly Ryan from member station WRKF in Baton Rouge. Thanks, Molly.

RYAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Leila Fadel
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Molly Ryan