Passing at home, failing abroad: Grading Mike Johnson's first month as speaker

  • In late October, House Republicans settled on a little-known congressman as their next leader.

  • Mike Johnson, who succeeded Rep. Kevin McCarthy, has now led the chamber for just under a month.

  • Business Insider drafted a report card for his performance thus far.

Mike Johnson has been the speaker of the House for just under a month now following a testy race to succeed ousted former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

As Business Insider detailed a day before the House promoted Johnson to the role, a mountain of responsibilities quickly piled up on the vacant speaker's desk as Republicans deliberated for weeks before coming to an agreement on Johnson.

Nearly a month later — and with about five weeks until the new year — here's a report card to assess how successful the newly crowned speaker has been thus far.

Government funding: Pass (for now)

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson.Tom Brenner for The Washington Post via Getty Images

In October, McCarthy was ousted from leadership after passing bipartisan legislation to temporarily fund the government via a "clean" continuing resolution.

More than a month later, Johnson narrowly avoided a government shutdown and passed nearly the same legislation, but with a catch: The plan fully funds the government through the end of the year, but following that, various sectors of the government face the possibility of shutting down if Congress can't come together to prolong its funding.

Johnson's so-called "laddered" approach has been heavily criticized by congressional Democrats, Republicans, and even the White House, who called it an "unserious proposal."

Nevertheless, it's the plan Johnson pushed, Congress approved, and Biden enacted. The government's funded — for now — but there's no guarantee it'll remain that way much longer.

Wartime/humanitarian funding for the Israel-Gaza conflict: Fail

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson
House Majority Whip Rep. Tom Emmer, Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Johnson, House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik, and House Majority Leader Rep. Steve Scalise leave after a news briefing at the Capitol on November 2, 2023, in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Mere days after McCarthy's sudden ouster, Hamas fighters launched a surprise terror attack on Israel, killing more than 1,000 civilians. Since then, Israel's military response has killed more than 12,000 Palestinians.

In late October, Biden asked Congress for $14.3 billion to send to Israel's wartime effort in addition to billions in humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

Johnson and House Republicans acquiesced to the $14.3 billion, however, the plan they pushed funds the cash infusion by cutting billions in funding for the Internal Revenue Service the agency received from the Inflation Reduction Act.

Though the bill did pass in the House, it entered the Democratic-led Senate dead on arrival, especially after the White House promised to veto it if brought to Biden's desk.

Recent reports have predicted that congressional leaders still have hopes of passing a bill giving supplementary aid to Israel, but there don't appear to be many concrete details to the plan as of yet.

Additional wartime funds to Ukraine: Fail

Mitch McConnell, Volodymyr Zelensky, and Chuck Schumer
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to reporters following a private meeting with senators. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer flank him.Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

The conflict in the Middle East isn't the only wartime effort the US government is publicly looking to fund.

Over the course of more than a year, the US has already sent more than $75 billion in aid to Ukraine's ongoing fight against Russia's invading forces. The White House also asked Congress to approve $61.4 billion more for Ukraine, but Johnson has yet to bring any piece of legislation up for a vote regarding potential Ukrainian funding.

Several Republicans in Congress have said they'll only consider supporting any additional funding to Ukraine if it's coupled with an influx of funds to fortify the US-Mexico border, further complicating the process.

Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, recently told The Hill he thinks the Senate will pass a bill packaging funding for the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel, US border security, as well as Taiwan.

"I think we're going to have a Ukraine-border bill," McCaul said. "And then the Senate, after Thanksgiving, will probably pass their Ukraine-Israel-border-Taiwan bill. And that will come over to us, and the Speaker's going to have to make a decision."

Farm bill: Pass (for now)

Mexican farm workers harvest cabbages in a sunny field in California
Immigrant farm workers in California 2017Sandy Huffaker/AFP via Getty Images

The laddered continuing resolution recently passed by Congress didn't just temporarily fund the government: it also included a one-year extension to the deal passed by Congress in 2018.

The 2018 farm bill was notably enacted prior to the pandemic and subsequent spike in inflation, both of which have had tremendous impacts on the industry at large.

The president of the American Farm Bureau Federation recently told the Texas Farm Bureau that while extending the 2018 bill is a start, a new one is needed by early 2024 to directly "reflect today's realities."

Section 702: Fail

Christopher Wray
FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, in Washington.Evan Vucci/AP

Without any congressional intervention, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is set to expire by the end of the year. Initially established in 2008, Section 702 allows the US government to covertly surveil foreigners outside the country "who are expected to possess, receive, or communicate foreign intelligence information."

According to the Associated Press, information obtained by the federal government authorized by Section 702 compiles nearly 60% of the president's daily briefing.

A bipartisan coalition of members of Congress introduced the "Government Surveillance Reform Act" in early November, which would in part reauthorize Section 702 for four more years, though it also included several proposed reforms to the extent the intelligence community can surveil Americans which the White House has already said is a nonstarter.

Johnson has a well-documented history criticizing the intelligence-gathering statute. In January, he sent a letter alongside GOP Rep. Jim Jordan to the director of the FBI alleging "apparent widespread violations of privacy rules" committed by the intelligence community with the permission of the statute.

With just over a month left until the authorization expires, though, Johnson's been mum on the topic since becoming speaker.

Fundraising: To be determined

Mike Johnson
Newly elected Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Johnson speaks with Speaker pro tempore Patrick McHenry in the House chamber after his election at the US Capitol on October 25, 2023, in Washington, DC.Win McNamee/Getty Images

Johnson, who's been in Congress since 2017, had very little experience fundraising before suddenly being thrust to the top of the presidential line of succession. In fact, he'd never raised more than $1.3 million in any single one of his elections.

So after surprisingly becoming speaker, a position that requires him to be a leading fundraiser for his party, it was unclear how Johnson would take to the additional responsibility.

Johnson's since hired McCarthy's former "fundraising guru" in addition to a slew of other advisors to support him in his new role. He also recently launched a new joint fundraising committee aimed at backing GOP House candidates, Grow the Majority.

As of late November, though it's unclear just how much Johnson's raised just yet.

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