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By Martin Liptrot

By Martin Liptrot

A week in America | 26 October 2023

This week, Martin continues to follow the chaos in Congress. While finding a new Speaker is a step forward, what comes next has many people worried...

After weeks of failing to find anyone the majority of the Republican Party could get behind, the GOP finally identified the candidate capable of squeezing enough votes to be installed as Speaker.

As previously reported, the lack of a head honcho in Congress means lots of vital work has been on hold, and at a time when wars are breaking out across the globe, America found itself unable to make its customary moves due to this process snafu.

But while everyone agrees having a Speaker is better than not having one, who it is matters.

The new Speaker is Rep, Mike Johnson (R-La) and he has many politicians, businesses and communities worried.

Johnson looks a bit like Penfold from Danger Mouse.

While US politics, especially on the hard right, is dominated by big hair, shouty rhetoric, and beady-eyed, spit-flecked angry men and women – Johnson looks like he works in a bank rather than owns one or is a volunteer librarian rather than a book-burning demagogue.

But looks can be deceiving.

Democratic strategists have warned to expect chaos from Republicans in the House following their election of Johnson.

“Get ready for it,” Chai Komanduri told MSNBC.

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz kickstarted the ousting of previous Speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy three weeks ago ‘under orders’ from Donald Trump who was furious that McCarthy had done deals with Democrats and Biden’s White House, rather than his wish to “shut down the government and create an atmosphere of chaos” which the former president believes sets the conditions for him to win back the White House.

With McCarthy gone, Johnson will “do Donald Trump’s bidding,” according to the Democrat strategy team.

“Get ready for it. We’ll have a government shutdown,” Komanduri predicted, adding that the Republicans were “going to shut down aid to Ukraine to help Trump’s major benefactor, Vladimir Putin. That’s what’s going to occur.”

Johnson’s political history supports such fears.

While he operates within the halls and committee rooms of Congress rather than in the TV studios or at rallies and protests, he is a major player in the hard right take-over of the Republican Party. His quiet rise to one of the top jobs in American politics shows MAGA – Make America Great Again – is back.

Like many on the right of the Republican Party he has entrenched views on social issues.

Before entering politics, Johnson worked for legal lobby group and tax exempt 501c (3) Alliance Defending Freedom –working to expand Christian practices within public schools and government and curtail the rights of LGBTQ people. ADF lawyers also wrote Mississippi’s anti-abortion legislation that led to the 49-year-old case Roe vs Wade which establishing the right to abortion being overturned.

After being elected in 2017, Johnson was chosen as an Assistant Whip for House Republicans, a member of the Judiciary Committee, the Armed Services Committee. He also became Chairman of the Republican Study Committee.

Rather like the man himself, this under-stated organisation, is a powerful influencer within the policy making and political agenda setting process of the GOP.

The Republican Study Committee is the largest caucus group in Congress today, and proposes cuts in all federal funding except defence, the protection of 2nd amendment right to bear arms, repeal of gay rights and the building of a wall along the nation’s southern border.

It is easy to see how in today’s political climate, Johnson was able to pull the required votes together to be elected Speaker.

But the elephant in the room is always Donald Trump.

While Trump is sat in a court room in New York arguing that he didn’t falsify his bank records to get cheap loans and investments, he is also directing the play within the Republican Party.

The Donald remains fantastically popular with the party membership of the GOP.

They agree he was cheated, was standing up for the things they believe in, and would welcome him back to the White House immediately.

Elected officials of all parties recognise the man is a megalomaniac, facing dozens of legal challenges – civil and criminal – and on the world stage at such a sensitive time, is unsuitable for office.

But very few in the red ranks of the Republicans would dare to utter such mutinous chants. They know they will be deselected and the fabulous lifestyle, free health care, subsidized housing and gold-plated retirement plan they currently receive could be snatched away.

Best to say nothing.

But now Johnson is going to run with the wishes of Trump and force members of congress to act – one way or another.

The nation is already borrowing way more than it makes, admittedly it is borrowing from itself by issuing new money and bonds, but it doesn’t currently have a Funding Agreement in place, and the temporary one introduced to prevent a Government Shutdown expires on November 17 when Congress breaks for Thanksgiving.

A wise move would be to extend the temporary funding agreement so the nation can get through the holiday period and resolve the challenges it faces on where to hike taxes and make cuts, prioritize spending and offer support to America’s allies in the Middle East and eastern Europe.

But that wouldn’t play well in courtroom number 7 in New York.

Trump needs a government meltdown let alone a shutdown to distract the voters from his own woes and to keep the calls for his return to ‘sort it out’ loud. If that shutdown doesn’t happen before the judgement in these first trials, Trump may start to lose support amongst the GOP electorate base, and when the Criminal case begins, he may see even more support ebb away quickly.

The plan is simple: Crash the government, wreck the nation’s economy, fuel war and conflict – all so Trump’s dalliances with pornstars, hiding and sharing of secret documents, campaign funding from Russia and corruption allegations seem like small beer.

Step forward Penfold. ‘Oh Crumbs’.

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Martin Liptrot

Martin Liptrot is a Public Affairs, PR and Marketing consultant working with UK, US and Global clients to try and ‘make good ideas happen’.

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