Democrats prepare to put Mike Johnson’s rightwing beliefs at center of 2024 campaign – US politics live | US Congress

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Biden condemns Maine mass shooting, calls for GOP to support ban on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines

Joe Biden has released a statement calling yesterday’s mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, that left 18 people dead “senseless and tragic”, and urging Republicans to support tightening access to firearms.

“Once again, our nation is in mourning after yet another senseless and tragic mass shooting. Today, Jill and I are praying for the Americans who’ve lost their lives, for those still in critical care, and for the families, survivors and community members enduring shock and grief,” the president said.

“Today, in the wake of yet another tragedy, I urge Republican lawmakers in Congress to fulfill their duty to protect the American people. Work with us to pass a bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, to enact universal background checks, to require safe storage of guns and end immunity from liability for gun manufacturers. This is the very least we owe every American who will now bear the scars – physical and mental – of this latest attack.”

For more on this developing story, follow our live blog:

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says Johnson ‘will fail’ as speaker if he shuns bipartisanship

In remarks on the Senate floor, Democratic majority leader Chuck Schumer urged the newly elected Republican House speaker to embrace bipartisanship, and warned him against tumbling down “the Maga road”:

“If Speaker Johnson lives up to the label that Congressman Gaetz has given him, ‘MAGA Mike,’ he will fail as the previous Speakers have… I look forward to working constructively…and congratulate him on his election.”

— Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on the Senate floor

— The Recount (@therecount) October 26, 2023

Anything the GOP-dominated House passes must be approved by the Democratic-controlled Senate, and vice versa – including legislation to fund the government beyond 17 November. That is expected to be Congress’s top priority in the weeks to come.

On the topic of government shutdowns, there appears to be a resolution at hand to address the strange incident of Democratic congressman Jamaal Bowman pulling a fire alarm last month during a tense moment in spending negotiations, the Guardian’s Martin Pengelly reports:

The Democratic New York congressman Jamaal Bowman said he would plead guilty to a misdemeanour charge and pay a fine for pulling a fire alarm in a congressional building as a crucial vote neared last month.

In a statement, Bowman said: “I’m thankful for the quick resolution from the District of Columbia attorney general’s office on this issue and grateful that the United States Capitol police general counsel’s office agreed I did not obstruct nor intend to obstruct any House vote of proceedings.

“I am responsible for activating a fire alarm, I will be paying the fine issued, and look forward to these charges ultimately being dropped.”

On Saturday, 30 September, Bowman was captured on camera pulling the alarm in the Cannon office building as a vote on a stopgap funding measure, which ultimately staved off a government shutdown, drew near.

Republicans accused him of seeking to delay the vote. He denied it.

He said: “Today, as I was rushing to make a vote, I came to a door that is usually open for votes but today was not open. I am embarrassed to admit that I activated the fire alarm, mistakenly thinking it would open the door. I regret this and sincerely apologise for any confusion this caused.”

Here’s more from Reuters on today’s economic growth data. Among the conclusions that can be drawn from it is that the United States is not in a recession, despite the predictions of some economists as well as Joe Biden’s Republican adversaries:

The US economy grew at its fastest pace in nearly two years in the third quarter as higher wages from a tight labor market helped to power consumer spending, again defying dire warnings of a recession that have lingered since 2022.

Gross domestic product increased at a 4.9% annualized rate last quarter, the fastest since the fourth quarter of 2021, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis said in its advance estimate of third-quarter GDP growth. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast GDP rising at a 4.3% rate.

Estimates ranged from as low as a 2.5% rate to as high as a 6.0% pace, a wide margin reflecting that some of the input data, including September durable goods orders, goods trade deficit, wholesale and retail inventory numbers were published at the same time as the GDP report.

The economy grew at a 2.1% pace in the April-June quarter and is expanding at a rate well above what Fed officials regard as the non-inflationary growth rate of around 1.8%.

While the robust growth pace notched last quarter is unlikely sustainable, it was testament to the economy’s resilience despite aggressive interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve. Growth could slow in the fourth quarter because of the United Auto Workers strikes and the resumption of student loan repayments by millions of Americans.

Biden hails economic growth, warns Republicans against government shutdown

In a just-released statement, Joe Biden cheered today’s commerce department data showing the US economy grew at its fastest pace in nearly two years in the third quarter, while warning Republicans against shutting down the government.

“I always say it is a mistake to bet against the American people, and just today we learned the economy grew 4.9% in the third quarter. I never believed we would need a recession to bring inflation down – and today we saw again that the American economy continues to grow even as inflation has come down. It is a testament to the resilience of American consumers and American workers, supported by Bidenomics – my plan to grow the economy by growing the middle class,” the president said, using the term his administration coined to describe his economic policies.

Congress is in the midst of a protracted fight over government spending, which has returned as the biggest issue on lawmakers’ plates after the House yesterday elected Mike Johnson speaker, allowing the lower chamber to pass legislation again. The federal government will exhaust its ability to spend money after 17 November, at which point it will have to halt or dramatically curtail services. In his statement, Biden warned that could have a disastrous effect on the economy.

“I hope Republicans in Congress will join me in working to build on this progress, rather than putting our economy at risk with reckless threats of a shutdown or proposals to cut taxes for the wealthy and large corporations, while slashing programs that are essential for hard-working families and seniors,” the president said.

Or take it from Donald Trump himself.

Here’s the former president yesterday taking credit for getting Mike Johnson elected as speaker of the House. Trump was speaking outside his ongoing civil fraud trial in New York City:

Donald Trump congratulates Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and takes credit for him being elected:

“We were very happy to help … At this time yesterday, nobody was thinking of Mike, and then we put out the word and now he’s the Speaker of the House.”

— The Recount (@therecount) October 25, 2023

Just the day prior, Republicans had nominated their third-highest-ranking lawmaker in the House, Tom Emmer, for the leadership post, only to see him quickly drop out of contention, in part due to opposition from Trump.

Affirmation of Mike Johnson’s Trumpian bona fides came yesterday from none other than Matt Gaetz, the rightwing lawmaker who successfully ousted Kevin McCarthy from the speaker’s post earlier this month, kicking off three weeks of crisis in the House. Here’s what Gaetz had to say about the chamber’s new leader, from the Guardian’s Martin Pengelly:

Mike Johnson’s ascent to be speaker of the US House of Representatives proves Donald Trump dominates the Republican party and “Maga is ascendant”, the Florida congressman Matt Gaetz said, using an acronym for Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America great again”.

“The swamp is on the run, Maga is ascendant and if you don’t think that moving from Kevin McCarthy to Maga Mike Johnson shows the ascendance of this movement, and where the power of the Republican party truly lies, then you’re not paying attention,” Gaetz told the former Trump campaign chair and White House strategist Steve Bannon on his podcast on Wednesday.

Gaetz precipitated three weeks of leaderless chaos inside the Republican party, and therefore the House, when he triggered the removal of McCarthy this month. Seven other Republicans voted to make McCarthy the first speaker ever ejected by his own party but Gaetz orchestrated the move.

At one point in the chaotic three weeks it took Republicans to elect a new speaker of the House, the party nominated conservative firebrand Jim Jordan for the post, only to see him lose the election and drop out after more lawmakers objected to his embrace of rightwing causes. But as the Guardian’s Martin Pengelly and Sam Levine made clear yesterday, Mike Johnson believes in many of the same things – and now, he’s the leader of the chamber. Here’s more on what they found:

Mike Johnson’s emergence as the new speaker of the US House of Representatives has earned the relatively little-known Louisiana Republican a turn in the national spotlight.

That spotlight has illuminated positions and remarks many deem extreme.

He tried to overturn the 2020 election

In the modern Republican party, supporting Donald Trump’s lie about the role of voter fraud in his defeat by Joe Biden is hardly an outlandish position. But Johnson took it further.

After the election, he voiced support for Trump’s conspiracy theory that voting machines were rigged. Later, he was one of 147 Republicans to object to results in key states, even after a pro-Trump mob attacked Congress on 6 January 2021, a riot now linked to nine deaths and hundreds of convictions.

Johnson also authored an amicus brief filed to the supreme court in a case in which Texas sought to have swing-state results thrown out. According to the New York Times, a House Republican lawyer said Johnson’s brief was unconstitutional. Nonetheless, he persuaded 125 colleagues to sign it, using tactics some thought heavy-handed.

The supreme court refused to take the case. On Tuesday, Johnson refused to take a question about his work on Trump’s behalf – smiling as fellow Republicans booed and jeered the reporter.

He was a spokesperson for a ‘hate group’

Before entering politics, Johnson worked for the Alliance Defending Freedom – designated a hate group by the Southern Law Poverty Center, which tracks US extremists.

According to the SPLC, the ADF has “supported the recriminalisation of sexual acts between consenting LGBTQ+ adults in the US and criminalisation abroad; defended state-sanctioned sterilisation of trans people abroad; contended that LGBTQ+ people are more likely to engage in paedophilia; and claimed that a ‘homosexual agenda’ will destroy Christianity and society”.

On Wednesday, the ADF senior counsel, Jeremy Tedesco, denied the organisation was a hate group and attacked the SPLC designation as partisan.

“The truth is, Alliance Defending Freedom is among the largest and most effective legal advocacy organizations dedicated to protecting the religious freedom and free speech rights of all Americans,” he said.

He opposes LGBTQ+ rights

In state politics and at the national level, Johnson has worked to claw back gains made by LGBTQ+ Americans in their fight for equality.

In 2016, as he ran for Congress, he told the Louisiana Baptist Message he had “been out on the front lines of the ‘culture war’ defending religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and biblical values, including the defense of traditional marriage, and other ideals like these when they’ve been under assault”. He has since led efforts for a national “don’t say gay” bill, regarding the teaching of LGBTQ+ issues in schools, and is also opposed to gender-affirming care for children.

On Wednesday, the Rev Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, said: “Johnson has made a career out of attacking the LGBTQ+ community at every turn. His positions are out of touch with the clear majority support for LGBTQ+ equality in our country. His new leadership role is just further proof of the dangerous priorities of the GOP and the critical stakes for our democracy – and for LGBTQ+ Americans – in 2024.”

Democrats gear up to put House speaker Johnson’s rightwing leaning at center of 2024 campaign

Good morning, US politics blog readers. With Mike Johnson’s election as speaker of the House of Representatives yesterday, the chamber can finally get back to work – and so can the Democratic strategists who are sure to use his rightwing beliefs as evidence that the GOP is too extreme to rule. The Louisiana lawmaker was an enthusiastic supporter of Donald Trump’s attempt to disrupt his 2020 election loss, opposes abortions and LGBTQ+ rights, and rejects the scientific consensus on climate change. The GOP has only a four-seat majority in the chamber, and Democrats are keen to topple some of the 18 Republicans representing districts Joe Biden won in 2020 and retake the majority next year – a campaign Johnson seems to be at the center of.

One of the first orders of business before Johnson will be finding agreement on a measure to fund the government beyond mid-November, when its current authorization expires. He’ll have to choose between insisting on deep cuts in spending that could alienate voters and potentially his own fellow lawmakers, or a more moderate proposal meant to keep the lights on while longer-term spending is negotiated. That’s a story that will play out in the weeks to come, but one thing is assured: Democrats will be watching.

Here’s what else is happening today:

  • Joe Biden has no public events planned today, after staying up late yesterday for a state dinner with the Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese. The usual press briefing takes place at 1pm eastern time.

  • A manhunt is under way in Maine after a gunman killed 16 people. Follow our live blog for the latest on this developing story.

  • Nancy Pelosi, the former Democratic speaker of the House, will address first-year students at Georgetown Law School this afternoon – and perhaps weigh in on Johnson’s emergence.

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