BIRMINGHAM, AL – You probably didn’t have the opportunity to see the new Speaker of the House elected, so let me share a few observations. One of the perks of my duties as Executive Director is that I can often work at odd hours, giving me the occasional opportunity to do something like I did today—take a long lunch hour and watch history happen.
While working at my computer, I got a notice that the House was holding a vote. I got the TV on C-span in time to see the last thirty or so votes cast and stayed to watch the some of the aftermath. The night before, after he was nominated, I did a little research on Mike Johnson.
I found he had more than his name to recommend him. He’s old enough to have some badly needed maturity, but young enough to have sufficient energy for the tough road ahead. He can’t be described as a moderate, but he has good manners and sense enough to recognize the need for bipartisanship.
Here’s something I found in my research (Washington Post article by Theodoric Meyer) that encouraged me: “One under-reported fact about Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), the Republican nominee for speaker, according to Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.): He co-founded the bipartisan Honor and Civility Caucus with Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) in 2017 in his first year in Congress.
“The caucus aimed to encourage disagreement “in an agreeable manner” and “to help reverse the increasing divisions in and coarsening of our culture,” Johnson and Crist said in a statement at the time. (Crist left Congress last year.)
“When Dusty Johnson arrived in Congress in 2019, “Mike Johnson came to my office, sat down with me as a new member and talked to me about how important civility was in this place, and how even when we disagree with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle we should try to do it as people with good faith and good intention, with decency,” Dusty Johnson told reporters Wednesday afternoon. “That is not something very many members will spend capital on in these halls.’”
After three weeks of chaos and increasing despair and disgust with the Republicans refusal to get together, I was delighted to see that some compromise apparently had been reached without putting a radical member in such a position of power. There were a few members absent, lowering the number needed to win, but Johnson received more than enough to win with all members present. His speech included several things with which I do not agree, but he was clearly willing to do whatever it takes to find common ground with the Democrats to take care of many pressing needs without shutting down the government.
I was favorably impressed with his faith, his understanding of history, and his commitment to getting things done. He didn’t bring up anything that frightened me, and it seems clear that he has many friends in the House and few if any enemies.
I have high hopes that he will be able to deal effectively with many of the most serious and pressing issues, including aid to Israel and Ukraine, and getting a budget passed before the government is shut down. The broken border issue will be a great challenge, and compromises will be necessary, but all I have heard and learned so far is encouraging, even though he is a great deal more conservative than this moderate would prefer.
Despite his expressed intent to cut the deficit, I believe he will be willing to spend what it takes to protect the DMEPOS benefit for Medicare beneficiaries, at least if we make enough noise to gain the support of our Republican representatives. There are many places the budget could be cut, or revenue increased without affecting our piece of the healthcare delivery system. We are, after all, the most cost-effective way to deliver care.
Michael W. Hamilton is executive director of the Alabama Durable Medical Equipment Association.