Speaker Mike Johnson said on Thursday evening that his personal worldview and policy positions are dictated by the Bible, in his first extended interview since assuming the job second in line to the presidency.
During a 41-minute interview with the Fox News host Sean Hannity, Mr. Johnson, a 51-year-old Louisiana Republican, acknowledged that some of his conservative Christian views, such as his opposition to same-sex marriage, run counter to the law. He said he would not try to impose that view or others, such as his opposition to abortion, on the whole country. He also laid out how he planned to approach other major issues that would soon come before Congress.
While Mr. Johnson played a pivotal role in former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, Mr. Hannity did not ask him a single question about it in the lengthy broadcast. Mr. Hannity famously told Mr. Trump to stop talking about the 2020 election.
Here are nine takeaways from the interview.
1. Johnson’s views stem from the Bible.
“I am a Bible-believing Christian,” he told Mr. Hannity. “Someone asked me today in the media, they said, ‘It’s curious, people are curious. What does Mike Johnson think about any issue under the sun?’ I said, ‘Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it.’ That’s my worldview.”
Mr. Johnson added that his religious views didn’t necessarily mean that he would be successful in pushing a conservative Christian agenda through Congress.
“Everybody comes to the House of Representatives with deep personal convictions, but all of our personal convictions are not going to become law,” he said.
2. He acknowledged that same-sex marriage is the law of the land.
Mr. Johnson has for years argued that same-sex marriage should be illegal and has called homosexuality “inherently unnatural” and “dangerous.” But he told Mr. Hannity he had no plans to try to criminalize same-sex marriage now that he’s speaker.
“On the marriage issue, no one has discussed that for as long as I can remember,” Mr. Johnson said. “This has been settled by the Supreme Court.”
He said that he disagreed with the Supreme Court, but that he would not fight to change the law.
“They changed the definition of marriage that had been regarded by basically every human society for 5,000 years, but when five justices on the Supreme Court changed it, that became the law of the land,” Mr. Johnson said. “I’m a constitutional law attorney. I respect that, and we move forward.”
In fact, Mr. Johnson tried just last year to prevent the enactment of legislation to codify same-sex marriage protections at the federal level. He was one of 169 House Republicans who voted against that bill, but it cleared Congress with broad bipartisan support and became law.
3. Johnson said abortion rights should be decided by the states.
Mr. Johnson is staunchly opposed to abortion and has supported a nationwide ban on the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But he said in the interview that he would not push for enactment of a federal prohibition, and that the matter should instead be left up to the states.
“We argued my entire career for 25 years that the states should have the right to do this,” he said. “There’s no national consensus among the people on what to do with that issue on a federal level for certain.”
4. He wants a vote on Ukraine aid separated from a vote on aid to Israel.
Mr. Johnson, who has opposed sending more aid to Ukraine as the country tries to fight off a Russian invasion, said he would insist on splitting that money off from aid to Israel for its war against Hamas. President Biden has requested one large $105 billion emergency aid package for both, including money for Taiwan and border security in the United States.
“I told the staff at the White House today that our consensus among House Republicans is that we need to bifurcate those issues,” Mr. Johnson said of Ukraine and Israel. He added, however, that he believed that Russia must be stopped.
“We can’t allow Vladimir Putin to prevail in Ukraine because I don’t believe it would stop there. And it would probably encourage and empower China to perhaps make a move on Taiwan,” he said, adding, “We’re not going to abandon them, but we have a responsibility of stewardship — responsibility over the precious treasure of the American people.”
He also described himself as a “skeptic” about providing humanitarian aid to Palestinians, as Mr. Biden has requested, arguing it could end up in the hands of terrorists.
“You do not want to further empower the terrorist groups. Our heart goes out to innocent Palestinian people, of course, as we do to anyone who’s in a terrible situation like that,” he said. “We have to be very discerning in our policy and in our approach to this.”
5. Johnson endorsed changing House rules to make it harder to remove a speaker.
During the interview, Mr. Hannity railed against the House rule that allows any one lawmaker to force a snap vote to remove the speaker, which hard-right Republicans used to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy. He suggested that the threshold for removing a speaker should be raised.
“I think we’re going to change it,” Mr. Johnson said.
6. Johnson does not want to kick out Santos.
Mr. Johnson said that he would not move to expel Representative George Santos of New York, who has been indicted on fraud charges, despite an effort by several House Republicans to do so. He noted the slim majority his party has in the chamber.
“We have a four-seat majority in the House,” he said. “It is possible that that number may be reduced even more in the coming weeks and months, and so we’ll have what may be the most razor-thin majority in the history of the Congress. We have no margin for error.”
He said Mr. Santos should get due process and the ability to fight the charges.
“He’s not convicted. He’s charged,” Mr. Johnson said. “And so if we’re going to expel people from Congress, just because they’re charged with a crime or accused, that’s a problem.”
But the matter is not up to him. House rules allow any member to call for the expulsion of another member, which a group of New York Republicans have done, and force a quick vote that takes a two-thirds majority to prevail.
7. Johnson said there would be no legislation on guns.
After the mass shooting in Maine, Mr. Johnson said it was “not the time” to talk about more gun restrictions.
“The problem is the human heart. It’s not guns, it’s not the weapons,” he said. “At the end of the day, we have to protect the right of the citizens to protect themselves, and that’s the Second Amendment, and that’s why our party stands so strongly for that.”
8. He played down the importance of race while discussing the difficulties of his Black son.
Some conservatives have criticized Mr. Johnson for comments he made in a 2020 interview in which he spoke about racial disparities in America and called for “systemic change.” In it, Mr. Johnson spoke about raising a Black son in addition to his biological children, saying his Black son had a more difficult path than his white son “simply because of the color of his skin.”
When Mr. Hannity asked about the issue on Thursday, Mr. Johnson maintained that his two sons had disparate experiences, but suggested that his Black son’s troubles were not only about race but also about his family background and circumstances.
“Having raised two 14-year-old boys in America and the state of Louisiana, they had different experiences,” he said. “And I’m not so sure it was all about skin color, but it is about culture and society. Michael, our first, came from a really troubled background and had a lot of challenges.”
9. He attacked President Biden as mentally weak and potentially corrupt, but he didn’t endorse impeachment.
During the interview, Mr. Johnson said he couldn’t think of a single thing that Mr. Biden had done well in office, suggested that the president’s mental faculties had left him and raised the accusation, without any proof, that Mr. Biden had taken foreign bribes.
Still, Mr. Johnson said he was not at the point where he could endorse an impeachment of Mr. Biden.
“I know people are getting anxious and they’re getting restless and they just want somebody to be impeached, but we don’t do that like the other team,” Mr. Johnson said. “We have to base it upon the evidence, and the evidence is coming together. We’ll see where it leads.”