Finally, We Have Courage in the House of Representatives

Courage is not a word that most would associate with the current United States Congress. Americans have a predominantly negative perception of their Representatives in Washington, with the most recent Gallup Poll showing an abysmal approval rating of just 15 percent of Americans. This lack of trust makes sense, as political courage in our nation’s capital is in critically short supply. Our Representatives increasingly cater to extremes, often follow corporate PAC checks over their constituents, and rarely take votes or actions that could separate themselves from their party. However, a recent act of individual courage in Congress should restore some confidence in our government.

Last Saturday, the House of Representatives passed a critical foreign policy package that will supply U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific, give humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and defense supplies to Israel, sanction and seize Russian and Iranian assets, and provide desperately needed aid to Ukraine. The inclusion of Ukraine aid was the most surprising of the four bills, given the Republican party’s control of the House and their increasing reluctance to supply Ukraine in their response to Russia’s invasion. Not only did this bill pass, but it passed with more Democratic than Republican votes and also failed to attain a majority of support from the Republican members. So, why did the Republican leadership attach Ukraine aid to the package, given that the majority of its members did not support the legislation?

Surprisingly, this move came from newly-minted Speaker of the House Mike Johnson in one of the more incredible political transformations seen in these polarizing past few years. Mike Johnson, one of the most conservative members of the House, is a fourth-term Congressman from Louisiana who rose to prominence promoting Creationism, anti-homosexuality, and sodomy laws has used his time in Congress to contest the results of the 2020 election. Before he was plunged into the Speakership after the right flank of his party ousted his predecessor, he consistently voted against funding for Ukraine.

However, Speaker Johnson is no longer just one of the 435 members of Congress; he is now one of the most powerful legislators in the world and second-in-line to the presidency. According to a recent report by “CNN,” Johnson, “feeling the weight of his future and knowing history was watching him” finally reached the conclusion to put these four bills on the House Floor, despite threats from the Republican right flank to end his Speakership. Johnson attended sensitive intelligence briefings about the conflicts raging abroad, consulted with his colleagues on the other side of the aisle, and as a devout lifelong Christian, prayed on the decisions ahead of him. After intense personal deliberation, he decided to prioritize the good of the country over his political expediency in a clear example of political courage. For the sake of the free world, he put the package on the floor and allowed it to pass with bipartisan support.

Now, I do not want to give the Speaker more credit than he deserves. By default, our elected leaders should act selflessly and for the common good without letting political ramifications alter their decisions. Some argue that the bar was on the floor for the Speaker, and his decision was an action that should be expected, not applauded. So, while Speaker Johnson might not be the pinnacle of political courage, he still deserves credit when credit is due. I do not agree with much of the Speaker’s politics. In fact, I find some of his policies downright abhorrent. But as a student interested in politics, policy, and law, his decision to take the initiative despite the personal and political risk is a commendable example of leadership. Acknowledging good decisions from those we disagree with is a much-needed gesture in our politics today.