Oct 25, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Mike Johnson is the least experienced House speaker in 140 years

Shortest House tenures before first speakership
Data: Office of the House Historian, Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress. Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

House Speaker Mike Johnson — elected on Wednesday after 22 days of chaos — is the least experienced representative to obtain the gavel in 140 years.

Why it matters: The fourth-term Louisianian's status as a relatively unknown figure outside Capitol Hill meant he had few enemies to derail his campaign.

By the numbers: It's a stunning rise to power for Johnson, a low-ranking member of the GOP leadership team who was first elected in 2016.

  • He has less experience serving in the House than any person elected speaker since John G. Carlisle in 1883, according to an Axios analysis.
  • Since the Civil War, speakers have spent an average of 18 years in the chamber before ascending to the top of the ladder.
  • John McCormack — the speaker from 1962 to 1971 — spent 33 years in the House before becoming speaker.

Zoom in: Johnson was the fourth GOP nominee — following House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise — in the battle to replace former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

  • "Mike is one of those people who gets along with everybody and he's well respected," Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who opposed Jordan and Scalise, said on CNN.
  • When asked why Johnson won, Buck said: "Probably because he has the fewest enemies of anybody in the Republican Party."
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