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Republican

Sen. Mike Johanns (R)

Mike Johanns Contact
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Email: n/a
DC Contact Information

Phone: 202-224-4224

Address: 404 RSOB, DC 20510

Mike Johanns Biography
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  • Elected: 2008, term expires 2014, 1st term.
  • State: Nebraska
  • Born: Jun. 18, 1950, Osage, IA
  • Home: Omaha
  • Education:

    St. Mary's Col. (MN), B.A. 1971; Creighton U., J.D. 1974.

  • Professional Career:

    Atty., Cronin and Hannon, 1975-76; Atty., Nelson, Johanns, Morris, Holdeman and Titus, 1976-1991; Clerk, Hon. Hale McCown, NE Supreme Court; U.S. secy. of agriculture, 2005-07.

  • Political Career:

    Lancaster Cnty. Bd. of Commissioners, 1983-87; Lincoln City Cncl., 1989-1991; Lincoln mayor, 1991-98; NE gov., 1998-05.

  • Religion:

    Catholic

  • Family: Married (Stephanie); 2 children

Republican Mike Johanns, Nebraska’s senior senator, is a former governor and U.S. secretary of Agriculture, and he is a conservative willing to collaborate with Democrats, an increasingly rare bird in Congress. His seat will come open in 2014; Johanns announced in February 2013 that he would not seek reelection. Read More

Republican Mike Johanns, Nebraska’s senior senator, is a former governor and U.S. secretary of Agriculture, and he is a conservative willing to collaborate with Democrats, an increasingly rare bird in Congress. His seat will come open in 2014; Johanns announced in February 2013 that he would not seek reelection.

Johanns (JOE-hans) was born in Iowa and is of Luxembourgian descent.Johanns grew up on a dairy farm in Osage, Iowa, and started doing chores at age 4. He attended college in Minnesota, earned a law degree at Creighton University in Omaha, and, after clerking for a judge there for a year, settled into a career in Nebraska rather than returning to his native state. He practiced law in O’Neill and got involved in local politics in 1982, when he was elected to the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners. He also served on the Lincoln City Council and was elected mayor of Lincoln in 1991. Johanns was a Democrat until 1988.

Though reelected mayor of Lincoln in 1995, Johanns began laying the groundwork for a gubernatorial run in 1998 by traveling to each of the state’s 93 counties. He faced vigorous competition in the Republican primary. State Auditor John Breslow had a large campaign treasury, and 2nd District House Rep. Jon Christensen had strong support from religious conservatives. A week before the May primary, Christensen distributed fliers accusing Johanns of allowing obscene and racist broadcasts to air on Lincoln’s public access cable channel. Johanns maintained that he had, in fact, tried to stop the broadcasts.

This was a high-spending contest. Breslow spent $3.8 million, Christensen $1.8 million, and Johanns $1.7 million. Johanns prevailed with 40% of the vote to 30% for Breslow and 28% for Christensen. In the general election, Johanns faced Democrat Bill Hoppner, a longtime aide to former Sens. James Exon and Bob Kerrey. The campaign was conducted civilly but with major differences on issues. Johanns’ solid conservatism was more in step with the Republican leanings of the state and he won, 54% to 46%.

As governor, Johanns’ low-key nature belied his strong policy convictions. During his first term, he vetoed 26 bills in five days, the state’s strongest use of the veto pen in a decade. He vetoed a moratorium on the death penalty and a bill raising elected officials’ salaries and his own salary from the nation’s lowest, $65,000 annually. He got passed a $10 million bill for tax credits and entrepreneurship grants to firms that opened businesses in rural areas. In 2001, Nebraska’s revenues started coming in below estimates, but Johanns pushed ahead with plans to cut spending by $171 million. “I’m not here to sign tax increases,” he said. “Government tends to operate better when it’s under pressure.” In 2002, state revenues decreased further, but Johanns vetoed temporary increases in the sales, income, and cigarette taxes, though the legislature overrode his vetoes. Johanns was easily reelected in 2002 without a serious challenge. During his second term, he joined President George W. Bush’s Cabinet as Agriculture secretary.

In that role, Johanns more than doubled the number of acres in conservation programs nationwide and focused on opening foreign markets to domestic farm products. By far his biggest undertaking was representing the administration on Capitol Hill as Congress wrote the 2008 farm bill. The administration wanted to reduce farm spending by $88 billion over five years and eliminate government payments to farmers who made more than $200,000 a year, a proposal aimed at complying with international demands to reduce farm subsidies in the United States. Although Johanns and the president were in agreement on the bill, both chambers of Congress opposed it. Top Democrats on the Agriculture committees widely criticized Johanns for leaving the post to run for the Senate in the middle of the negotiations to pass a farm bill, which was set to expire at the end of 2007.

When Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel announced his retirement in September 2007, leaving an open Senate seat, Johanns quit his administration job and returned home to campaign. Other prominent Republicans, including Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and Omaha Mayor Hal Daub, were contenders, with Bruning able to raise an impressive $780,000 a year out from the election. But the two men stepped aside as it became increasingly clear that Johanns would win. For the general election, national Democrats aggressively tried to recruit former Sen. Bob Kerrey, but he opted to remain in his job as president of the New School in New York City. The Democrats turned to rancher and college instructor Scott Kleeb, who in 2006 came within 10 percentage points of winning the open House seat in Nebraska’s heavily Republican 3rd District.

Johanns and Kleeb differed on a variety of issues. Johanns advocated increased offshore drilling and exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, while Kleeb said he favored more green solutions to energy shortages, such as the development of wind energy, ethanol, and biofuels. They also clashed on the seriousness of global warming. Kleeb called the issue a “moral test” for policy leaders, and Johanns took the more typically conservative position that potential fixes should take the costs to industry into account and that reducing carbon emissions to the levels touted by his opponent was unrealistic.

The state’s other senator, Democrat Ben Nelson, criticized Johanns for leaving the administration before work on the farm bill was complete. And Kleeb tried mightily to tie Johanns to Bush, by then unpopular in public opinion polls. Johanns responded by saying that he hadn’t been in Washington long enough to be defined by the administration he served. “I was in D.C. less time than Barack Obama has been,” Johanns was fond of saying on the campaign trail, contrasting himself to the first-term U.S. senator from Illinois then running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

It turned out that Johanns’ affiliation with Bush hardly resonated in this red state. He won the election with 58% of the vote to Kleeb’s 40%. The Democrat prevailed in just seven of 93 counties, including Lancaster County, which is home to Lincoln, the state capital. However, Johanns beat him in most rural counties and in Omaha in Douglas County. Johanns has never lost an election, including six general elections and six primaries.

Putting his Washington experience to use, Johanns quickly became one of the most admired freshmen among his Republican colleagues. He won passage of an amendment on the fiscal 2010 budget resolution preventing the use of the filibuster-proof reconciliation process to advance climate change legislation, something he said would endanger his state’s coal-powered agricultural economy. Johanns led the charge in pushing for repeal of the 1099 tax provision in the health care overhaul that imposed what small businesses complained was an unreasonable information burden upon them. In April 2011, the Senate voted to remove the 1099 reporting provision, 87-12, and the bill was signed into law.

On that measure, as well as on other legislation, he showed that he could work with Democrats. He joined with Alaska Democrat Mark Begich to form a Senate Caucus on General Aviation, an important issue for rural states, that quickly grew to more than two dozen members. He also joined a majority of Democrats in December 2010 in ratifying the New START arms treaty with Russia. He employed a quiet but authoritative manner, often showing a willingness to listen to others. “He doesn’t just jump up and pound his views all the time,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. But like other ex-governors, he found himself missing the decisiveness of being a chief executive. “You could wake up in the morning as governor and you could get things done,” Johanns said.

In 2012, Johanns contemplated running for the leadership post of Republican Conference chairman, but he backed down after the more senior Sen. John Thune of South Dakota decided to run. Johanns also expressed interest in a position on the Senate Finance Committee that opened up when scandal-plagued Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., resigned, but the coveted committee post was given to Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. However, in 2013 Johanns won a spot on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

During the 112th Congress in 2011-12, Johanns pushed to build the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Many Cornhusker State politicians opposed the pipeline because it was expected to run through the Great Plains’ Ogallala Aquifer and the Sand Hills prairie in north-central Nebraska. In August 2011, Johanns joined with Republican Gov. Dave Heineman in calling on President Obama to recommend using an alternative route that does not run through Sand Hills. Obama rejected the permit and sought more time to find potential alternative routes.

When Johanns’ Nebraska colleague, former Sen. Chuck Hagel, was nominated by Obama to be Defense secretary in early 2013, Senate conservatives opposed him over statements he made regarding Israel’s lobbying power and other issues. Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer also opposed Hagel, but Johanns broke with conservatives and supported him. “I probably know Chuck Hagel better than any other United States senator,” he told The Columbus Telegram. “I do think he’ll be strong with our allies (and) with the men and women who wear our uniform.” Johanns was one of just four Republicans to vote for Hagel’s confirmation.

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Mike Johanns Election Results
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2008 General
Mike Johanns (R)
Votes: 455,854
Percent: 57.52%
Spent: $3,907,749
Scott Kleeb
Votes: 317,456
Percent: 40.06%
Spent: $1,852,094
2008 Primary
Mike Johanns (R)
Votes: 112,191
Percent: 78.05%
Pat Flynn
Votes: 31,560
Percent: 21.95%
Prior Winning Percentages
Governor: 2002 (69%), 1998 (54%)
Mike Johanns Votes and Bills
Back to top NJ Vote Ratings

National Journal’s rating system is an objective method of analyzing voting. The liberal score means that the lawmaker’s votes were more liberal than that percentage of his colleagues’ votes. The conservative score means his votes were more conservative than that percentage of his colleagues’ votes. The composite score is an average of a lawmaker’s six issue-based scores. See all NJ Voting

More Liberal
More Conservative
2013 2012 2011
Economic 35 (L) : 62 (C) 32 (L) : 67 (C) 35 (L) : 64 (C)
Social 18 (L) : 81 (C) 26 (L) : 71 (C) 33 (L) : 64 (C)
Foreign 41 (L) : 58 (C) 32 (L) : 67 (C) 36 (L) : 63 (C)
Composite 32.2 (L) : 67.8 (C) 30.8 (L) : 69.2 (C) 35.5 (L) : 64.5 (C)
Interest Group Ratings

The vote ratings by 10 special interest groups provide insight into a lawmaker’s general ideology and the degree to which he or she agrees with the group’s point of view. Two organizations provide just one combined rating for 2011 and 2012, the two sessions of the 112th Congress. They are the ACLU and the ITIC. About the interest groups.

20112012
FRC7185
LCV014
CFG6553
ITIC-88
NTU7763
20112012
COC100-
ACLU-25
ACU7080
ADA2015
AFSCME0-
Key Senate Votes

The key votes show how a member of Congress voted on the major bills of the year. N indicates a "no" vote; Y a "yes" vote. If a member voted "present" or was absent, the bill caption is not shown. For a complete description of the bills included in key votes, see the Almanac's Guide to Usage.

    • End fiscal cliff
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2012
    • Block faith exemptions
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • Approve gas pipeline
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2012
    • Approve farm bill
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2012
    • Let cyber bill proceed
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • Block Gitmo transfers
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2012
    • Raise debt limit
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2011
    • Pass balanced budget amendment
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2011
    • Stop EPA climate regulations
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2011
    • Proceed to Cordray vote
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Require talking filibuster
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Limit Fannie/Freddie
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2011
    • Regulate financial firms
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2010
    • Pass tax cuts for some
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2010
    • Legalize immigrants' kids
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2010
    • Ratify New START
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2010
    • Confirm Elena Kagan
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2010
    • Stop EPA climate regs
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2010
    • Repeal don't ask, tell
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2010
    • Overturn Ledbetter
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Block release of TARP funds
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Pass $787 billion stimulus
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Repeal DC gun laws
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Confirm Sonia Sotomayor
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Pass health care bill
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Bar budget rules for climate bill
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Pass 2010 budget resolution
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Let judges adjust mortgages
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Allow FDA to regulate tobacco
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Protect gays from hate crimes
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Cut F-22 funds
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Label North Korea terrorist state
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Build Guantanamo replacement
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Allow federal funds for abortion
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
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The Almanac is a members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics. Comprehensive online profiles include biographical and political summaries of elected officials, campaign expenditures, voting records, interest-group ratings, and congressional staff look-ups. In-depth overviews of each state and house district are included as well, along with demographic data, analysis of voting trends, and political histories.
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