Dusty Johnson looking forward to new make up of Congress

November 18, 2022

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Republicans will hold a House majority for the first time since Rep. Dusty Johnson entered Congress in 2018, yet that’s unlikely to change the South Dakota Republican’s political style of focusing on conservative policy over hot takes on cable news or Twitter, he told The Associated Press Thursday.

Johnson will start his third term next year after an easy reelection campaign in which he didn’t face a Democratic opponent in the heavily-red state. It was in part an acknowledgment from the state’s Democrats that Johnson can attract moderate voters. And now, with his party in the majority for the first time since he went to Washington, the 46-year-old said he expects to chair a subcommittee on either agriculture or transportation infrastructure.

“That’ll give us a real opportunity to help drive a policy agenda,” he told AP in an interview during which he touted policy wins on making the meatpacking industry more competitive as well as a strategy to tamp down inflation.

“Unlike a lot of my colleagues, I don’t spend a ton of time yelling on cable news or firing off angry tweets. I am somebody who reads the bills and drafts the bills,” he said.

Though Johnson celebrated the GOP’s hold on the House, it will be a narrow one. They are on track to cobble together what could be the party’s thinnest majority of the 21st century. But even that hold could give House Republicans an opportunity to investigate the overseas business dealings of President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.

At the same time, the White House is preparing to defend the Democratic president from any allegations of wrongdoing and make the case that Republicans are driven by opportunism. It’s a showdown that could explode into a new level of enmity between the House and Biden.

Johnson expressed support for investigating Hunter Biden.

“I’m not saying anybody’s guilty because I don’t think you can rush to that judgment until you have the facts,” he said. “But how do you have the facts if you don’t ask the questions?”

Asked if that would torpedo any hope for cooperation between Biden and House Republicans, the congressman turned it on the president, saying that it would be Biden’s problem if he refused to find areas of policy agreement during an investigation into his family.

Before those clashes develop with the new Congress next year, however, Johnson said he will tend to at least one more piece of business of the lame-duck Congress — the Jan. 6 committee’s final report. The committee has revealed how former President Donald Trump amplified his false claims of election fraud after he lost the 2020 election until they crescendoed into an insurrection at the Capitol that sent Johnson and his colleagues fleeing.

Any further action to address the attack and shore up the democratic process would require a willingness from Republicans like Johnson to take action. But he wasn’t making commitments on taking action after the Jan. 6 committee issues its report: “I’m a guy that always likes to read the bills, read the reports, and examine the evidence before making my mind up. So I’d like to see the report before having an opinion.”