“We try to be pragmatic conservatives who are interested in tactical wins.”

Johnson Touts Work of Main Street Caucus

WASHINGTON, DC – In remarks Monday evening before a dinner meeting of The Ripon Society, U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson (SD-At Large) talked about the work of the Main Street Caucus in the 118th Congress and the increasingly important role it is playing in brokering both interparty and intraparty agreements on Capitol Hill.

Johnson serves as Chairman of the organization, which has its own website and describes itself as “a group of 70+ pragmatic conservatives who get things done.

“Main Street is made up of people who actually want to talk about the positive, who want to think about solutions, who don’t just want to burn things down,” Johnson stated, expanding on this description.  “I don’t know about you, but I’m more inspired by happy warriors than I am by the chaos agents who seem to get so much attention in this town.  And when I think about what Main Street has become, it was a good group, but over the last year, I think we’ve really become a great group.  I think some of the fires have helped to really bond us together.”

According to Johnson, those fires included the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023.

“The uber far right has tried to demonize it,” Johnson said of the legislation, which was signed into law last year.  “But I don’t know. When I look at $2 trillion worth of cuts over the course of the next four years… When I look at a shot clock for the siting of American energy – a shot clock that’s never existed before on EISs [environmental impact statements] and EAs [enterprise assessments] … When I think about the largest changes to welfare reform in a generation so that we can do an even better job of linking work and education with these assistance programs…  I think there’s a lot to talk about there.

“Folks who are members of Main Street were there helping to make sure those negotiations went well – sometimes in the room, oftentimes trying to bring a disparate group of the conference together – to try to make sure that that became a success. I think that showed that Main Street folks understand how to work with Democrats and how to sell bipartisan legislation to a Republican conference in an era where bipartisanship is not that sexy.”

Johnson also pointed to HR 2, The Secure the Border Act, as another “fire” which galvanized Main Street members and brought the role of the Caucus to the fore.

“It was a huge lift to just get it out of the Republican House,” he observed.  “Republicans have never before come together on a comprehensive immigration package, because the politics of border security and immigration are insane. People go from zero to sixty emotionally so very quickly.  But we got that done.  And I think, again, that was a lot of Main Street members being willing to talk from one end of the conference to the other – not just being able to work with Democrats, but being able to work with the Freedom Caucus, too.

“A lot of people raised eyebrows when they saw that the first stopgap funding measure proposed was negotiated by the three leaders of the Freedom Caucus and the three leaders of the Republican Main Street Caucus. People who are really in the know – they didn’t raise their eyebrows, because they understood that the Main Street folks are talking to the Freedom Caucus folks more than anybody else on the Hill.  We treasure having relationships. We try to be pragmatic conservatives who are interested in tactical wins.  And that means working with a lot of different people.”

Moving forward, Johnson pointed to two areas where he thought the “practical conservatism” of Main Street members would be needed in the coming year.

“I think FISA is frankly not going to get done without real leadership from Main Street members and others,” he stated matter-of-factly.  “I don’t think the Farm Bill is going to get done without real leadership from Main Street and others. We are not people who crave the spotlight. We’re not the folks who are going to knock others down on our way to the sticks. We just want to be in the room with the pen drafting legislation and trying to figure out how to get a win this week and next week and the week after that.”

Following his opening remarks, Johnson was asked a number of questions, including one about the prospects of providing aid and assistance to Ukraine and Israel and the divide within the GOP that is rapidly emerging in that regard.

“I don’t know what Ronald Reagan would make of this relatively newfound Republican resistance to helping people defend their country against ridiculous breaches of the rules-based international order,” the South Dakota lawmaker said.  “I’m aghast at how difficult it has become.  And increasingly, Members just don’t really want to talk about the policy.  They want to talk about the politics. ‘Well, you know, this is what I heard back home day in and day out.’

“I feel like South Dakotans sent me here to uphold my oath to the Constitution, not try to vote only for my own political comfort.  Helping Taiwan.  Helping Israel.  Helping Ukraine.  Taking care of the border.  These things are all in a substantially more difficult position than they were two weeks ago. We just have to find a way to get them done. Shame on Congress if we’re not able to deliver important wins in each of those areas.”

Johnson was also asked for his thoughts on border security and, specifically, whether he thought the inability of America to secure its own border was leading to an unwillingness by many in Congress to provide aid and assistance overseas.

“Rhetorically, it’s an incredibly powerful statement,” he acknowledged. “Why would we help Ukraine defend their borders if we won’t defend our own?  I do think the southern border is a total abject crisis. I do think the policies of the last few years have been incredibly unfortunate. And I think it’s going to be really hard for the 118th to get anything else big done until we resolve that issue.”

To view Johnson’s remarks before The Ripon Society this past Monday evening, please click the link below:

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.