Americans are worried about “three I’s” right now: inflation, immigration, and general incompetence, Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., says.
Citizens across the country are “deeply concerned about grocery prices and the price of fuel to fill up the gas tank,” Johnson says. “And they see the wave of illegal migrants coming over the border, and they don’t see any end to it. They’re frustrated with us for our inability to do anything about it right now.”
The Louisiana Republican joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss what he and other conservative lawmakers are doing to address these “three I’s,” and how the Biden administration has failed to tackle the challenges America faces.
Also on today’s show, we cover these stories:
- Florida takes a stand against potentially “irreversible” transgender treatments for children.
- State senators in Florida vote to eliminate a special tax district that allowed the Walt Disney Co. to self-govern the land where Disney World sits.
- Two Republican senators ask Secretary of State Antony Blinken to move the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine back to the capital city, Kyiv.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Rob Bluey: We’re joined on “The Daily Signal Podcast” today by Congressman Mike Johnson of Louisiana. Congressman, thanks so much for being here.
Rep. Mike Johnson: Hey, it’s great to be with you. Thanks for having me.
Bluey: You’ve had some time over the last few days to be back in Louisiana, talk to your constituents. I feel like sometimes in Washington, we get detached from what’s going on in real America. Tell us what’s on their minds.
Johnson: Well, you can imagine, turn on the news every night as my constituents do, and they’re very alarmed. I call it the “three I’s” right now, Rob. It’s inflation, immigration, and general incompetence. And that’s what they see from the White House, from the Democrats in charge of Congress.
And frankly, they’ve had enough. They’re very deeply concerned about grocery prices and the price of fuel to fill up the gas tank. And they see the wave of illegal migrants coming over the border and they don’t see any end to it. They’re frustrated with us for our inability to do anything about it right now, but they’re very much looking forward to the election cycle coming up.
Bluey: Let’s talk about those in that order. So inflation, it seems that there’s a disconnect in Washington from what’s going on, in part because the policies that this administration keeps putting forward, including more government spending, really, it doesn’t seem to be addressing the issue. What are the solutions that we need to be focused on?
Johnson: Well, we need to get back to the basics. In the Trump administration, the comparison is so stark right now, right? We implemented the policies that we have always believed in as conservatives. The basic philosophy of individual freedom and limited government, less regulation, lower taxation. I mean, the fundamentals.
When the Biden administration began, as soon as he came into office, as we know, they began reflexively immediately doing exactly the opposite. And I mean, literally the opposite.
So it’s a heavy regulatory burden they’re putting on businesses, obviously, with all of the shutdowns and occasioned by COVID and everything that followed. They made it a very oppressive environment in which to operate a business. Job creators, innovators, the companies, business and industry are really struggling for a lot of reasons.
On top of that, they’ve had this massive growth of government and government spending, as we’ve seen. And we all know what the effect of that will be, inflation is a natural result of dropping $9 trillion into the economy, as they did.
So we’re seeing the effects of this. It was completely foreseeable, much of it was avoidable. But they’re showing no sign right now, Rob, of slowing down or reversing course at all. They’re going to continue to double down on this. And I think the people are growing increasingly frustrated by it.
Bluey: They certainly are. You come from an energy-producing state.
Bluey: The price of gasoline is over $4 for many Americans across this country. What are some of the steps that you would like to see the administration take, if it were to be so inclined, to really ramp up domestic production?
Johnson: Well, we are beating every drum available to us to sound that alarm and demand that action, but of course they’ve done nothing. They’ve made it so difficult in the industry. …
As we say in Louisiana, it’s as if the Biden administration declared war on the oil and gas industry, on all fossil fuels. We know why, because there’s a radical environmentalist element that’s pushing the party further left and they’re making demands to the White House, but he acted accordingly.
And I mean, within the first 24 hours, 48 hours of his administration, he issued those infamous executive orders. He killed the Keystone pipeline, which is 40,000 jobs and would’ve been a big part of eliminating this crisis. He put the moratorium on federal production, on federal lands. And that’s not just on the land, but is of course offshore as well.
Louisiana being the energy state we are, that was devastating to us and our economy and our jobs. And he’s taken so many actions since to just make it exceedingly difficult for these businesses to stay alive. So many of them have gone out of business.
So it’s going to take a while for us to rebuild that domestic production as we desperately need and must have. But again, they show no willingness to want to do that. There’s some signals the last 24 hours that they—”Oh, we may back off a little bit on the federal moratorium.” But it won’t be enough. It won’t be soon enough, certainly. And we’re going to have this pain at the pump for some time.
Bluey: And it’s not only affecting Americans who are filling up their gas tanks, but it’ll also have a dramatic impact on food prices.
Bluey: Because, of course, to produce food you need to use energy. So connect the dots for us. What can Americans expect in the months to come when it comes to seeing the higher prices at the grocery store as well?
Johnson: Well, the economist that we speak to, the farmers in our districts, I have a big agriculture district in Louisiana, they’re deeply concerned about this. They can see the train wreck coming. It’s going to get worse. I don’t see anything that the White House or the Democrats in power are doing to change this trajectory. And it’s an ominous one.
So commodity prices will continue to rise because of all of these, the factors that we’re talking about. And we see no end in sight.
Plus, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s aggression on Ukraine—of course, Ukraine being the bread basket of that part of the country, of the world, that will have an ongoing effect as well on food prices also.
And so we’ve got supply chain issues. We’ve got the cost of fuel, the energy burdens, and all the rest. We’re in for some dark days until this next election cycle, unfortunately, and sadly. And there’s very little that we can do to stop it at this point.
Bluey: You mentioned the issue of immigration. Of course, in May there is a big deadline coming up.
The administration has preemptively announced that it’s planning to end Title 42, which was keeping so many sick—whether from COVID or other illnesses—immigrants, illegal immigrants out of this country. This is on top of hundreds of thousands who have already crossed the border during the Biden administration’s oversight.
What are the steps that you’re planning to take in Congress to hold this administration accountable?
Johnson: Well, listen, again, because we have a unified government with the Democrats in charge of the White House and both houses of Congress, they have not allowed us to intervene.
We have, of course, drafted all sorts of legislation. We have stacks of it. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, holds all the cards and she will not assign our legislation to a committee to be heard, or vetted, amended, processed at all. Certainly are not allowed to get a vote on that on the floor.
We’ve attempted discharge petitions to force a vote on the floor. We don’t have enough signatures. This is the great curse of being in the minority right now. And so, in so many ways, we’re just helpless as this happens.
This immigration crisis, it is impossible to overstate it. You know it, you and I talk about it all the time. But this is the true existential threat to the country.
If you don’t have a border, you don’t have sovereignty, you don’t have a nation at all. And the idea that 200,000-plus illegals came to that border in March alone, it’s much larger than the population of the third-largest city in Louisiana, the largest city in my district.
People need to understand the magnitude of this. This is not a sustainable trajectory and it’s going to lead to all sorts of negative consequences for many, many years to come.
Bluey: I think it’s interesting that even some Senate Democrats perhaps worried about their own electoral prospects seem to be signaling that they’re fed up with these open border policies as well.
Johnson: Well, this Title 42 repeal is a crazy, is truly a crazy idea. The estimate is, just having that in place, as [former President] Donald Trump did during the COVID crisis, has prevented 1.7 million people from actually coming into the country. They were able to turn them away because that was really the last tool in the arsenal that they could use.
And so if you remove Title 42, the Border Patrol agents tell us, there will no longer be any Border Patrol. They’ll be border processing agents. They’ll only be able to take the people, give them their basic needs, and send them out throughout the country.
We’ll not be able to track these folks, we won’t know who got in. The Freedom of Information Act request by Fox News, it revealed that at least 21 to 23 known terrorists were apprehended at the border just in the last year. But we have no idea how many actually got in, got away, came in undetected. It’s a really frightening prospect.
And again, the Biden administration shows no willingness whatsoever to do anything about it. They don’t even care enough to visit the border. President [Joe] Biden has never been there to see it. That tells you all you need to know. [Vice President] Kamala Harris is supposedly the czar of this, she’s completely clueless and everybody knows it. It looks intentional.
And that’s what the people back home are saying to me, “Why would they do this?” And my only conclusion is, and I challenge anybody to give a better explanation, they want to turn these people into voters eventually, as some last-ditch effort to hold onto power. And it’s a sinister, sinister operation.
Bluey: Yeah. It certainly seems that’s the case. When it comes to incompetence or ineptitude to address not only these issues, but so many others, whether it be on foreign policy or domestic policy, you mentioned that your constituents are growing increasingly frustrated. I think we can see that reflected in the poll numbers as well. What’s it going to take? Is there going to be a wake-up call that this administration will recognize that we’re heading down the wrong path?
Johnson: I wish you and I could answer that question. I’m asked that question all the time. The first question my constituents ask is, “Who’s actually running the country?” Because they don’t believe President Biden is competent, capable of doing so.
My answer is I’m not a 100% sure, but I do believe it’s a combination of activist groups and leftist organizations and prior candidates who were on that stage with him, wanting to get the nomination that he got. He made a lot of promises to the radical fringes of his party, and he is making good on those promises to all of our peril. But again, shows no signs of reversing it. So I don’t know.
I think that they’re clearly seeing the same polling that we are. Right, left, and center. They’re saying this isn’t going to be a red wave election year, this is going to be a red tsunami. And still, they continue to double down. So I don’t know. I wish we knew the answer to that question because my folks back home desperately want to hear it.
Bluey: Well, another issue that I expect will be on the minds of voters come November is the issue of life.
Bluey: This is a big year, with a Supreme court case probably coming down in June. You recently took an action with several of your House colleagues on the issue of life when it comes to Citigroup. Can you explain to our audience what the backstory is there and why you decided to team up with them to call for the House to terminate its contract with Citigroup?
Johnson: Yes, we did. Forty-five of my colleagues signed onto a letter I drafted to the chief administrative officer of the House of Representatives. And the demand is that we want the House to no longer do business with Citigroup. And the reason for it is because Citi is apparently one of these big woke corporations that is directly engaging in the culture war.
They sent out a summary statement in advance of a shareholder, stakeholder meeting they were having about two weeks ago. And they announced that they’re going to allow for their employees, the employees of Citi, this giant financial institution, they’ll pay for their travel services to go get abortions over state lines.
So they’ll traverse many of the states who have taken extraordinary action to defend the sanctity of human life. And they’ll thwart the intention of those laws and they’ll pay to have employees travel and do that.
Listen, Citi has the right to do that if they want, but I believe they have forfeited the right to do business with the House of Representatives. The sole financial institution that handles all the credit cards for our offices, that’s how we pay for travel and office supplies and all the various costs of—
Bluey: Massive contract, I would imagine.
Johnson: A massive contract. And so this is the free market. We should be able to choose. Remember that, and you know well, we’ve had a long-standing policy in the House of Representatives to not allow one red cent of taxpayer dollars to fund any abortion service or travel therefore.
And this is not a loose connection. You can see that this would be taxpayer dollars directly going to a company that is using those monies then to fund illicit abortion. And so this is a no-brainer to us.
We’re going to continue to sound the alarm. I can guarantee you that this will change after this next election cycle, when we take control again. But hopefully we can do it sooner than that.
Bluey: Another issue where you’ve really sounded the alarm is on China. You have legislation on this issue as well. I know that Congress is going to be debating, is in the process right now of debating the COMPETES Act.
Where do you see us headed when it comes to our policy toward China? And where would you like to see this administration maybe take a different tact as they recognize that China’s not the friendly ally that maybe was once intended to be?
Johnson: No, the scary thing about China is, if you ask the Joint Chiefs of Staff or top military officials in the country, “What is the greatest threat to America?”, first, they say the national debt, which is an entirely different podcast conversation. But second is the threat of China. People think Russia right now, but it’s really China.
They are soon to be, very, very likely, could be a peer-to-peer competitor for us. We haven’t had one of those since World War II. We’re the last superpower on the Earth. We can maintain that superiority, but you have to do it deliberately, forcefully.
[Former President] Ronald Reagan’s doctrine of peace through strength is what we’ve always adhered to and he always explained, because weakness invites aggression, everyone can see that now in vivid color.
The weakness that is projected from the White House and the Biden administration has attracted the wolves. And so China and Russia and Iran and North Korea, all of our adversaries, see this as an opportunity. Not just on a military front, of course, but with the economy and every other aspect.
So China is seizing its opportunity. We have to take that very seriously, and we’re concerned that the White House does not.
We have one of our task forces in the House—we’re working toward planning for when we do get the majority, which we expect will happen in November. One of our task forces specifically has been working on this China challenge, the China threat, for the better part of a year and a half.
And we’re going to roll out a series of policies here in the next few months to have specific ideas on what we should be doing that, frankly, we are not under the Biden administration. And I’m anxious to roll out all those ideas because we want the American people to be conversant about this and to understand how very serious this threat really is.
Bluey: Take a moment to tell our audience about the task force and what you’re doing. I think it’s so important for the American people to see what your agenda is and what your plans would be should you have the opportunity to be in the majority again.
Johnson: Yeah. It’s not difficult for us to say what we’re against, what we need to be doing, of course, is saying what we would do differently and what’s better.
And I’m a policy guy. You’re a policy guy. We spend a lot of time deep in the weeds. We have to prepare this and present it in a way that is easy to digest for the American people. There’s so many things that we need and want to do and are preparing to do, but you have to present it in a way where people can understand and get it, especially during an election cycle.
So we’ve been working on all of that.
Kevin McCarthy is, of course, the minority leader, the Republican leader, very likely to be the speaker of the House. But we decided—I’m the vice chairman of the House Republicans and the leadership team. We decided to separate everyone into task forces and working groups.
And so all of our members in the House Republican Conference have been working on these proposals and sets of policies and plans that we’re going to roll out to the American people by mid-summer, late summer, going into the election cycle in the fall.
Everybody remembers fondly what [former House Speaker] Newt Gingrich was able to do in the ’90s with the Contract with America. He’s one of many advisers who are helping us with all this.
This will be called the Commitment to America. Same principle, same concept, but we’re going to roll out what we’re for, answers to all the greatest challenges facing the country. Not just to say what we’re against, it’s obvious what the other team is doing so badly, we’re excited to tell the American people how our solutions and our answers are the best.
We believe in individual freedom, and limited government, and the rule of law, and peace through strength, and fiscal responsibility, and free markets, and human dignity, and the sanctity of every human life. The current team in charge is doing almost exactly opposite on every one of those core principles.
So it’s time for us to flex some muscle, to speak with clarity and conviction and consistency about why that conservative worldview is right for the country, for individuals, for communities, for all of us together. And we are anxious to have that debate.
Bluey: Well, thank you for being part of that team and helping to lead that conversation. Final question for you, shifting away from policy to a little bit more personal. You’re the father of four kids. You’re married to a former schoolteacher. I know that family’s a big and important issue for you. You have some exciting news, because you and your wife have recently started a podcast. Tell our listeners about it and how they can subscribe.
Johnson: Yeah, thanks. We started that about five weeks ago. Actually, episode six just dropped this week. And we’re excited. We call it “Truth be Told with Mike & Kelly Johnson.”
Kelly’s a former schoolteacher, now she’s a licensed Christian counselor. My background in constitutional law, and now with the role in Congress. People often ask us, and you probably get the same question, Rob, friends and constituents, “We would love to be a fly on the wall at the dinner table at the Johnson household on a regular normal night.” We decided to turn that into a broadcast.
And it’s been very well received. We’re super excited about the reception for it. It’s Mike and Kelly Johnson. You can Google that, it’s on all the podcast platforms. And it’s performed very, very well. We’re getting all sorts of encouraging feedback from around the country. So we’re excited.
We have a special guest on. Basically, our approach on this podcast is to talk about hot topics and current events from a Christian, conservative perspective. But we also, of course, have access to all the big influencers in politics, in government, and the culture, and the church as well.
And so we’ve had some very compelling voices already, many lined up. I can’t wait to roll out each episode every week. But it’s been a lot of fun. So thanks for asking about it, yeah.
Bluey: You bet. We’ll be sure to leave a link so our audience can subscribe right away. Congressman Mike Johnson, again, thank you for being with us today on The Daily Signal and thanks again for your leadership in the House. We certainly do appreciate it. And I think so many Americans are looking to you and to your colleagues for the answers because they’re frustrated right now. So thank you for helping to point them to those solutions.
Johnson: Thanks to you and The Daily Signal, and The Heritage Foundation, and everybody involved. This is our moment. All the history and everything that’s come to this point. This is a pivotal time for the country. And I’m so grateful that you guys are on it. Keep doing what you’re doing. We rely on that very heavily, as you know.
Bluey: Thank you.
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