Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) joined me this morning:
HH: I came in, because Speaker Mike Johnson is in this morning. Good morning, Mr. Speaker. I feel fine. I just can’t talk.
MJ: Oh, Hugh, your voice doesn’t sound normal. It’s painful to hear, but I’m grateful you’re soldiering on, my friend.
HH: I’m glad. You’ve got to do that as well. Tell us about the budget deal. I’m in favor of it. I think conservatives got the best deal they could possibly get. But what’s in it, and why should people support it?
MJ: Well, this is actually a good deal. It’s not the deal that you and I would construct and write from the beginning. But everybody has to remember we literally have this month, the smallest majority in the history of the U.S. Congress. I think there was one Congress, the 65th Congress in 1917, 107 years ago, that had a smaller margin. We’ll be down to a one-vote margin, Hugh. So we have to deal in the realm of reality. We only control one half of one-third of the federal government, right? One chamber of Congress. So under those circumstances, we got a really good deal here. It’s the first cut to non-Defense spending in many years. It significantly cuts the side agreements that were negotiated last year under the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the FRA. It replaces that with $16 billion dollars in real spending cuts. We took $10 billion more out of the IRS slush fund that the Biden administration fought so hard for. We took $16 billion dollars totally, but $6.1 billion of that comes from the COVID era slush fund. So we got a lot of money for the taxpayers that saved here. And at the end of the day, we got more for Defense, and we cut non-Defense discretionary spending. That’s always been a priority of ours, and that’s what we are handed here.
HH: I’d like to focus in if we could on the IRS money, Mr. Speaker. I thought it was crazy that we’re giving that money to the IRS. Kevin McCarthy got a $10 billion dollars claw back. Yours is $20 billion, am I correct?
MJ: Well, I got $10 additional billion, so $20 billion total. And that is a significant thing, because as you know, that was a big focus of the Democrats in recent months and in the last Congress. And so we’re able to claw that back, and there’s more of that to come.
HH: Now I know you’ve got members in your caucus who wish it was more. Will they vote for it? Or alternatively, will you get enough Democrats to vote this, because a government closure, we will lose the House. We will lose the Senate if that happens. It’s that simple.
MJ: Well, that’s right. We have to demonstrate that we can govern, and this is our effort to do that. I think we will, Hugh, I think we’ll pass this. The vast majority of the conference understands this is a good deal under the given circumstances that we have. And it moves the ball forward. That’s what we’re about. We have to have incremental gains. With a one-vote majority, one vote margin, we can’t throw a Hail Mary pass on every play, right? It’s three yards and a cloud of dust. And that’s what we’re doing, yard by yard, first down by first down, to stay in this game. I believe that if we can demonstrate we govern well, we are going to grow and expand this majority in the upcoming election cycle. I also think we’re going to win the Senate back for the Republican Party, and the White House as well. So we’ll be in a total different ballgame next January, you know, a year from now. But right now, we’ve got to keep advancing the ball up the field, and that’s what this deal does.
HH: Have you personally endorsed anyone, yet, in the presidential race, Mr. Johnson?
MJ: I did. I’ve endorsed President Trump. And I believe he will be the nominee, and I’m convinced he’s going to win the White House again. And that’ll be a great day for America.
HH: Is the former President helping you pass this must-pass deal?
MJ: I’m planning to give him a call today to talk him through the details of it. He’s a little busy. He’s got the Iowa Caucus and all these other things on his plate right now. But no, he and I have a very close relationship. He’s been an enthusiastic supporter of my leadership here, and I expect he’ll be doing that again.
HH: Well, it will be catastrophic if this fails. When does it come to a vote?
MJ: That’s a good question. This is the, to set the top line so that are appropriators can get in the room and hash out the actual appropriations bills. We’ve got deadlines coming up, two tranches. The first one, January 19th, the second, February 2nd. So we are pedal to the metal trying to get those bills produced to get them on the floor to vote. And I’m very optimistic that we can get this done.
HH: All right. Now I want to switch over to the immigration deal. This is different from the spending deal. I believe, I will oppose, I will get my voice back. I’ll be full bore, I will oppose any deal that does not include a wall. Will there be a wall in the immigration deal that includes Israel and Ukraine funding?
MJ: Well, that’s a great question. It really is about more than the wall, though. You’re right. That’s a critical priority, but we passed H.R. 2 almost eight months ago, and that was our signature piece of legislation that secured the border, because we restored the Remain In Mexico policy that worked so effectively under the Trump administration. We ended the catch and release program. You know, Secretary Mayorkas admitted over the last week that 85% of the people that are coming across that border illegally are just released into the country. And I took 64 of us, House Republicans went down to Eagle Pass, to the epicenter just last week and saw it with our own two eyes. It is an absolute catastrophe. So we’ve got to restore those policies that worked. We do need to rebuild the wall, and we need to make sense of the asylum process and the parole process that are broken. And that’s what our bill did. It’s been sitting on Chuck Schumer’s desk for that many months collecting dust. Right now, there’s a negotiation in the Senate, and it’s between the White House and the Senate on some sort of, I guess, proposal that would solve this. But we have yet to see the text of it. And I’ll just say I’m cautiously optimistic, Hugh. We’ll have to see what develops.
HH: Well, let me repeat, though, very specifically. I am looking for one thing and one thing only. If the wall is not in there, authorized and appropriated, construction under way before anything else kicks in, I mean, really notwithstanding any other law language, you know the language to write, Mr. Speaker, I will be against it. Will that kind of language, that kind of guarantee of 900 miles of wall be in this bill or you will not support it?
MJ: Well, we’re fighting for it vigorously. We tied the border right, you mentioned Ukraine funding and all the supplemental funding. You know, the President came forward with his national security supplemental proposal, and we said those are not issues to be tied together. Israel and Ukraine are separate and distinct. We have to support Israel. It’s a top priority. Ukraine’s important as well. But we cannot be involved in securing the border of Ukraine or other nations until we secure our own. And so that border fight is coming, and we’re going to die on that hill, Hugh. I mean, that is critically important to the American people. And by the way, it’s about an 80-20 issue. I mean, 80% of the country says it’s an emergency or a serious issue that must be addressed. So we’re fighting for it. The wall is a critical piece of that. But I’ll tell you, the Remain In Mexico policy, for example, when we were down on the border, the Border Patrol agents and the sheriffs who are in charge of patrolling down there doing their dead level best, they said if the President would issue an executive order tomorrow to reinstate Remain In Mexico, they think that would stem the flow by like 70%, because it would send a message around the world that we don’t have an open welcome mat. You can’t just come in here like this illegally. You’ve got to stay in Mexico until your case is adjudicated. That alone is a simple fix that President Biden has refused to even acknowledge or do anything about. And it’s…
HH: Well, I agree with that. There are a lot of things that are necessary, but not sufficient. But the most necessary, the most necessary thing is the wall.
HH: And so if you’re laying out the stuff on the hills on which you will die, you’ve got to, I think, communicate to the Senate that you’re going to not support a deal that doesn’t have the wall in it. Are you communicating that?
MJ: I’m communicated it directly. I said all the elements of H.R. 2, the functional equivalent of it, and the wall is a big piece of that. Of course, with these other policy changes. But you know, some of these policy changes are interlocking, and you so you really need all of them to get that down. I’ll tell you this. The chief deputy of the U.S. Border Patrol told us in his own words, we were down there, he said I feel very much like we’re supposed to be administering an open fire hydrant. I don’t need more buckets. I don’t need more funding to process illegals. I need them to turn off the flow. And that’s what we are working to do. And the wall, to your point, Hugh, is a big piece of that.
HH: Yeah, I just, I think the base will desert you, and we will lose the majorities if we don’t come up with the wall. They have to give us the wall. They want everything else. We want everything else. They have to give us the wall. Now Mr. Speaker, when you call the former President, do you expect him to be up to speed on the details of this budget deal, because it’s been so cloaked in darkness, I don’t know that he is.
MJ: Well, that’s, part of my role is to keep him apprised of that, and I will. We’ve had some very thoughtful discussions about all the spending negotiations, and the big, heavy decisions I’ve had to make since I became Speaker, which is about 75 days ago. And President Trump has been very, very supportive. And I expect he will as well. I’ll give him a read in on this.
HH: All right. Now can I switch over to practical politics?
HH: We need to hold the House. That means you need candidates. How is your recruitment and your fundraising going?
MJ: Exceptional, Hugh. Exceptional. It’s a great question. I mean, right out of the blocks, we’ve been setting records with new numbers of donors coming in. We should get some official numbers here shortly, but I know that it’s tens of millions of dollars that we’ve raised in the last 75 days. Billions, that’s what it’s going to be, Hugh. I need to raise about $330 million by next fall, between all the efforts. But I’ll tell you what. We’ve got an extraordinary stable of candidates that we’ve recruited. I mean, people who are workhorses, not show ponies, that have great life stories, business acumen, veterans, women, minorities. I mean, it’s an extraordinary field. I think it’s the best field of candidate that we’ve had in the seats we’re challenging in a long, long time. and of course, our incumbents are running well, too. Surprisingly, Hugh, to many people, it may seem counterintuitive, we’re running really strong in the deep blue states, that our Republican…
HH: Oh, I was with Michelle Steele and Young Kim on Saturday morning. I think Scott Baugh is going to win out here. I think the mayor of Sacramento is going to win. I think we’re going to win if you raise the money, if you get the President behind them, and if you get the wall. If you don’t get the wall, I don’t know that we’ll ever talk again. But I know you’ll get the wall. Speaker Mike Johnson, congratulation on bringing home a good, conservative, the best deal that can be had. I hope the Freedom Caucus gets on board. Keep coming back, Mr. Speaker. My voice will be back next week.
End of interview.
Hugh Hewitt hughhewitt.com General
2024-01-10 13:23:43 , The Hugh Hewitt Show