Rep. Mike Johnson knows that a Republican health care proposal and conservative policy responses to the Green New Deal won’t come to the floor under Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but the head of the largest conservative caucus in the House says GOP alternatives to Democratic blockbusters are necessary heading into 2020.
“We’re ready to legislate if we have that moment, and if we don’t have it now since Pelosi and the Democrats are in charge, we’re going to put our ideas on the table of what we’ll do when we [regain] the majority and I think we’ll do that in the next election cycle,” Johnson said in an interview for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program.
The Louisiana lawmaker leads the 145-member RSC, the largest bloc of House Republicans. The group operates like an internal think tank, developing policy proposals aligned with its views.
Last week, the RSC unveiled a health care policy blueprint intended as an alternative to the range of “Medicare for All” and other single-payer proposals in the public eye as Democratic presidential candidates roll out their health care plans.
Health care remains a top issue for voters heading into 2020, and Johnson said he hopes the RSC plan will engage those turned off by the Democrats’ proposals, acknowledging it’s not going anywhere in the current Congress.
In addition to health care, he said Republicans are working on climate policies that are rooted in free-market principles as a conservative answer to broad government action called for in the Green New Deal and other Democratic proposals.
Johnson said that one of the fundamental premises of constitutional conservatism is “stewardship,” and he counts environmental policies as part of that.
“This is God’s creation, and we’re supposed to tend to and take care of it,” he said.
Another Louisiana Republican, Garret Graves, is taking the lead on a group of conservative proposals to address climate issues, which the RSC hopes to roll out ahead of the 2020 elections, Johnson said.
“They’re coming up with some very solid proposals that we’re going to be excited to talk about in the upcoming election cycle,” Johnson said, without elaborating on any specific policies.
“There are ways to address this that are meaningful and are free-market-based, where we can address some of these issues that voters are concerned about,” he added.
Johnson was in California late last month and saw some of the wildfires raging through that state firsthand. His home state of Louisiana has faced flooding and damage from hurricanes.
But he said the increasing frequency of extreme weather events isn’t necessarily tied to carbon emissions.
“In the last year and the year before, they were relatively slow hurricane seasons, so it’s cyclical,” the RSC chairman said. “Is it related in any way to carbon emissions? I don’t know.”
But Johnson did say that disaster relief is one area he sees the federal government playing an essential role, despite his hawkish fiscal stances on most issues.
“There are some expenditures that are appropriate for the federal government to take. Something that’s so far beyond the scope of what a municipal or state government can do, that’s where the federal government has a role to play,” he said.