MITCHELL, S.D. (KELO) — Rep. Dusty Johnson is the newest member of South Dakota’s congressional delegation, having been elected in 2019. In addition to being the newest member, Johnson also holds the distinction of being the most popular of South Dakota’s three delegates, according to recent polling from South Dakota State University (SDSU).
In recent weeks, two high profile events in the U.S. House of Representatives have taken place, which have found Johnson voting in opposition with his party’s own leadership.
On May 12, the House GOP held a vote to strip Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney of her leadership role due to her consistent criticism of former President Trump and other top republicans for spreading false statements about election fraud. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy spoke in favor of ousting Cheney.
Then, on May 19, the House voted 252 – 175 to approve a bi-partisan commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. McCarthy spoke out strongly in opposition of the commission, but despite this, 35 Republicans voted in favor.
In the cases of both the Cheney and commission votes, Johnson was one of the GOP members who went against McCarthy and the majority of his own party, voting to keep Cheney in leadership and helping to pass the Jan. 6 commission.
KELOLAND News made the drive to Mitchell Thursday and sat down in-person with the representative to ask him about his against-the-grain practices, as well as some of his current legislative efforts.
On the subject of party loyalty, Johnson says his priorities lie elsewhere. “My allegiance is always going to be to the truth,” he says. “To conservative values, to South Dakota values, and everything else is going to take a back seat to that.”
When it comes to his voting philosophy, Johnson indicated his willingness to buck partisan sentiment comes from his sense of duty. “South Dakotans don’t send somebody to Washington to get pushed around. They want somebody who’s going to think for themselves, use conservative values, but apply them in a way that just isn’t saluting party leadership.”
Frankly, Democrats and Republicans, neither of them have all the answers. Nobody’s got a corner on the truth — I think we’d get a lot more done in this country if we had people who valued country over party.Rep. Dusty Johnson
This attitude seems to have been on display when Johnson voted to approve the Jan. 6 commission. He says the reason he voted for it is two-fold: Getting to the truth and keeping it out of partisan hands.
Senator John Thune and Senator Mike Rounds have spoken in opposition to the commission. Asked how it feels to be at odds with the other members of the state’s delegation, Johnson spoke about teamwork.
Kristi Noem, Mike Rounds, John Thune, Dusty Johnson. That is a team that works together. Now, no team agrees all the time, and so I think we really learn to respect the different approaches and values that we bring to problem solving.Rep. Dusty Johnson
Johnson doesn’t sugar coat what happened on Jan. 6. “Clearly anyone who watches the footage of January 6 understands that there were people that broke into the capitol, and that was a dark day in American history,” he said.
But Johnson also says the rhetoric on both sides since has been ‘overheated’. He says the main thing he wants to come out of the commission is accountability.
When it comes to his decision making process, Johnson says he’ll do what he thinks is right.
I’m going to keep doing what I think is right. You know, my allegiance is to the truth, it’s to the constitution, it’s to South Dakota voters. Anything else needs to take a back seat to that.Rep. Dusty Johnson
Johnson also spoke about one of his current efforts in Congress, the ‘Get Americans Back To Work Act.’
Johnson says the bill is meant to do just that: get Americans back to work. In practice, this means phasing out pandemic-related enhanced unemployment benefits by June 30, 2021. “Any adult who wants to get vaccinated has been vaccinated,” he says.
Johnson acknowledges that this is not going to be the thing that fully addresses the country’s current workforce shortage, saying, “No complex problem has one solution — clearly getting Americans who can work but aren’t working back into the job force is a part of it.”
When it comes to partisanship in America, Johnson hopes people will tune out what he considers the extreme voices on both sides of the aisle and focus on common ground.
“There is a lot that Americans still agree on,” he said.