HURON – Joining Democrats in support of a resolution to block President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency along the southern border and his newly introduced bill to expedite security with a wall by waiving overburdensome regulations are examples of congressional leadership, Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., said Wednesday.
The Furthering American Security by Tempering Environmental Regulations Act, or FASTER, would strengthen the Homeland Security secretary’s ability to waive environmental reviews, he said.
In a conference call with reporters, Johnson said he has been strongly in support of securing the border with Mexico, including construction of a physical barrier.
In February, he was one of 13 Republican members of Congress who sided with Democrats in opposing the president’s declaration of a national emergency.
“We have to do it the right way. The right way is not spending any more money than we have to,” he said. “This just makes it easier to get that done.”
Border security is much more than bumper sticker slogans in support of Trump or opposition to the wall, he said.
“I’m a strong believer that the federal government has real problems to solve and border security is one of them,” Johnson said. “It’s something I’ve been talking about for years.
“The reality, I think, is that the Congress is duty bound to manage the border, to secure the border. This can be a real way to show congressional leadership and get it done the right way,” he said of the FASTER Act.
As a member of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, he said he was a strong advocate for protecting the environment.
But that must be balanced with the fact the country has a crisis at the border, he said. Regulations can be set aside to more quickly complete a barrier, he said.
Asked the level of support he expects to have among his colleagues, Johnson said the proposal has been a fair time in coming and he has talked with a number of people about it.
“We think there should be some good support,” he said, more so on the Republican side of the aisle but also among a number of Democrats who are interested in securing the border and in a cost-effective manner.
In a news release, Johnson said constituents frequently ask him why it’s taking so long to build the border wall.
“Government regulations stall progress on crucial projects all the time,” he said. “The FASTER Act will allow DHS (Department of Homeland Security) and the president to build a border wall more quickly and without overburdensome regulations standing in the way.”
Meanwhile, as National Agriculture Week is observed, Johnson said he believes the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, known as USMCA, that was negotiated by the Trump administration is far better than NAFTA.
But he said provisions in the agreement must be implemented because there is too much uncertainty for agriculture producers as spring approaches.
He is also praising the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules allowing for the year-round sale of E15, a 15 percent ethanol fuel blend.
Current regulations only allow for E10 in the summer months, limited to 10 percent ethanol.
If approved, the change will ensure more affordable options at the fuel pump as well as cleaner fuel, Johnson said.
The EPA has been working for months to draft the rules for E15 and he said he thinks it’s just a coincidence that the announcement came during National Agriculture Week. He said he believes the agency would have preferred to have it done a month ago.
Johnson was also asked about the president’s proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.
The administration’s budget, released earlier this week, is merely a visioning document and Congress traditionally doesn’t give great deference to it as it proposes its own spending plan, he said.
Some aspects of Trump’s budget are non-starters, such as a 15 percent cut to crop insurance, Johnson said.
But he said he does like the fact that the president is moving toward a balanced budget, chipping away at the $21 trillion national debt.