- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 3, 2019

Rep. Mike Johnson, the new chairman of the Republican Study Committee, says despite the GOP falling into the minority in the House, conservatives have a chance to play a huge role in shaping debates.

“There’s a perception out there that when your party goes into the minority, you downshift and wander in the wilderness for two years. We’re doing exactly the opposite,” said Mr. Johnson, Louisiana Republican.

The RSC is a caucus of right-leaning House members, or what Mr. Johnson, a constitutional law attorney first elected in 2016, calls the “intellectual arsenal” of conservatives in the House.

Its raw numbers have dropped since the last Congress, but that was to be expected given that the GOP lost 40 members in the elections. As a percentage of the House GOP, the RSC will likely be even stronger, at about 70 percent.

Speaking to The Washington Times on the sidelines of the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mr. Johnson said Democrats’ leftward lurch is making his job a bit easier.

He said that in the last two weeks alone, House Democrats have advocated for socialism, infanticide and removing “so help me God” from the oath witnesses take when they testify to Congress.

“And we’ve only been in this Congress a couple months now,” he said. “So from our perspective as conservatives, we want to give them the loudest microphone that we can get them — the biggest platform that they can. Because it exposes them to the American people about what it is they truly believe and are advocating for the country.”

Past RSC chairmen include Vice President Mike Pence, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise and Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus.

The group’s influence has waxed and waned over the years, and recently has been a bit of a victim of its success. With such a large membership, it often gets lost in the background of large policy debates.

Mr. Johnson said there have been as many as 15 or so committees or task forces within the RSC at one time or another.

“But some of them were sort of large and unwieldy and really didn’t produce any real product,” he said.

He’s planning to dial it back to a handful of “carefully designed and structured” task forces to focus on topics like budget and spending, health care, the American worker, and national security and foreign affairs.

Other priorities will be messaging to make sure members are on the same page on big issues, as well as alliance-building with conservative groups and think tanks to use outside policy suggestions.

He said he recognizes there are limits to being in the minority, but that one job for conservatives over the next two years will be to draw comparisons between the two parties and highlight how far left some Democrats want to take the country.

“I think at the end of the day most Americans agree with our agenda and our platform more than the other, and I think that’s going to be highlighted more and more in the coming weeks and months as they continue to try to push the envelope — the Green New Deal, all these other measures that are just sort of ridiculous on their face,” he said. “And people recognize that and I think that’s all going to work in our favor.”

Some conservatives have lamented the missed opportunities for Republicans when they controlled the House, Senate and White House the last two years, whether it was failing to repeal Obamacare or belatedly pushing to build the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

But Mr. Johnson said the 115th Congress was “a remarkable run for our agenda and our principles and priorities by any objective measure.”

“We are trending in the right direction, and the reason is because Republicans made good on our campaign promises in 2016 and the president did as well,” he said. “Regulatory reform and tax reform were huge, historic achievements.”

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