CNN "CNN Newsroom" - TRANSCRIPT Georgia Special Grand Jury Finishes Trump Election Probe; Bills Player Damar Hamlin Released From Hospital, Back In Buffalo; McCarthy Faces New Battle Of Passing House Rules Package; Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) Discusses About The Changes In The House Of Representatives Under Kevin McCarthy; 7,000 Plus Nurses At Two Major NYC Hospitals Go On Strike. Aired 3-3:30p ET


Date: Jan. 9, 2023


Congressman Dusty Johnson is a Republican from South Dakota. He is with us now.

Congressman, it's good to see you. Melanie just mentioned Congressman Gonzales out of Texas. I want to play why he says he opposes this rules package.


BLACKWELL: All right. So let's start with the ability for one member to call for a vote to vacate the chair, which means potentially going through, again, what happened last week. How does Kevin McCarthy rule, governed with that hanging over his head?

REP. DUSTY JOHNSON (R-SD): It is going to be difficult to govern this House with such a narrow majority. But this motion to vacate, whether it was at five or at one doesn't really matter. Listen, if you've got one person in this House really fired up about something, I guarantee you, you have five people really fired up about something.

So what Kevin McCarthy and frankly all the rest of us are going to have to do is make sure that we're working together or communicating nonstop, and that we don't have things that come to the floor that can't get supported by a broad cross section of the Republican Conference. Ultimately, that's going to be a good thing.

BLACKWELL: But potentially, you got members of the Congress on opposite sides of the other element that concerned Congressman Gonzales. This requirement, the deal that was made to cut discretionary spending to 2022 levels which could mean 10s of billions of dollars cut from the defense budget.


Where are you on that? Do you support a potential huge cut or significant, I should say, for defense spending?

JOHNSON: Well, Tony Gonzales has a good number. But let's keep in mind this rules package does not have - it does not say one - and it does not say that we have to make cuts to defense spending. I understand his concerns, because it was kind of part of the conversation last week. But a vote on the yes - a vote yes on this rules package does not cut a single dollar from our nation's defense.

BLACKWELL: Yes, that's ...

JOHNSON: But I would also say this ...

BLACKWELL: ... that would be ...

JOHNSON: ... we're $33 trillion in debt. If we're not willing to look at every major expense of this country to figure out how we can do better shame on us.

BLACKWELL: So when you say it was kind of part of the conversation, this is one of those handshake deals that Melanie mentioned, apparently and this is what I learned from the conversation that Jake Tapper had over the weekend with Congressman Chip Roy. There was this agreement to cut discretionary spending back to 2022 levels. He's expected to keep that that agreement. I ask you again, is that something you support, although it's not in the rules package that will be voted on tonight.

JOHNSON: I do support tightening the belt. With $33 trillion in debt, we absolutely need to look at discretionary programs and figure out where we can cut. Now, Kevin McCarthy doesn't control my voting card and he doesn't control Tony Gonzales'.

And so there are going to be times as we move through this budgetary discussion that individual Republicans are going to have concerns with a cut. And then, of course, we've also got the United States Senate we've got to deal with, so there is going to be lots more to discuss about this over the course of the next two years.

BLACKWELL: Are you confident that you know the full scope of the concessions that Kevin McCarthy made to get some of those holdouts support or at least to vote present so that he could get the gavel?

JOHNSON: I am confident that myself as well as the overwhelming majority of the Republicans in this conference do have a good sense of what was agreed to. But the rules package tonight is - but for one number is the exact same rules package that every member has had seven days to review. And yes, the motion to vacate went from five members to one member, but everything else is as it was. Members should have confidence voting yes tonight.

BLACKWELL: Congressman Dusty Johnson, thank you.

JOHNSON: You bet.