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Date: Jan. 10, 2023


Joining us now to discuss, Republican Congressman Mike Johnson of Louisiana. He's on the Judiciary Committee.

So, Congressman, let's start with this debate among House Republicans today about exactly what deals Kevin McCarthy made to become speaker. Is there going to be some sort of list of the concessions McCarthy made to his critics to win the gavel? It seems like in the name of the transparency, you and your fellow House Republicans are promising. That would be a no-brainer.

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): It would. I think we do have transparency. I will tell you, Jake, the inside baseball is, we had our first big Republican conference, all members meeting this morning. There was a great sense of esprit de corps in the room, very positive vibes all the way around. Everybody understands there is transparency. We're working off the same sheet of music.

It was clarified that there is no magical addendum to the rules that we all agreed to. There are lots of discussions, but everything and all the new ideas have to go through regular process. That's one of our great reforms we've just enacted. That means it has to go through the process of many evaluation amendment debate, before it gets to the floor.

So, lots of discussions, lots of ideas from across the conference. But I think that it'll be duly considered by everybody.

TAPPER: Well, McCarthy made deals with Chip Roy and others. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the deals. I'm not saying what he agreed to was even bad.

But it does seem, to me, that the public would be well-served just to be presented with that list of promises.

JOHNSON: Well, look, what Kevin agreed to, and I've talked to Chip Roy and the others who are negotiating. These are some of my closest friends. They all agree, they're all on the same page that the same thing was done and said. What Kevin has committed to is an open legislative process again, we're not only members of our conference no what's going on, but the American people do as well.

We are going to run this like the founders intended. We are going to have actual debates. We're going to have actual discussions about policy, and legislation. It's going to be limited to single subjects, so these massive omnibus bills that are thousands of pages long that no one every, this is going to be the way that we were all taught in our old civics classes. You're going to see that it's going to be very refreshing. I think the American people are going to appreciate it.

TAPPER: Right, but some of those other deals include the House Freedom Caucus sits to approve a third of the members who sit on the House Rules Committee or there is something that has to do with the baseline for spending being at 2022 levels, for going forward. I mean, again, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with any of this.

But why not just write it down and let the public see it?

JOHNSON: Well, it will be written down at the appropriate time, when we bring forward bills to accomplish any of our objectives. You are going to see that. Everybody will see that. It will be very clear, very transparent, and we are excited about that process of getting going on it.

With regard to the committees, Kevin said this morning in the meeting, and everyone nodded and agreed with it, that we want to have as much as possible equal representation of our Republican viewpoints on all of these committees. And rules is an important one because, of course, that the committee that decides which legislation actually gets to the floor and then in what order.

So, I think everybody thinks that these are very positive things. I'm not sure I have any colleagues today murmuring about this. I think they're excited about where we are headed. I'm telling you, there were high fives entering in the room this morning. And we are excited to deliver for the American people. And that begins right now.

TAPPER: Well, there are definitely House Republicans who want to know what those deals are and some of them are talking on the record, some of them talking off the record. But let's move on. You supported the House bill we just discussed. It would rescind

billions of dollars in funding for the IRS. Before the vote, you tweeted: Tonight House GOP will fulfill our promise and vote to block the Biden administration from unleashing 87,000 new IRS agents to go after families and small businesses.

That's not accurate. It's 87,000 IRS employees, not IRS agents. It would be over the course of, I think, a decade. Some of them, replacing individuals who lose their jobs through attrition. And the Congressional Budget Office says that your bill to get rid of those IRS employees is going to add to the deficit.

JOHNSON: Only in the bizarro world of Washington when you get a CBO estimate that says, not spending $80 billion is actually going to add to the deficit. It makes no sense.

TAPPER: Because of enforcement for people who are avoiding paying their taxes. As you know, about ten years ago, if you made more than $10 million a year, one out of five people like that would be audited. Now it's down to, like, 3.5, 3.6 percent.

The really wealthy people are getting away with not paying their taxes. Corporations, too.

JOHNSON: The intent of hiring all these new agents would have the effect of going after hardworking families and small businesses. That is not a Republican talking point. That comes from the Joint Committee on Taxation, which is a nonpartisan group.

They've evaluated this and they know that it would be the low hanging fruit that the IRS would go after first, and that's the small business owners and those who are struggling to be entrepreneurs and job creators. They are the risk takers in our economy who provide jobs for more people. They are not the ones who need scrutiny.

What we want, Jake, the Republican Party wants, is an IRS that works for hardworking families, not against them. And that's what this is going to be about, that's why we've taught our commitment to repeal that funding on the very first day. I'm glad we did and I think if you pull this across the country, I think most of America agrees with us.

TAPPER: Well, it depends on what you're presenting in the pool. Are you saying, 87,000 agents are coming at you? Boo-boo. Or is it this funding for IRS enforcement 87,000 people over the course of a decade, we would be focused on going after individuals who don't pay their taxes, mainly wealthy people, and corporations. I think you'd probably get two different answers.

JOHNSON: Well, maybe. But when the Joint Committee on Taxation publishes something and presented, it's given a lot of weight, because again, there are nonpartisan.

This is not Republican talking points. This is what the evaluation and the analysis of the White House's proposal and that legislation of last year, what it would actually accomplish.


And so, we disagree with that. We have a different agenda and I think it's the agenda of the American people.

TAPPER: But I quoted the CBO, and you went after them. They're not partisan, too.

JOHNSON: The CBO does not have a lot of credibility here right now. Their analysis is wildly inaccurate in a lot of ways, and they don't always do appropriate analysis.

Look, I think there is going to be some reforms in that arena as well, as we go forward. We have to have dynamics scoring. We have to look at reality when we give estimates on what legislations are going to cost. The CBO does not do that all the time.

I mean, when they come out with an estimate on Capitol Hill right now, there's lots of eye rolling, typically. And that is a problem, that's part of the problem we have with transparency and doing the American people's business, the way it should be done.

We are working every day, we're going to continue to work to reform these processes, to make Washington work for the people again. Look, this is common sense ideas that will yield transparency and accountability. I think everybody is for that.

TAPPER: Well, I mean, I'm just saying, why not just be honest about what the bill would actually do? It's --

JOHNSON: I am honest.

TAPPER: You said 87,000 IRS agents. That's not what it is.

JOHNSON: Jake, that's exactly what it is. That is the Treasury's own published a report in 2021 that they said, as you noted, over a ten- year period. They wanted to add 86,800 and something --

TAPPER: Employees, not agents. Employees.

JOHNSON: Jake, you know what all those positions are going to be? Have you seen that analysis?

TAPPER: So, you're saying every one of the 86,000-plus is going to be an IRS agent?

JOHNSON: I'm not saying every one of them, but I'm saying a large percentage of those will be IRS employees who are deemed as agents, to go after and do audits. That's a large and a very important function of the IRS, that's what they do. That's not hyperbole, that's what's on paper.

TAPPER: Do you think that there is a problem in this country of wealthy individuals and companies not paying their fair share in taxes?

JOHNSON: That has been a problem, of course. But it's -- we're not preventing that. The IRS has an important job to go after tax cheats, absolutely, and we support that. We are the law and order team. We want these things to be done properly.

But what this provision would've had the effect of doing is making life harder for middle class, working families and small businesses, full stop. That's what the nonpartisan analysis evaluated and that's why we know that this was a top agenda item on the hearts and minds of the American people, why we delivered.

TAPPER: Why not -- so instead of just removing the funding, why not so you can use the funding but you can only go after individuals who make over $5 million a year?

JOHNSON: Look, we are open to a proper analysis and proper instruction from Congress on the use of those funds. And maybe that would be a worthwhile exercise, but that's not what happened with the legislation that passed last year. That's why we had to unfound it, repeal, it effectively. We did that last night.

Sadly, it was a partisan, down partisan lines. I wish we would've had some Democrats who followed common sense and went along with us on it, but hopefully we will do better with that in the days ahead.

TAPPER: But there is no effort to actually make this bipartisan because even if it passes the House, it's not going to get through the Senate and President Biden has said he's going to veto it. So, if you actually want to make sure that nobody, I'm just going to make up a number now, let's say $2 million. No one who makes under $2 million a year is even touched by this.

Why not work with Senate Democrats on something that can actually become law?

JOHNSON: We are open to bipartisan solutions it fit will actually obtain the needed objective.

Look, John Quincy Adams famously said one time, duty is ours, results are god's. We're going to do our responsibility here. I can't control what happens in the Senate and certainly the White House, what we are going to do the job the American people sent us to do, that's what the new Republican majority has promised, and that's what we are going to deliver on, on our commitment to America.

TAPPER: Okay. And his dad said, facts are stubborn things.

Republican Congressman Mike Johnson of Louisiana, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.