U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson was in Aberdeen for a town hall-style event at the Twist Cone.
His event, called “Inside Scoop with Dusty” drew a crowd of about 40.
Earlier in the day Johnson met with a group of constituents at Aberdeen Development Corp. and toured Avera St. Luke’s Hospital.
Residents asked Johnson a variety of questions. The following is a sample of the answers he gave.
Regulation on being able to harvest our own forests in the U.S. We’re still not able to harvest our own forests. I’m just curious where that’s at.
You wanna talk about trade disruptions. The softwood issue your people have been fighting for years, it’s better now, but that predated all the USMCA and all the China stuff and it had a marked increase, what $4,000, $8,000 on the price of an American home right?* You and your folks have been so good about telling that story and so long before we got into the current trade disruption, your people were talking about can we do more domestic harvesting? We absolutely need to. We’re South Dakotans so most of us understand. A managed forrest is a healthy forest. And we have a lot of lumber harvested in this country, but there’s so much more potential. Of course when you’re harvesting you need to go back out and plant a lot more than you took, which also helps from an environmental perspective. I mean let’s get more carbon sinks out there growing and young trees grow quickly. They can take in a lot of carbon. And so, I’m co-sponsor of a bill that’s all about this more manageable stewardship of our forests, which means more logging and frankly making it easier for traditional logging environment to not have to go through a full environmental impact statement, but rather have a more — if it’s a routine logging activity — have a more streamlined environment, so we can get that lumber put to use in America and not rely so much on imports.
*The impact is $5,500 on the price of a home, according to the Homebuilders Association member who asked the question.
Do you think if there’s another Republican president, that the Democrats would work on immigration?
Well, America doesn’t have a great track record on immigration reform. The only time we did anything was in the late 80s, I think ‘86, and frankly, we messed up. I love President (Ronald) Reagan, but I think he didn’t get a good enough deal. I hate to place it all on the footsteps of President (Donald) Trump because, you know, we’ve had other presidents and they haven’t done a better job of it, either.
Do you think, with the House being controlled by the Democrats and the Senate controlled by the Republicans, anything can be done at all?
Yes, I think big, big, major policy victories are harder to come by than maybe they ever have been. I will tell you that the Secure Act passed and was signed. That really changed in dozens of ways how people can save for retirement and how you can save for education. There are 40 different provisions, but I’ll just give you a couple. Pushing minimum distributions up to 72. Making it so you can take money for apprenticeships out of an educational savings account. Making it so part- time employees are eligible for 401Ks, stuff like that. Pretty big changes, not very sexy. Important, but not sexy. If there’s anything I understand it’s not being sexy. So I like the Secure Act. CAPTA, which was the reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention Act, I took a lead role in getting that done. That was a big deal for abused and neglected kids, but you’re right, none of this leads the 6 o’clock news. None of this shows up on the front page of the New York Times. And so, we are in an environment where it’s difficult to get the biggest of our problems addressed.
What would you say the temperature is at the border?
It is hard to look a 6-year-old child in the face when they are in a land 1,000 miles from anything they’ve ever known and they’re out of routine. My middle child is an 11-year-old. He’s got, I don’t like it, but he’s got a certain swagger, he’s got a certain confidence that is shocking that he’s got because he’s from my gene pool. He doesn’t look like he should have any swagger, right. And, I don’t want him to have it of course, but tonight was middle school open house. My older son is a middle school expert, he was fine, but my wife said the 11-year-old was really out of sorts. His tummy hurt, he was shaking, he was scared, he was embarrassed to see his friends, and this is the Mitchell Middle School, and this kid has a problem.
You think about what that means to a 6-year-old who is in a drastically different environment and they can tell their mother or their father are scared. There’s a language barrier and the conditions are poor. Now, you know I try to keep in mind, number one, they’re here for a very short period of time. they’re processed very quickly, so, you know, some of us have in mind these people have been locked up for six months. Total balderdash. It is, I think, a difficult environment to be at if you’re a human being and you look those children in the face, it’s hard. But, we as a country can not manage 150,000 people being apprehended at the southern border every month. We can’t. I led the way in trying to ... we really pushed the speaker, we rolled over the speaker, in getting $4.5 billion down to the border for humanitarian aid without any strings attached. The president was a big supporter of that. So, we are trying to fund this problem, but what is really, really going to stop the problem is fewer people entering this country illegally. And, we just can’t build detention centers fast enough. We can’t hire enough judges to handle all of the citizens who fear gang violence, Mexican cartel violence, in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. We need those countries to do a better job managing their affairs. We cannot solve all their problems.