South Dakota Rep. Dusty Johnson takes another swing at legislative priorities in new Congress

From freezing the Supreme Court at nine members to preserving Mount Rushmore, Rep. Dusty Johnson is re-introducing previously-failed legislation he hopes will succeed in the GOP-controlled House.

Congressman Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) speaks at the Mitchell Rotary Club's meeting inside Blarney's Sports Bar and Grill in Mitchell.
Mitchell Republic file photo
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PIERRE, S.D. — Rep. Dusty Johnson has opened his third stint in Washington, D.C., with the reintroduction of bills hoping to take advantage of new Republican leadership — sponsoring a bill to protect Mount Rushmore, a joint resolution to freeze the Supreme Court at nine members and co-sponsoring a bill that would ban stock trading among members.

Though all three ideas have been introduced in a somewhat similar fashion at least once over his previous four years in Congress, Johnson was confident that a shift in partisan leadership could give the bills a fair hearing.

“There were all kinds of really good legislation that Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi wouldn't let come to the floor,” Johnson said about his renewal of bills that failed to gain traction last session. “And I don't think it should be surprising to anybody that, with new leadership, there are going to be really good bills and conservative policy wins that are going to have a chance to pass that did not before.”

For the third time, Johnson signaled his support for a bill changing how members of Congress, their spouses and their dependent children can trade stocks, requiring these personal investments to be placed into a blind trust until 180 days after the end of a member’s legislative tenure.

“It’s a substantial reduction in freedom, not only for members but for their families, but I think it’s the right thing to do,” Johnson said.


Johnson says his first piece of sponsored legislation this session, a proposed Constitutional amendment called the “Keep the Nine” resolution, is vital for beginning the process of de-politicizing the Supreme Court.

“If we begin to weaponize the size of the court, like some Democrats, we can be guaranteed that at some point in the future, when a different political party also has the White House, that some in that party will want to pack the court still further,” Johnson said.

Were it to pass both the House and Senate with a two-thirds majority, it would then be referred to the states, requiring 38 votes in favor to ratify the resolution, enshrining a nine-member Supreme Court in the Constitution. Despite several changes to the body’s numerical makeup in American history, the nation’s highest court has been comprised of nine members since 1869.

The legislation has 97 co-sponsors in the House, all of them Republicans.

The other bill Johnson has sponsored is another attempt at protecting Mount Rushmore, restricting federal funds from being used to “alter, change, destroy, or remove” the monument in any way.

“Clearly, those four presidents were flawed human beings, as we all are, but they're not on that mountain for their weaknesses,” Johnson said, referencing those who criticize, for example, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson for having owned slaves. “They're on that mountain because they represent the best of this country.”

Moving forward, Johnson, who will sit on the House Agricultural Committee this session, said he’s focused on the upcoming Farm Bill, specifically updating reference prices for disaster programs, discussing and attempting to increase the relative size of working lands conservation programs.

“There's a role for programs like the [Conservation Reserve Program], don't get me wrong,” Johnson said. “But we also know that you can get incredible value from working lands, and that we can leverage the expertise and the stewardship of farmers and ranchers to get conservation gains.”


Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller on Jan. 26 was suspended from the Senate indefinitely, with the discipline stemming from a conversation with a staffer involving "childhood vaccines and breastfeeding."

Jason Harward is a Report for America corps reporter who writes about state politics in South Dakota. Contact him at 605-301-0496 or

Jason Harward covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at
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