House Speaker Mike Johnson and Rep. Celeste Maloy share something in common: A month after Johnson earned the power to yield the gavel, Maloy was sworn into Congress. The two share a mutual experience of juggling newly bestowed responsibilities within the confines of an extremely divided government.

Joining Boyd Matheson on KSL’s “Inside Sources” Tuesday, the two discussed what is needed of lawmakers like them during such testing times.

“We only have one-third of the federal government and the smallest majority in history,” said Johnson, R-La. The key to success is being realistic, he said, before quoting Ronald Reagan, who “taught us a long time ago, ‘I’d rather get 70% or 80% of what I want than go over the cliff with a flag waving.’”

This mindset played an instrumental role in his decision to strike a deal with the Senate and White House to support the $1.2 trillion funding package that ultimately avoided a shutdown. In his mind, it was the “best possible product” in the given circumstances.

Maloy, who represents Utah’s 2nd District, admitted she’s “only served in this really, small majority,” adding, “We don’t have easy days right now.”

Many constituents have questioned Maloy on her decision to vote yes on the spending package — “Why are you scared of a shutdown?” and “What’s wrong with a shutdown?” — but she said the consequences of voting no were clear to her.

The obvious ones are federal agencies failing to pay their employees, sparking a panic, and the markets reacting to the news. “But shutdowns only work if you have a united front,” she explained. “You can’t do that when you have a one-vote majority, and you don’t all stand shoulder to shoulder.”

“Unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, you’ve probably noticed that we’re not doing that very well right now,” Maloy said, arguing a shutdown wouldn’t have put House Republicans in “a strong bargaining position.”

Johnson acknowledged the infighting within the party but pointed to many colleagues like Maloy, a “governing conservative.”

“She believes what I do,” he said. “Celeste and I and our colleagues are in here every day, fighting for like the Republican Party platform. ... We’re trying to defend the core principles, the founding principles of this nation and that’s what’s at stake.”

Rep. Maloy says Congress needs to project optimism

The actual legislative work happens behind the scenes, despite the politicking on display through the news media. Maloy said she senses the frustration and confusion from constituents, who expect higher productivity from Congress.

“They want us to give them some optimism ... to show up and say, ‘We have a plan. We’ve got this under control. We’re going to take care of it,’” Maloy said.

She recalled her visit to Jerusalem over the weekend and said the concern over Capitol Hill’s efficiency is international.

“The people of Israel are concerned that we don’t believe in our own system anymore,” the congresswoman said. “They used to be sure that we would defend freedom, justice, the rule of law and peace in the world and we’re not projecting that very well right now.”

She said both the outside world and the citizens of the U.S. need less drama and a ship moving in the right direction.

The Republican-controlled House has resisted passing the Senate and White House-approved border security bill packaged with funding for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. GOP representatives argue the supplemental package doesn’t go far enough on Republican priorities related to the border.

Johnson said President Joe Biden has failed to project “peace through strength,” and “that’s why everything is such a tinderbox.”

“That’s why our adversaries are acting so provocatively, it’s why we’ve got now hot wars in two critical areas of the globe,” the speaker said. “We have got to restore that strength because it’s essential not only for us for our liberty and opportunity and security. ... We need America to be strong and a good America is good for the whole country. That is a true north.”

What will happen to FISA reauthorization?

After a two-week recess, House lawmakers must take up a contentious issue: reauthorizing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, set to expire on April 15. This law allows the U.S. government to surveil foreigners and American citizens.

Republicans are divided on how to approach this reauthorization. Some are pushing for an amendment to require the FBI to get a warrant to conduct a search. All eyes are on Johnson, whose every move is being closely scrutinized since he faced a threat of being ousted.

The Wall Street Journal reported Johnson made the case for reforming FISA, and touted it as an important tool against terrorism in a meeting with House Republicans Wednesday morning.

Johnson said with his background in constitutional law as a defender of liberty in the courts for two decades, and as chairman of the Subcommittee on Constitution and Limited Government, he wants to protect the privacy of American citizens.

“There’s their data online and, their phone messages and all the rest,” he said. “What happened is over the last several years some rogue agents at the FBI abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.”

The speaker noted the law is meant to track known terrorists overseas and prevent threats to the homeland. He told Matheson the Republican Party agrees on more than 56 major reforms to the law that are meant to “balance the protection of liberty and the protection of the physical safety.”

Despite the consensus Johnson signaled, the House has failed to pass the reauthorization in two prior attempts.

Maloy said she has been involved with this issue since her time as a staffer under former Rep. Chris Stewart, who helped draft amendments for FISA.

“The voters of the 2nd District are more keyed into this than the average American is,” she said, saying she tends to bring up this issue with her colleagues on the Judiciary and Intelligence committees.

“I’m excited to see how this plays out this week,” Maloy said. She added she is looking forward to seeing the amendments pass, which would be “a huge accomplishment stamp for the months that I’ve had here.”