Ron Johnson On Government Shutdown, Debt Ceiling

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Ron Johnson On Government Shutdown, Debt Ceiling

Premiere Date: 
October 4, 2013

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson discusses the ongoing shutdown in Washington.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Zac Schultz:

That's the perspective from the House. Now let's switch to the U.S. Senate. For that, we are joined by Republican senator Ron Johnson, who is also in Washington, DC. Senator Johnson, thanks for your time today.

Ron Johnson:

Hello, Zac.

Zac Schultz:

Senate republicans seem to be having little impact on this debate right now. What can you do to influence the resolution of the government shutdown?

Ron Johnson:

Well, what I have been doing over the last few months is working tirelessly first with the White House, taking advantage of the fact that President Obama reached out and had dinner with us, and then made his staff available to us. So what I've been doing is working with the White House staff. Denis McDonough, Sylvia Burwell, head of OMB, trying to first of all get them to admit the problem, and then work with them also to define it properly. Coming up with the fact that we don't have a ten-year budget window problem here. We really have a 30-year demographic problem. The baby boom generation. We've been promised benefits by parties of both sides, and they did not make adequate provision to pay for those benefits. So instead of a seven-year or a ten-year, $7 trillion deficit, we really have about a 30-year, $107 trillion budget deficit, and that's really what is at stake here. We've got to figure out some way shape or form to start addressing that long-term deficit issue.

Zac Schultz:

In an editorial in August on defunding the Affordable Care Act, you said now is not the time for conservatives to turn a squabble over tactics into a circular firing squad. The tactics appear to have led to a government shutdown and republicans are criticizing each other in public. So has that firing squad appeared?

Ron Johnson:

Well, it's really unfortunate, because I really did not think it would come to this point. I don't really know anybody that actually wanted to shut down the government. Maybe there are a couple of people in their heart of hearts that thought that might be a good idea but, you know, the vast majority of republicans I talk to don't want to play brinkmanship with the economy. We don't care who's the president. We want the economy to succeed. We want to be able  for Americans to find the job to have the dignity to earn their own success, so the federal government really produces enough uncertainty for the economy. We don't need to add this additional level of uncertainty.

Zac Schultz:

And in that same editorial, you said that President Obama and the democrats would not willingly overturn ObamaCare and the Affordable Care Act so you said this is the wrong approach and yet you voted against a clean continuing resolution in the Senate. Why?

Ron Johnson:

No, we haven't had the opportunity to vote against a clean resolution. The fact of the matter is, republicans have really compromised with themselves quite a bit. They've come off of defunding, a one-year delay. The last resolution was really, let's sit down and conference and let's recognize we have an impasse. Let's start working with each other, and then I think also what the House is doing is they are sending over individual spending bills, which is really the way this process ought to work. You know, what is not being reported is that the Senate, led by democrats, hasn't passed an appropriation bill in two years. That's really how Congress should work. We should be prioritizing spending in each one of those appropriation bills but that hasn't been working.

You know, Zac, one thing I have to point out is I really want the folks back in Wisconsin to believe what their eyes and ears are telling them. I mean, look at the dysfunction. Look at the deficit spending. Look at the burdens we're putting on our kids and grand kids over the last five years. Watch very carefully over what's going to be happening over the next days and weeks and months, and again, believe what your eyes and ears are telling you. The federal government is dysfunctional. It's because it was never intended, it's not designed, it's not capable of doing all the things it's taken upon itself. So just ask yourself the question, is the federal government something I want to continue to grow? Do I want its influence and control over my life to increase? Do I want the federal government to take over my healthcare system? You know, when you really think about it, yeah, I don't want a government shutdown. I don’t want brinkmanship, but the fundamental question is do we want to continue to grow this incredibly dysfunctional thing we call the federal government that we call Washington, DC.? I think that's a really bad idea.

Zac Schultz:

It appears the president and Democrats say their next move in this showdown may be to move the debt ceiling into the conversation about resolving the shutdown. Do you think those two issues will be resolved at the same time?

Ron Johnson:

Well, I suppose the timing of it they may be combined, but President Obama says he doesn't even want a debate over the debt ceiling. I'm sorry, Mr. President, any time you come to Congress asking for the authority to increase the debt burden on our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, you know, we ought to have a pretty serious discussion. We ought to have a pretty robust debate, and what we really should get in return for that, let's face it, that's a form of revenue. That's going to allow the government to get revenue. We should, at a minimum, in exchange for that revenue, for that increased debt burden on our kids, at least enact some fiscal discipline or some reforms for Social Security and Medicare so those programs are saved for the future generations, for those kids and grand kids, who are basically paying the bill right now and they're going to have to shoulder that debt burden, so yeah, you bet we better have a pretty serious debate on that, and I just utterly reject President Obama saying let's just increase it and not even worry about it. We'll debate about those things later. This is the only moment, these moments right now that president obama actually potentially might come to the table and work with us, hopefully in good faith, to start saving some of these programs, and prevent the bankrupting of this country.

Zac Schultz:

All right, Senator Johnson, thank you very much for your time today.

Ron Johnson:

Have a great day.

Zac Schultz:

We attempted to schedule an interview with democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin, but she was unable to join us. She supports her fellow democrats in the House, and released this statement:

“Instead of working together across the party aisle to create jobs and move our economy forward, a minority of extremists are intent on threatening our economic recovery with brinkmanship meant to appeal to narrow political interests, namely their own.” 


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