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Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson On Defunding Obamacare

Wednesday, March 23, 2011
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HH: Joined now by United States Senator Ron Johnson from the great state of Wisconsin. Senator Johnson, welcome back and congratulations. Terrific piece in the Wall Street Journal today.

RJ: Well hello, Hugh, and thanks for having me on.

HH: I didn’t know the story of your daughter. Would you let people know that? They can read it if they go to Hughhewitt.com. I’ll link it over there. But tell them about your daughter when she was born.

RJ: Well, my daughter was born with a pretty serious congenital heart defect. It’s called trans-position of the great arteries. Her aorta and pulmonary artery were reversed. So the first day of life, she was rushed on to Milwaukee Children’s Hospital where they performed a procedure to get her downstream so that they could do corrective surgery. So at the age of 8 months, when her heart was the size of a small plum, incredibly dedicated surgeons reconstructed the upper chamber of her heart. So her heart operates backwards now, the high pressure side versus the low pressure side. But she’s 27 years old and she’s a nurse herself in a neo-natal intensive care unit. And you know, the reason I got involved in politics really was about Obamacare. When President Obama was getting up there and saying the doctors would take out a set of tonsils for a few extra bucks, that was the final straw for me. They were demonizing these wonderful people that devote their lives to saving other people’s lives to pass that health care monstrosity, which is a huge assault on our freedom. And I wouldn’t sit back and take it anymore.

HH: Well, in the Wall Street Journal piece, you write, “Carey’s story,” that’s your daughter, “sounds like a miracle, but America has always been a place where medical miracles happen.” And you go on to note on this anniversary of Obamacare that we will lose this edge. We will lose the ability to save Carey and countless others if we do not maintain American medical excellence, and we’re not doing that. So the question becomes, do you believe the Congress has made any significant process towards stopping Obamacare’s rollout in the months since you joined the greatest deliberative body in the world?

RJ: Well, we took one step when the House voted to repeal it. Unfortunately, we still have a Democratic Senate. And I was disappointed. When we voted to repeal it in the Senate, not a single Democratic Senator joined with us to vote for repeal. So unfortunately, I’m afraid it’s in the Supreme Court’s hands. Hopefully, they will take a look at that, take a look at that mandate, realize that that thing is totally unconstitutional, and hopefully the courts will save us. Otherwise, we need a successful 2012 so we can get more like-minded individuals in the Congress that will actually repeal this monstrosity.

HH: Now Senator Johnson, the House of Representatives has voted to halt any promulgation of Obamacare regulations using the device known as an appropriation rider. When I was a general counsel in the federal government, I had to live with riders, and they’re a pain in the neck, and you can’t spend any money on what you’re forbidden to spend money on. But of course, that’s not law yet. That depends upon the House enforcing their will on the Senate. Do you want your colleagues in the other chamber to stand tall and stand firm, and insist on the anti-Obamacare regulation rider in this next continuing resolution?

RJ: I would say absolutely. I mean, anything we can do to stop this, because what’s at stake here, Hugh, really is the finest health care system in the world. I mean, our results are better than these socialized medicine systems. It’s one of the things I point out in the article. For example, in Great Britain, the mortality rate for different cancers, colorectal cancer, is 40% higher in the U.K. Breast cancer mortality, 88% higher. Prostate cancer, over 600% higher morality rate. That’s what socialize medicine gives us. That’s what we risk becoming. And the medical innovation that saved my daughter’s life, and has saved millions of people, might save your daughter’s life in the future. That’s what’s being put at risk, because socialized medicine doesn’t really advance medicine because it costs too much.

HH: So it comes back to whether or not the House will be willing to shut the government down, Ron Johnson. Do you want Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor, and Whip McCarthy to look the Democrats in the eye at the table that they’re across from right now with Harry Reid, and representatives of the White House, and say we don’t care about the press, we are shutting this government down unless we put an Obamacare regulation stop into the continuing resolution?

RJ: Well, to me, I think the real battleground really is going to be the debt ceiling vote. And what we’re talking about right now is $61 billion dollars. And yes, that’s real money, and it will save an additional $850 billion dollars over ten years if fully implemented, okay? But the real battleground is the debt ceiling vote. And that is what we need to attach – strong spending caps. So we establish a hard limit in terms of what need to spend, so it will force the politicians to start prioritizing spending. And that’s really where I think we ought to make our last stand.

HH: Well, I’m going to talk with Pat Toomey in a couple of segments, another one of the freshmen in the United States Senate, about the debt limit. But I mean, if Obamacare is as malignant on the body politick as it is, don’t we want our guys and gals in the United States House of Representatives to say we stop it now, even though we can’t repeal it, we at least stop its advance?

RJ: Yeah, I mean, we need to do everything we can to stop the implementation of this bill. You know, one of the problems is they’ve already prefunded an awful lot of this stuff as well. So this thing is just going to keep rolling forward until we actually do repeal this, or the Supreme Court rules it unconstitutional.

HH: But Senator, I guess, I’m not doing it the right way. I’m not being clear enough. We can stop it. If the House of Representatives does not fund the government, the government shuts down. If they insist on including a rider to prevent any future promulgation of Obamacare regulations, it stops. They have it in their power to do it right now. But it will be tough, and it will get them bad press. Do you encourage them to walk the tough line, or do you want them to retreat for the time being?

RJ: No, I want them to hold tough, but we need to do it intelligently. I don’t think anybody wants to advocate a government shutdown. But what we can certainly do is, a number of people are talking about, you know, the federal government’s still going to be taking revenue, you know, taking that revenue and funding it at that rate. We can do that. And so again, we don’t want to be coming off sounding like we are all anxious to shut down the government. We want to be reasonable about this, and we want to do this in a way that makes sense.

HH: Well, I’m not anxious to shut down the government. I think that’s a very, very difficult move to take. But if Obamacare is that bad, if it’s genuinely a malignancy, do we not tell them that, and do we not negotiate from the position that it’s so important, even if we have to do something that difficult, we will do so to stop its rollout? Isn’t that the message that has to be communicated?

RJ: Well, one of the reasons I’m on your show here is to provide the complete message here. One thing we didn’t even talk about is the cost of Obamacare. Right now, we’ve been talking about the quality of care, rationing that will come to this nation if we implement this thing. But you know, the fact of the matter is, Obamacare will be a disaster for our budget. And let me just kind of walk you through, if you’ve got just a couple of seconds.

HH: We’ve got a minute to the break, so take it all.

RJ: Okay, Obama, they were budgeting that this would cost $150 billion dollars a year. You can make a pretty reasonable case, you know, I’m a business guy. I’ve been buying health insurance for over 31 years. We are incentivizing employers to drop coverage for their employees by only charging them $2,000 dollars, when the family policy costs over $10,000. So rather than only three million people, is what Obama estimated through what the CBO said would be dumped into these exchanges, there will be tens of millions of people dumped into this. And, if you’re making a median salary of $64,000 in your family, you’ll get a $10,000 subsidy. There are a hundred million families in this nation. If they’re all under Obamacare, that’ll cost a trillion dollars a year. Now I realize that’s an awful lot in the numbers, but I’ll tell you what, I think it’s pretty realistic to say that this Obamacare could cost anywhere from half a trillion to a trillion dollars a year when their own estimators said it’s going to cost $150 billion. So the first thing we need to do is we need to start educating the public about the real fiscal and budgetary disaster that’s heading our way if this thing is fully implemented. And we, quite honestly, haven’t made a good enough case about that, and that’s why I’m on the show, is to start playing out the real figures.

HH: Senator Johnson, I appreciate it. It’s a great op-ed. I will say, though, I think the American people get it. I think they understand, and I think they would support anything that the House of Representatives needs to do to stop its rollout. I think you’ve won the argument because of great pieces like the Wall Street Journal. Now, we need political leadership to line up with the arguments that have been made, including and up to government shutdown. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, always a pleasure. Thank you, Senator.

End of interview.

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