Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson on the debt ceiling, and Barack Obama’s Israel speech today
HH: Joined now by United States Senator Ron Johnson from the great state of Wisconsin. Senator Johnson, welcome back, always a pleasure to talk to you.
RJ: Hello, Hugh, it’s great to be back.
HH: Let me start with the vote today. I talked to Leader McConnell a little bit earlier this hour about Goodwin Liu not getting past the filibuster. I assume you voted with the GOP caucus on that?
RJ: Yeah, that was a good thing that we blocked that one. I mean, let’s face it, Goodwin Liu is the poster child of judicial activists. So that was certainly one of the exceptions to the rule that even John McCain, who was the original leader of the Gang of 14, I think, joined us in that one.
HH: Now I asked the leader if there wasn’t an opportunity, now that Republicans have shown that they’re going to play by the same rules that the Democrats played by in the 2004, ’05, ’06 period, to sit down with them and get a new deal going so that all judicial nominees who get out of a committee, out of the Judiciary Committee, get a vote so that we don’t end up with nominee wars. What do you think of that?
RJ: Well you know, I certainly do believe elections have consequences. And my bias certainly is toward giving the benefit of the doubt, and having the Senate actually vote on nominees. But there will always be exceptions, I’m afraid, particularly with this president. I mean, the judges he’s been putting up have been incredible, to say the least. That’s I guess the kind way of stating it. So that is the duty of the United States Senate to advise and consent. And when you end up with nominees that simply are unqualified, or in the case of judges, that simply have no, they don’t care at all about not following the Constitution and the law, and they just want to create laws themselves, legislate from the bench, I think you have to block those folks.
HH: I’m worried, though, 2013, with whether it’s a President Pawlenty or a President Romney, or a President Daniels, that the Democrats will sit there and just say no, no, no, and they’ll cite Goodwin Liu, even though Goodwin Liu’s just, you know, they did it again and again and again six, seven years ago. This is the first time, I think, that the Republicans have done it. But boy, we’ll hear it all the time.
RJ: Oh, I know, but if we did a deal, do you think we could trust them?
HH: Well, that’s a good question. You’d have to change the rules. Senator, let me ask you as well about the President’s speech today about Israel, and his call for Israel to negotiate on the basis of 1967 borders. I mean, that includes the Golan Heights. That’s just nuts.
RJ: No, let’s face it. Israel does need defensible borders. I mean, that’s the first…well actually, the first point to make is how do you sit down and try to make peace with a party that is dedicated to your destruction?
RJ: I mean, that’s just, right then and there, I have a hard time thinking how Israel can really be expected to talk to anybody like that about any peace agreement. So you know, first, you have to have a partner who is actually willing to sit down in good faith and discuss peace. So it’s kind of hard to get past that one.
HH: Do you think the President is hostile to Israel?
RJ: Again, I can’t really speak for the President, but the speech is obviously disappointing.
HH: All right, now let me talk to you about Wisconsin politics for a second. Paul Ryan has said he’s not going to run to be your seat mate. Tommy Thompson is thinking about it. Do you want former Governor Thompson in, and if so, will he win?
RJ: Well, I certainly want anybody who can turn our state totally red. That would be great to have a colleague here from the Republican Party in the Senate. And so I think Tommy’d be obviously a strong candidate. And I think a strong candidate like Tommy would also help a Republican presidential candidate also take Wisconsin. So again, I’m looking for the strongest possible candidate.
HH: Now Senator Johnson, a lot of the audience doesn’t keep up with what the aftermath of the Scott Walker budget has been. I know there are recalls that may or may not have qualified, of course the conservative won reelection to the Supreme Court in a surprise, or at least a surprise to the left who threw everything at him. What’s the status right now? Is it calming down, or is it still roiling in Wisconsin?
RJ: Well, we certainly don’t have the size of protests. Every now and again, they try and mount kind of a meager one at the state capitol. The Judge Prosser vote was huge. I think that did take a fair amount of wind out of their sails. But right now, I believe we have six Republican senators facing recall, and three Democratic senators. So it’s something we’re going to have to continue to fight. And you know, Hugh, let’s face it. I think conservatives, after Ronald Reagan, we kind of went to sleep, went back to our silent majority. I think 2010 reawakened us. We just can’t afford to go back to sleep. You know, 2010 was an incredibly important election. It was the most important in my lifetime. But you know what? Now 2012 is even more important. And I think 2014 will be important. 2016 will be important. This is a long term struggle. I put together a Power Point presentation, and I entitled it a century of liberal-progressive strategic domination, which shows America, the federal government going from 2% of our gross domestic product to almost 25% today. That’s because government just continues to ratchet up in size. So we’ve got to start battling back here, and we’ve got to do it day in and day out for years to come.
HH: Now on the debt ceiling bill, what’s Ron Johnson’s opinion of this?
RJ: Well, it’s the moment of maximum leverage, quite honestly. And we’ve got to utilize that to maximum benefit. You know, over 70% of the American people do not want us to increase the debt ceiling. And you know what the administration is doing right now is they are trying to scare the markets when a responsible leader would try and calm the markets. The fact of the matter is, if we don’t increase the debt ceiling, we’re not talking about Armageddon. The world isn’t going to come to an end. What would end up happening is we simply would have to live within our means. And our means, according to Obama’s own budget for 2012, we should be pulling in about $2.6 trillion dollars of revenue next year, and that’s when we’re talking about. This the time frame. That is over $800 billion dollars more than the Clinton administration spent in their last budget. Their last budget was $1.8 trillion dollars. So we would have to live within a $2.6 trillion dollar, I’m sorry to refer to this as the debt ceiling budget. Now we’re not recommending it, we’re not proposing it. But it’s not Armageddon, and I wish the President would stop scaring the markets. What the President should do, you know, I’ve been running business for 31 years. If you’ve got some problems in a business, you plan. You try and create contingency plans. And what I think this president ought to do right now is start planning for the eventuality.
HH: But Senator Johnson, he doesn’t have any business experience.
RJ: Well, I understand that, and I know not very many people in his administration have business experience. But the fact of the matter is, Hugh, I knew Washington was broken before I came here. And four and a half months on the job, I haven’t seen anything that changes my mind on that.
RJ: It’s broken. Our budget process is broken. There’s a possibility we may not increase this debt ceiling, so we’d better start doing, laying in contingency plans in case we don’t get that vote.
HH: Well and truly said. Senator Ron Johnson, always a pleasure, look forward to talking to you again soon.
End of interview.