US Senator Ron Johnson defended his vote on the bill that would provide more health benefits to veterans exposed to toxic burns and his argument to classify Medicare and Social Security as discretionary expenditures.
The Oshkosh Republican told the American Legion’s National Convention in Milwaukee on Tuesday that his concerns over the bill signed by President Joe Biden earlier this month were due to the national debt. He also said he wanted to vote on an amendment that would allow veterans waiting for health care from the US Department of Veterans Affairs to receive care from the private sector.
Johnson in an 84-14 vote initially supported the measure, but after the House returned the bill with an amendment, Johnson moved in a 55-42 procedural vote to block the measure. Later in an 86-11 final vote, Johnson supported the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act.
Johnson said Tuesday he was concerned that the PACT bill shifted $400 million from discretionary spending to mandatory spending.
“With our nation in debt of $30.8 trillion, we were concerned,” he said.
He added that there should never have been any doubt that Congress would approve the measure and Biden sign it.
“The point I want to make in this discussion is the one thing that threatens veterans’ benefits; the only thing that threatens the mandatory spending programs; Social Security, Medicare, others, are our massive deficit spending and our growing debt burden,” he said.
Johnson also defended his idea at the event to allow Congress to oversee spending on Social Security and health care. The senator this summer proposed classifying the programs as discretionary spending rather than mandatory spending.
“Let me say unequivocally: I never said I wanted to put Social Security, Medicare, veteran benefits on the chopping block or scrap them,” he said. “I want to keep these programs. I want to stop pawning our children’s future.”
At a Democratic National Committee meeting in Maryland last week, Biden slammed Johnson for proposing the change from mandatory to discretionary spending.
“He wants to put Social Security and health care on the chopping block every year,” Biden said.
Johnson, speaking to reporters after the speech, taunted Dem opponent Mandela Barnes for taking on more than 10 times as many hours of state patrol security as former Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch.
WisPolitics.com first reported in May 2019 that Barnes’ security costs had increased significantly compared to its predecessor. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported updated charges Tuesday, including that Barnes averages 13.5 hours of State Patrol Dignitary Protection Unit details per day. That costs taxpayers an average of $660 per day. The Oshkosh Republican said that’s worrying.
“I would say this is more or less an abuse of state resources and taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars,” he said.
Barnes campaign spokeswoman Maddy McDaniel fired back at Johnson in an email to WisPolitics.com.
“Lt. Governor Barnes has gone to great lengths to ensure accountability and transparency with taxpayers’ money — unlike Ron Johnson, who charges taxpayers for travel between his swanky Florida vacation home and DC while trying to rock Social Security and against cutting the cost of prescription drugs,” she said.
Barnes has logged 14,370 hours of security data since taking office in 2020, while Kleefisch has logged 1,377 hours during her four-year term.
Johnson also characterized Barnes’ campaign as built on a platform of lies and said his campaign represents the truth.
“I mean, this campaign is really truth versus lies and deception,” Johnson said. “I mean, Democrats can’t defend their policies, so the only way they can beat me is to lie about me; twist things I say.”
He added that his main plan to beat Barnes in the November election is to be honest.
“Right now he’s got all those fancy commercials that make him look like a moderate,” he said. “He’s not moderate. He is a radical leftist.”
Johnson also said he doesn’t feel like he’s Barnes’ underdog.
“I think it’s a dead-end race,” he said.