Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI): Process for New Spending Bill “So Dysfunctional”

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), member of the committees of Homeland Security, Finance, and Budget Committees, respectfully, joined the Guy Benson Show to discuss the potential upcoming government shutdown as debate continues over spending bill deals. Guy and Senator Johnson also discuss the impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden involving potential corruption involving his son, Hunter Biden.  Listen to the full interview below.

Full Interview:

Johnson had this to say:

“We have a very well-honed process of delaying this until the end…Nobody sees it until the day it’s voted on. It puts all the power in the hands of leadership. It happens so fast that nobody really goes back and go, what just passed? I’m just using this opportunity to say this has to end. I’m objecting to this well-honed process. We need to get back to one that actually restores some functionality, might restore some fiscal sanity… We’re at a grotesque baseline. It’s mortgaging our kids future. Someone’s got to blow the whistle on this. And I guess that’s me.”

Full Transcript:

Guy Benson: Joining us once again is U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, where I’m doing the show today. And, Senator, it’s good to have you back.

Sen. Johnson: Well, Guy, good to be back.

Guy Benson: Joining us once again is U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, where I’m doing the show today. And, Senator, it’s good to have you back.

Sen. Johnson: Well, Guy, good to be back.

Guy Benson: And I’m thrilled to be here in your state. A very beautiful place, less beautiful, at least in terms of lawmaking, is the sausage in Washington, D.C. I know that you are weighing in on the government funding debate. What exactly are you doing right now and what’s the goal here? What are you trying to accomplish by holding up some of the spending measures?

Sen. Johnson: Well, first of all, the day after I got elected, I wrote a column they published in The Wall Street Journal where I laid out, here’s how we restore some function and fiscal discipline to the government, starting with the budget deal or the debt ceiling. I’ve said attached to that preventing government shutdown at the No Default Act. The REINS Act, you know, some some structural changes in exchange for increase the debt ceiling. That’s when you pass a budget, hopefully a fiscally conservative one that would guide an appropriation process where we bring up debate, but more importantly, scrutinize all the appropriation accounts. And we should have done that, you know, pass a budget, April, start, bring up those bills and start passing May, June, July. Well, we didn’t do that. Neither House nor the Senate. So here we are a couple of weeks before the end of the fiscal year, and we’re going to finally bring up the first appropriation bill. The House sends us over military construction VA, which most of us will support. We want to support our vets. And the Senate, though, in its wisdom, it wants to attach it to other bills. Now, in order to do that, they will be violating Rule 16, and so they need consent. And I’m just saying, no, I’m not going to consent to that. Let’s just bring up military construction VA and because you did this so late in the process, I’m happy to support, not happy to, but I will support a C.R. to give us time to have the House pass the other 11 bills and then bring them up and scrutinize them otherwise will end up happening. No, it’s not like we don’t have a process here. We have a very well-honed process of delaying this until the end of the fiscal year. Jamming everybody up til Christmas. And then you have this omnibus where all of them are combined. Nobody sees it until the day it’s voted on. It puts all the power in the hands of leadership. You know, a few people and their staff writing these bills and then it’s never scrutinized. It happens so fast that nobody really goes back and go, what just passed? You know, it passes because if not, there’s some clamor you always, always predicted. So again, I’m just using this opportunity to say this has to end. I’m objecting to this well-honed process. We need to get back to one that actually restores some functionality, might restore some fiscal sanity. But the other thing I’m doing is I’m the only guy who’s talking about the numbers. When we debated last year’s omnibus, I asked my Senate colleagues, Republicans for lunch, you know, hey, anybody know how much we all spent last year? Maybe some of them knew, but they didn’t volunteer. Then I went out to Washington press corps and they should be covering this. Anybody know? This is the largest financial entity in the world. Anybody know how much that entity spent last year? Nobody knew it was a couple of people. Their house over trillion. No, that’s just discretionary spending. Let me give you the answer. $6.2 trillion. And that compares to in 2019, 4.4. We’re in four years. We’ve increased government spending, total spending from 4.4 to now be 6.3. So $1.9 trillion increase. And we got the appropriators paying themselves in the back that they passed all 12 appropriation bills, and they’re only one or two or 3% higher than last year. Well, we’re at a grotesque baseline. It’s mortgaging our kids future. Someone’s got to blow the whistle on this. And I guess that’s me.

Guy Benson: Well, the process that you just described is both familiar at this point, and I don’t even think dysfunctional quite covers it. It’s just insane. It’s an insane process that plays out every year. I did not realize that the spending had jumped quite that high because 4.4 right before the pandemic, that’s already an extremely high number to be well over 6 trillion. Just a couple of years later is wild to me. I understand there were some emergency spending there during COVID, but we’re past that. What’s the justification to keep spending at that heightened level? And do any of your colleagues actually have an answer to that? I know the Democrats are probably fine with it because they love spending as much as possible all the time. But like Republicans, at least talk about fiscal discipline. I mean, we are on a different planet than that here.

Sen. Johnson: Well, COVID was the reason that we had this massive uptick under both Republicans and Democrats. Right. So, you know, we jumped well over $6 trillion, the first snow covered year. Same second, third. And again, we’ve just never come down. But it breaks out $550 billion more in other mandatory spending. You know, So they just take the opportunity to increase mandatory spending. That’s that’s what’s out of control. What Republicans should have done is resisted any additional mandatory spending. You know, if you have to spend more, spend it temporarily under discretionary accounts. But we’re up $225 billion in non-defense discretionary, $124 billion in defense. So that’s up 80%. But other non-defense discretionary is up 42%. So it’s not exactly like deficit hawks have won the guns butter argument. So we got to we just let this get completely out of control. And again, because nobody knows the numbers, nobody ever looks at this deal and says, oh, we’re only up 2% over last year, but which kind of sounds reasonable til you realize.

Guy Benson: Yeah, what are we up over four years ago?

Sen. Johnson: Precisely. And just also put it in context, the year 2002 is the first year we exceeded $2 trillion in total spending. It took us 17 years to get, you know, double that to 4.4 and now just four years to increase that by basically another $2 trillion. And no end in sight. I mean, the what I thought the debt ceiling was grotesque. What ended up happening there were, you know, Senate and House conservatives really worked on, okay, what do we need to do if we’re going to vote for an increase in debt ceiling? And they came up with a package to increase it by $1.5 trillion. We gave that leverage to Speaker McCarthy to negotiate, but he didn’t negotiate 1.5 trillion without telling anybody. He just suspended it. I January 2015, they’ll probably increase the debt ceiling by about $4 trillion, which is one of the reasons House conservatives are not real happy with the speaker right now. Nor am I.

Guy Benson: So how do you think this actually gets resolved? Because there’s a deadline. They always love the deadlines because it works toward doing something. So they jam it through at the very end. Are we going to see another cram down at some point here in the next week or two?

Sen. Johnson: So, again, what I’m suggesting is.

Guy Benson: Not what you’re suggesting. What do you think? What do you think is going to actually happen? Well.

Sen. Johnson: My guess, the same old, same old you know, we’ll we’ll try and make the point. We’ll try and encourage discipline. But in the end, leadership wins on these things, you know? People get afraid, you know, because all the government shutting down calamity, even though 90% the government continues on, only about 10% shuts down. But the news media will beat the drum on this. But again, I’m not giving up yet. So what I’m suggesting is have the House passed a C.R. attached to it, prevent a government shutdown at the border security and things that are popular with the public and then give us time and pass these appropriation bills one at a time. We can start in the Senate with military construction VA. There’s no need to go this omnibus. It’s not going to get passed by the house anyway. So just if we start talking about passing these things individually, if we start talking about a structural change like passing, preventing government shutdown, that first of all, that’ll counter Chuck Schumer’s article or argument that we want to shut down the government. No, we don’t. As a matter of fact, we’ll pass a C.R. You know, all we’re asking is changes. Just pass a bill that will prevent all future government shutdowns. What could be more reasonable than that? That’s what we do in Wisconsin. You’re there. We don’t shut down government if we’re so dysfunctional. We don’t pass appropriation bills. We just spend at last year’s levels until appropriators and the legislator gets its act together. We’ll do the same thing on the federal government, but we don’t because the leaders like the situation they’re in. They have all the power and they can continue to mortgage our children’s future with really nobody paying attention. So people pay attention maybe a little bit when we’re arguing these omnibus bills and we do these go to dramas and stuff. But that’s that’s in the dead of night. Yeah, we move on.

Guy Benson: Yep. It’s a cynical view, but it’s an accurate one right now. And until more people actually want to hold the line like you and you’re not really proposing anything overly radical, right? Some people might see headlines and say, Oh, what’s wrong? What’s Ron Johnson doing here? But when you actually explain it and describe it, it’s like, Oh, well, that seems totally fine. And you keep the government open and you actually scrutinize the spending bills and then you tweak them and you pass them or at least debate them in a meaningful way. I just don’t know how on substance anyone could object to that. And yet, as you said, I think it’s very likely that the same old, same old is on the horizon. I guess we’ll see. Senator, I want to ask you about the House impeachment inquiry. I know it’s getting a lot of criticism from the news media. They were instructed to criticize it by the White House and they are dutifully doing that. I see one of the attack lines being while the Republicans admit they don’t have the evidence to impeach President Biden. And I don’t know. My response is, well, yeah, they’re not actually starting an impeachment of Biden. They are doing an inquiry to get information because what we’ve already learned so far is actually quite damning. And there are still more people to be interviewed, more evidence out there to try to secure and try to break through this stonewall from the White House and the administration and the DOJ. It just feels like they’re making this tautological argument like, oh, it’s so stupid for the Republicans to have an inquiry because they don’t have the evidence. The point of an inquiry is to get the evidence and the people who keep telling us there’s no evidence are ignoring the evidence that’s already been gathered here. Right. Am I missing something?

Sen. Johnson: No, we’re not for the corruption of FBI, Department of Justice trying to sabotage the Hunter Biden laptop story. And they did a good job at that. And then the corrupt and complicit media that completely hid the Hunter Biden laptop story. We had more than enough evidence. Senators Senator Grassley and I, plus the laptop had Americans knowing that they never would have elected Joe Biden. So right now, this impeachment inquiry getting information out of the administration is like pulling teeth. Even the deep state under Trump would not give Senator Grassley the information we want. Okay. So they need the impeachment inquiry to put this on a constitutional level to prove their authority that hopefully courts will rule faster and in their favor to provide more and more evidence. But in fact, the matters I saw the first proposal for a hearing that really well thought out, what they’re going to do is they’re going to lay out all the reasons why this kind of public corruption would be potentially an impeachable offense. So to me, Jamie Colmer and Jim Jordan, a really good job adding to Grassley’s and my record on this, and they’re doing this step by step, very thoughtful, not bombastic, they’re just laying down the record. It’s not their fault or our fault that the media mean no amount of evidence other than, I suppose, a smoking videotape where Joe Biden’s admitting taking a bribe or something like that. But even even that was genuine video. They say that’s Russian disinformation. Probably so. But again, there’s there’s no no amount of evidence that the corrupt and complicit media is going to accept or admit that there’s enough evidence. So, again, I totally support with House’s doing here and the American people deserve the truth.

Guy Benson: I want to ask you sort of taking a step back, because I’ve been a follow the evidence kind of guy. I’ve been not necessarily skeptical, but cautious along the path here. And there’s so much noise, it’s hard to sift through some of it. But as the evidence has grown and as you said, you and Senator Grassley have done a lot of the heavy lifting and some of the early stuff, the House has picked up that ball and ran with it with some of their other investigations in the committees. And as I see what’s coming out of these investigations and I see, for example, what the IRS whistleblowers testified to and then the reports about the totally crooked insider deals for Hunter Biden that finally blew up on the launch pad because of scrutiny. Questions from that judge, for example, as I watch it, it’s looking more and more like this is not just a possible scandal, but a full blown scandal based on what we know so far. And it does seem likely that there’s more to come additional shoes to drop. You were an early voice in a lot of this and got basically ignored or ridiculed by the press. No one really paid attention to it. Are you starting to feel some vindication now that this is. Opening. It is something more widely covered where more Americans, for example, we saw in a new poll this week. A majority of Americans in a Quinnipiac poll said they believe President Biden was involved with his son’s foreign business dealings. Are you are you sort of feeling like finally here?

Sen. Johnson: Well, I appreciate the fact that all these conspiracy theories I was accused of trying to investigate all turned out true. So, I mean, I appreciate that. I mean, it’s frustrating. I mean, I wish we had the chairmanship. I wish we were right there with the James Comer and Jim Jordan in helping to uncover this thing. But again, I appreciate what they’re doing. But you know this to me, this has been so obvious to me. I come from manufacturing to have to make $10 million. You got to sell 100 to $200 million worth of product and do a lot of work and invest a lot of money. What what did Hunter Biden do to make ten or $20 million? I mean, it’s it’s obvious it’s corrupt. They’re buying influence. Why do people lie? I mean, now we know we proved that Joe Biden lied, but there’s more and more proof that he lied repeatedly. Why do people like to cover up? Know, we got all these emails. You know, Pops has taken 50%. So the evidence where they really need to go is get the bank records. Remember that? 1023 that that we think it’s the oligarchs saying that, you know, paid both of them 5 million piece and we buried it so well it’s going to take investigators what, ten years to uncover it. So people who do wrong hide the wrongdoing. Investigations are not easy, but to me, the corruption is so obvious just on its face. And anybody that’s, you know, takes an unbiased look at this and go, yeah, that’s that’s one corrupt crime, you know, crime family there. Wish that guy wasn’t president.

Guy Benson: We are broadcasting today from the state of Wisconsin. The Republican senator from this state is Ron Johnson, our guest here on the show. Senator, really appreciate it. Always like being here in your state. We’ll talk to you soon.

Sen. Johnson: Enjoy your time there. Take care.