This week, U.S. Senator Ron Johnson spoke at the American Legion’s National Convention in Milwaukee where he defended his votes on a bill dealing with veterans’ exposure to toxic burn pits, as well as his plan to transfer Medicare and Social Security spending from mandatory to discretionary spending.
Johnson first discussed the toxic burn pit legislation, also known at the PACT Act. “It was never in doubt that Congress was going to pass whatever appropriation was necessary to take care of our veterans that suffered harm from burn pits,” Johnson said. The two-term senator initially supported the legislation, but after the House passed an amendment that sent the bill back to the Senate, Johnson voted against the measure. Johnson said he was concerned the PACT act moved $400 million in spending from discretionary to mandatory accounts. He also had concerns the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs healthcare system did not have the capacity to deal with the influx of veterans affected by burn pit exposure and wanted veterans to be able to obtain their healthcare from the private sector.
Johnson ultimately supported the PACT act in an 86-11 final vote. Referring to his plan to shift Social Security and Medicare from mandatory to discretionary spending, Johnson said “Let me say unequivocally: I have never said I wanted to put Social Security, Medicare, veteran’s benefits on the chopping block or cut them,” he said. “I want to save these programs. I want to stop mortgaging our children’s future.”
Following the speech, Johnson spoke with WisPolitics.com and other reporters where he was critical of his general election opponent Mandela Barnes for accumulating more than 10 times as many hours of State Patrol security as his predecessor, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. “I would say that’s pretty much an abuse of state resources and taxpayer’s hard-earned dollars,” Johnson said. He also said that Barnes has been misleading voters with “all these nice looking commercials out there making him look like a moderate. He’s no moderate. He’s a radical leftist.”
In an email to WisPolitics.com, Barnes campaign spokeswoman Maddy McDaniel responded to Johnson’s criticism. “Lt. Governor Barnes has gone above and beyond to ensure accountability and transparency with taxpayer dollars — unlike Ron Johnson, who is charging the taxpayers for trips between his ritzy Florida vacation house and DC while he tries to upend Social Security and votes against lowering costs for prescription drugs,” she said.
Watch speech here: Sen. Ron Johnson addresses The American Legion