An interview that aired on Tuesday The Regular Joe Show PodcastJohnson, who is seeking a third term in the Senate, lamented that the Social Security and Medicare programs automatically provide benefits to those who qualify, meaning those who have paid into the system throughout their careers.
“If you’re eligible, you’re going to get it, no matter what the cost,” Johnson said. “And our problem in this country is that over 70 percent of our federal budget, our federal spending, is all mandatory spending. It operates on autopilot. Never – you’re just not doing the right maintenance. You don’t get there and fix failing programs. It’s just autopilot.
NEW: On Joe’s regular show, Senator Ron. Johnson (R-WI) advocates repealing entitlements: “Social Security and Medicare, if you’re eligible, you’re just going to get it, no matter what the cost… We should make everything a discretionary expense so that it counts.” pic.twitter.com/bE1KUb6uJ5
— Heartland Signal (@HeartlandSignal) in 2022 August 2
Johnson proposed turning Social Security and Medicare into programs whose budgets are appropriated by Congress each year. He pointed out that the budgets of the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are approved as discretionary.
“We should make everything into discretionary spending so that we can evaluate everything so that we can fix the problems or fix the programs that are failing, that are going to fail,” Johnson said. “While everything is on autopilot, we continue to accumulate debt.
Johnson’s comments were encouraging Criticism of the White House and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.), who said Democrats would fight any attempt by Republicans to “pull the rug out from under our elders.”
“The junior senator from Wisconsin wants to get Medicare and Social Security done as soon as possible,” Schumer told reporters Wednesday. “He argued that the benefits that millions of Americans rely on every day should not be guaranteed, but should be applied to partisan struggles here in Washington.” He would like to repeal Medicare and Social Security and make them discretionary. Well, you know what happens when we make things our own? Very often they are cut off or even removed. We don’t want to do that.”
A spokesman for Johnson’s office dismissed the idea that Johnson wanted to repeal Medicare or Social Security.
“The senator’s point was that without the fiscal discipline and oversight that typically comes with discretionary spending, Congress has allowed the benefits of guaranteed programs like Social Security and Medicare to be threatened,” the email said. Johnson’s spokeswoman Alexa Henning said in the letter.
“Congress must take this into account as it takes seriously its responsibility to ensure that seniors do not have to question whether the programs they depend on remain viable,” she added. “As he said, we need a process to save these programs, and nobody is doing anything to save them long-term.” We just keep piling up debt, mortgaging our children’s futures and jeopardizing these programs.
Asked Wednesday if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would support such a plan, his spokesman indicated his an earlier rejection of a proposal by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.). it would have similarly upended Social Security and Medicare. In March, Johnson said that supported “most” of Scott’s plan and called it a “positive thing.”
“If we are lucky enough to have a majority next year, I will be the majority leader. I will decide what to put on the floor after consulting with my members,” McConnell told reporters in March. “Let me tell you what would not be part of our agenda: Our agenda would not include a bill that would raise taxes on half of the American people and eliminate Social Security and Medicare within five years.”
Johnson announced earlier this year that he would seek re-election in November, despite an earlier promise to retire after two terms. He is expected to win the primary next Tuesday.
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is running for the Democratic nomination for the Senate, criticized his would-be opponent’s remarks about entitlement programs.
“Ron Johnson is threatening to cut Social Security and Medicare,” Barnes said in a tweet tuesday “~surprise~surprise~ a selfish, multi-millionaire senator is trying to strip working people of the Social Security and Medicare benefits they have earned through a lifetime of hard work.
According to the nonprofit organization Resident Reference OfficeWisconsin ranks 17th in the nation for the percentage of residents 65 and older.
It wasn’t the first time Johnson had announced a proposal that prompted even other Republicans to distance themselves. In March, Johnson said that wanted the GOP to repeal the Affordable Care Act if his party in 2024 won the White House and majorities in the House and Senate, something Republicans failed to do the last time they held a majority in Washington.