Politics

Sen. Ron Johnson on federal budgets: ‘I’m happy to start cutting agencies’

Alex Pappas Political Reporter

As the debate over raising the country’s debt ceiling starts to heat up, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is calling for new budget cuts in all federal agencies as a way to rein in spending.

“I’m happy to start cutting agencies,” Johnson said in a phone interview with The Daily Caller last week.

“I think pretty much across the board is how you do it,” the Republican lawmaker said. “I truly believe that any of these agencies could easily withstand a 10 or 20 percent across the board cut and still be able to perform their function.”

Johnson said that “an awful lot of these” agencies “probably have a harmful effect on the economy anyways, so I don’t necessarily want to maintain their function.”

“In business if you’ve got a department that’s not performing properly, you cut its budget and they’re forced to become more efficient,” Johnson said, citing his own business experience before Wisconsin voters sent him to the Senate in 2010. “I think that’s what you pretty much have to do with some of these agencies.”

But Johnson acknowledged that even implementing these cuts won’t likely be enough to stabilize the country’s debt problem, citing how America’s entitlement programs aren’t sustainable in the long term.

The senator said he’s hopeful President Barack Obama will “start addressing, ‘How do we save Social Security and Medicare?’ and what is his plan to reduce the deficit?”

But is there any realistic chance Washington will have a serious debate on entitlements?

“Yeah, there is,” he said, “once the American people come to understand that these programs aren’t sustainable.”

Johnson’s comments came as Congress was poised to once again take up the issue of the debt ceiling. Officials say the country will default on its loans by the end of February or March without an increase in the amount of money it’s allowed to borrow under current federal law.

Johnson, who voted for legislation last week to avert the fiscal cliff by letting President George W. Bush’s tax cuts expire for high-income Americans, strongly argued that Obama won’t be able to raise more taxes during the debt ceiling fight.

“He’s not going to get any more revenue,” Johnson said.

“That’s not going to happen,” Johnson continued. “Not with Republicans in the House and not with enough Republicans in the Senate to block tax increases.”

Asked about the fiscal cliff legislation that extends tax cuts for all Americans except those earning more than $400,000 per year, Johnson said: “This was an unusual circumstance where we had to vote for something to prevent taxes from being increased.”

He voted for the bill, he said, to ensure that as many taxpayers as possible didn’t have to pay more to the federal treasury. He recognized that Republicans “had no leverage” in stopping Obama from raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, he said, and realized the GOP’s “role was, ‘What could we do to limit the damage?’”

But Johnson added that he was “disgusted with the process” that would have hiked taxes on all Americans if new legislation didn’t pass both houses of Congress.

“President Obama, all he wants is more revenue,” he lamented. “That’s all he wants. That’s his only solution.”

“It is a fools errand. It will cause economic harm. It won’t work. Economic history proves it won’t work. I have no idea why he has that ideology.”

Follow Alex on Twitter