Johnson: Vote against VA bill wasn’t against veterans
Mike Simonson, Wisconsin Public Radio
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said his recent vote against a bill giving more funding to the U.S. Veterans Administration was a good one -- even though he’s taking heat for it.
During a town hall meeting in Superior on Friday, Johnson, R-Wis., spoke about the vote. He was one of just three senators who voted against the VA bill overhaul.
"I didn't vote against vets," he said. "What I voted for is: Time out! Let's figure out what the true cost of this bill is."
Johnson said that he felt the measure was rushed to the Senate floor. He said that he and others had received a letter the Congressional Budget Office sent to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that said over 10 years, if the bill became law, it would cost $435 billion.
(There's) nothing to pay for it, nothing to offset it," he said.
Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate called Johnson’s vote a radical, Ayn-Rand-ian brand of extremism to the Tea Party.
Johnson said he’ll take the criticism, and he believes most veterans support his vote.
"Vets don't want to impoverish or bankrupt this nation or mortgage our children's future. So once they understand it, we've got really nothing but positive feedback," he said. "They're a couple of people (who) don't understand it. A couple of groups that aren't really looking at the truth of the matter are issuing some pretty nasty press releases, but that's just part of the process. It doesn't bother me."
The VA bill is designed to shorten waiting lists and provide more medical staff to VA clinics and hospitals. The measure passed the U.S. Senate 93-3 earlier this month, and passed the House after that.
But the bill must still go to a conference committee before it goes to President Barack Obama.
Johnson predicts the House will not go along with the Senate bill.