In an interview broadcast on Tuesday “The Regular Joe Show” podcast.Johnson, who is seeking a third term in the Senate, lamented that the Social Security and Medicare programs automatically provide benefits to those who meet the qualifications – that is, to those who have been paying into the system during their working lives.
“If you qualify for the entitlement, you just get it no matter the cost,” Johnson said. “And the problem we have in this country is that more than 70 percent of our federal budget, our federal spending, is mandatory spending. It’s on automatic pilot. It never does – you just don’t supervise properly. You don’t get into it and fix the programs by going bankrupt. It’s just on automatic pilot.”
NEW: On The Regular Joe Show, Sen. Seal. Johnson (R-WI) argues for ending entitlements: “Social Security and Medicare, if you qualify, you get it no matter what the cost … We should turn everything into discretionary spending so that it’s done to consider.” pic.twitter.com/bE1KUb6uJ5
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Johnson proposed that Social Security and Medicare be transformed into programs whose budgets are appropriated by Congress on an annual basis. He pointed out that budgets for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are approved as discretionary spending.
“What we should be doing is we should turn everything into discretionary spending so that it’s all considered so that we can fix problems or programs that are broken, that are going bankrupt, set,” Johnson said. “As long as things are on auto-pilot, we continue to accumulate debt.”
Johnson’s comments were encouraging criticism from the White House and from Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.), who said that Democrats would fight any attempt by Republicans to “pull the rug out from our seniors.”
“The junior senator from Wisconsin wants to put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block,” Schumer told reporters Wednesday. “He argued that the benefits that millions of Americans depend on every day should not be guaranteed, but should be subject to a partisan fight here in Washington. He wants to revoke the Medicare and Social Security guarantee and make them discretionary. Well, you know what happens when we make things optional around here? They are often cut or even terminated. We don’t want to do that.”
A representative of Johnson’s office pushed back on the idea that Johnson wanted to end Medicare or Social Security.
“The Senator’s point was that without the fiscal discipline and oversight typically found with discretionary spending, Congress allowed the guaranteed benefits for programs like Social Security and Medicare to be threatened,” Johnson spokeswoman Alexa Henning said in an email.
“Congress needs to address this when Congress takes its responsibilities seriously to ensure that seniors don’t have to question whether the programs they rely on remain solvent,” she said. “As he said, we need a process to save these programs and nobody is doing anything to save them long term. We continue to pile up debt, mortgaging our children’s futures, and putting these programs at risk.”
When asked Wednesday if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would support such a plan, a representative pointed to his previously rejected a proposal by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) which would have spent money in the same way as Social Security and Medicare. In March, Johnson said it “most” supported Scott’s plan and called it “a positive thing”.
“If we are lucky enough to have the majority next year, I will be the majority leader. I will decide in consultation with my members what to put on the floor,” McConnell told reporters in March. “Let me tell you what would not be part of our agenda: We will not have a bill that raises taxes on half of the American people and guts Social Security and Medicare within five years.”
Earlier this year, Johnson announced he would seek re-election in November, despite a previous pledge to retire after two terms. He is widely expected to win his primary election next Tuesday.
Lt. criticized. Wisconsin Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is running for the Democratic nomination for the Senate, comments that could be an opponent of entitlement programs.
“Ron Johnson threatens to cut Social Security and Medicare,” Barnes tweeted Tuesday. “~surprise of surprises~ the self-serving multi-millionaire Senator wants to strip working people of the Social Security and Medicare benefits they have earned over a lifetime of hard work.”
According to the nonprofit Population Reference BureauWisconsin ranks 17th in the nation in the percentage of the population 65 and older.
It wasn’t the first time Johnson made news for a proposal that prompted even other Republicans to distance themselves. In March, Johnson said it they wanted the GOP to repeal the Affordable Care Act if his party wins the White House and the House and Senate majorities in 2024, Republicans failed to do something the last time they had majorities in Washington.