Kim MacDonald Butler shared notes from Ron Johnson’s tele-town hall on Feb. 16, 2017.
Thanks to Laura Hoffmann Stratte of Forward Action Wisconsin Network (FAWN)
Question from Daniel – has pre existing spinal condition. Unable to get insurance before ACA. What is the Republican plan? Why haven’t they come up with any plan over the past 7 years?
RJ: Giving example of someone with really high premiums with the ACA. Fixing it isn’t so simple – some people helped and some people weren’t helped. Need to first stabilize the insurance market – we’ve got to do it fast. Very complex. Need to turn more authority to states. Return to high risk pools but improve them. (He also implied that “some” such as special needs individuals and the elderly were taking more than their fair share of the health care resources ~
Susan) Question from Ian – what are you planning to do re: Russian influence on election and Trump? Do you think most news if fake news?
RJ: No, I don’t think most news is fake. I’m highly concerned about Russian aggression. On European something commission – which has investigated Russia in the past. He’s not surprised about the current news with Russia- thinks Senate Intelligence Cmte should work on this.
From Marsha – ? about confirmation of DeVos. I know that many many people contacted you to oppose her. Do you listen to us? Are you taking into account what your constituents say?
RJ: We track those calls and I do take that into account. Obviously if people didn’t vote for Trump, you’ll oppose his cabinet picks. But – elections matter and presidents deserve to surround themselves with people they want. He voted for 2/3 of Obama’s picks. Unless there is some reason that the candidate is unqualified, then he’ll vote for them.
Joan – She starts by saying “Thank you for winning” Then – she thinks that putting 26 year olds on parent’s insurance is appalling as she was married when she was 24. Also question about amount defense spending.
RJ: We have to spend a lot – I’ll support spending for defense – that comes first for government.
Re: the ACA – the reforms that really caused a spike in the budget need Democratic support to fix. The 26 year old rule has negligible impact on premium cost. That is probably here to stay. (One of the few “pro” Johnson calls ~ Susan)
Sandra – Don’t keep calling the Dems obstructionist at this point – you had 7 years to improve ACA. Also – it’s hard to log calls when people can’t leave messages when mailboxes are full.
Question re: EO on immigration ban. It’s a ban on Muslims and that doesn’t do anything to keep our country safe.
RJ: It’s not a ban on Muslims. It’s a reasonable precaution. John Kelly will continue to review the vetting process. We need to set very high criteria so we let people in who pose no risk.
Mulan (?) – Small biz owner in Spring Green, about 6 employees. Need to get satellite internet – over $100/month. Trump wants to end net neutrality – this would harm my business. Also, we need affordable rural broadband internet service and net neutrality.
RJ: NN sounds good but it harms the incentive and advantage to expand broadband. We’ve done a lot in WI and US to expand rural broadband – Connect America Fund. We have to have biz incentives for carriers to expand. Net neutrality hampers investment in expansion.
Molly, LaCrosse – ACA – her son has PT, OT, Speech for prehabilitative care. What’s going to happen to this?
RJ: He’s concerned about people whose premiums have doubled/tripled. Part of that increase is because of the guaranteed benefits. The solution – give greater control to states, one size doesn’t fit all. Want greater flexibility on benefits, especially at low end. It’s very complex. Again, mentions his 1 example of a woman who had to take an extra job to afford health care.
Linette – Social security – I hear things about increasing retirement age, etc. What’s going on with SS?
RJ: I’ve never heard a Republican say we’re going to take away SS. We need to fix it. Facts about SS: It’s not sustainable. If we do nothing, benefits will be reduced to probably about 80% of current levels. There is no easy solution, there are several things we can do – smaller changes on several levels. It will take a good faith bipartisan effort to do. No one is taking it away from you.
Joan, Plover – You were on CNN and you said the best policy is to be truthful. But our president keeps lying and to some people, these lies become truths and only lead to divide. Specifically – voter fraud -I’m worried they can lead to more voter disenfranchisement and oppressive voter laws. You need to speak out and call Trump out when he lies.
RJ: Don’t think voter fraud is so prevalent that it affects election outcomes unless it’s a very close election. Some reasonable measures need to be taken to prevent fraud but I think we do a good job now.
Aliah – Is looking at homeland security website – which protects our cyber security. How you can say this election is valid with Russia’s influence?
RJ: Info needs to stay classified – the senate intell committee needs to look into this………… Putin is a menace to the world (sorry got a bit distracted by my dog).
Susan – Milwaukee – Comment first: RJ had said there is evidence of voter fraud. Susan hasn’t read of any such evidence. She is worried about rules that disenfranchise voters. Question: regulatory reform. What does that mean? We have clean air and water, consumer financial protections. When you say regulatory reform, do you mean remove rules that are in place to protect us?
RJ: No one is saying we shouldn’t have regulations. Problem is – regulations metastasize – become so numerous, and end up costing a ton. $14,000 per household. Higher prices, lower job growth, wage stagnation….we are past the point where cost exceeds the benefits. Regulations strangle the economy. University research – 42% of time on federal research grants spend on federal compliance paperwork. Marilyn – Glad that you approve of the EPA. But I’m concerned about Pruitt – how are you going to vote in his confirmation?
RJ: We all want a clean environment. Pruitt was standing up for states’ rights when he was suing the EPA. Do we need the federal govt to make farmers apply for a permit here in WI? States have their own protective agencies – DNR. We do need a federal EPA when talking about rivers, etc that are interstate. I will be voting for Scott Pruitt.
Jacob – There seems to be chaos in the white house. On scale of 1-10 where 1 is no confidence…at this moment, how confident are you that Trump can achieve the (republican??? he may have added this word in) congressional agenda?
RJ: I’m not a fan of the federal government. I ask “who thinks the fed gov is efficient and effective?” to thousands of people and very very few agree. What we need to do is limit it. I am very impressed with Trump’s cabinet picks. But we are dealing with an inefficient government. I don’t have a high level of confidence that anyone could tame the fed gov’t. I want to see Trump succeed, just like I wanted to see Obama succeed.
Susan) Chris (last question) – Question on EO of immigration ban – today, Trump announced he is withdrawing the order. The roll out of this order was a mess, as head of homeland security committee, how are you going to insure that the roll out of the next EO (to be released next week) isn’t going to be a mess?
RJ: It wasn’t a good roll out. Whoever comes here needs to embrace US values, not be a threat to public safety. (later edit: he said something about Sharia law not being compatible with US values or something to that effect)
R.J is signing off – we’ve been overwhelmed with calls. We want to make sure all can get through. Thanks for participating.
(He also said, don’t bog down the lines so that people who have real needs cannot get through.)