GOP Senator: Debate on Spending is "Fight Worth Having"

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., tells ABC News it's time to face the budget music.

April 8, 2011, 8:31 AM

April 8, 2011 -- As House and Senate lawmakers scramble to avert a government shutdown, one Republican senator says the debate over spending is "certainly a fight worth having."

"I don't need a government shutdown to show me how urgent this situation is in terms of getting our fiscal health sorted, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., told ABC News.

Johnson made clear he wasn't pushing for a shutdown, saying the real battle over spending should be over next year's budget.

"It is a little absurd that we're here, April of 2011, half way through the year and still talking about how do we fund fiscal year 2011," he said. "I would like to get that behind us so we can really turn our attention again to the trillions of dollars of deficit spending that's facing us over the next ten years."

In a wide-ranging interview for ABC's Jonathan Karl's "Subway Series," Johnson said he stands firm with fellow Rep. Paul Ryan, a fellow Wisconsinite, and House Republicans' "Path to Prosperity," which calls for $6.2 trillion in budget cuts over the next 10 years.

Pointing to the $1.6 trillion deficit and a $14 trillion debt the nation currently faces, Johnson called this week's budget delay "absurd."

"We are talking about, let's face it, pennies when you look at the scheme of the debt," Johnson told Karl. "We're also, with these continuing resolutions, talking about a budget that should have been passed last year when the Democrats controlled the White House, the House and the Senate."

Johnson said watching the negotiation this week has been frustrating.

"So far, it's been disappointing when you talk to everybody, and I think most people do understand how urgent this problem is, but they are still playing political games," Johnson said.

"When the other side of the aisle, when their primary strategy is just to point at the Republicans and just shout 'extreme,' that's not taking the situation seriously," Johnson said, referring to a conference call earlier this week in which reporters overheard Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., telling Democratic colleagues that Republican budget cuts should be painted "extreme."

Johnson arrived in Washington as the first Republican elected to the U.S. Senate from Wisconsin in 18 years, and is fully committed to Tea Party values: He wants to repeal the health care law, supports a block on Environmental Protection Agency regulations and a balanced-budget amendment.

Johnson told ABC News he stands ready to take on entitlements.

"I've never understood why the administration and Congress have absolved themselves of responsibility of taking a huge chunk of the budget just off the table. You know, families can't do that," Johnson said while riding the rails with Jonathan Karl. "That's just wrong. So I think we've got to move all those things back on the budget on an annual basis and force Congress, force the administration no matter who's in power, to take a look at those and tweak those programs so that they're sustainable for the long term."

A political outsider, Johnson ran Pacur LLC, a polyester and plastics manufacturer, until he jumped into the Republican primary in May 2010, defeating his opponents with 85 percent of the vote. With no previous experience in national politics, Johnson said his credentials as an outsider and a business owner distinguish him among his Senate peers.

"I definitely bring a different perspective here," Johnson said. "I've been operating in the private sector for 31 years. My educational background is as an accountant. When you're an accountant, you understand that ratios matter. And right now, we're approaching 100 percent of our gross domestic product as our government debt. That is going to have very serious consequences."

Johnson also talked about what he sees as Obama's lack of leadership, the controversial budget battle taking place in Wisconsin with the unions and the need to reform Social Security.

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