“Let’s concentrate on the things we agree on.”

Ron Johnson speaks to The Ripon SocietyHomeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson discusses results-oriented agenda and some of the challenges facing Republicans – and America – this year

WASHINGTON, DC – Five years ago, Ron Johnson was a successful businessman in Wisconsin who built a large and profitable company from scratch.  Today, he serves as a United States Senator from that State.

Johnson appeared before a breakfast meeting of The Ripon Society yesterday morning to talk about his background in business and how he is applying his results-oriented experience in the private sector to his newest role as Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

“We developed a pretty simple mission statement for our committee — to enhance the national and economic security of America,” Johnson stated.  “Let’s not concentrate on the areas that divide us.  Let’s concentrate on the things we agree on. Everything the committee considers, we ask a simple question – ‘Will it enhance the economic and national security of America?’”

Johnson was elected to the Senate in 2010 and took over as Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panel earlier this year.  In his remarks, he also touched on the political environment on Capitol Hill, the agenda for his committee, and what will be needed to get a piece of legislation through.

“If you’re going to do something as a United States Senator,” Johnson said, “you have to pass some bills.  In today’s Senate, that means we need 54 Republicans and at least six Democrats to overcome the 60-vote threshold.  So the aspirational goal for our committee is to focus on legislation which has the support of six or seven of our Democratic Senators.  And why not?  We have such a phenomenal opportunity.”

Johnson pointed to curbing federal red tape and rolling back overregulation as areas where consensus can be reached, and noted the Committee had just approved nine bills yesterday by unanimous consent.  He also pointed to homeland security as an area where Congress and the President can work together, and cited streamlining the Department’s reporting requirements as an area where Republicans and Democrats can find common ground.

“I think Jeh Johnson is a good man,” the Wisconsin lawmaker observed, referring to the current DHS Secretary.   “I think he believes in his mission.  My priority is to do everything we can as a committee to help Jeh Johnson succeed in his mission.  Part of that is streamlining his reporting requirements to Congress.  There are some 70 committees he’s got to report to.  I’d rather have Jeh Johnson concentrate on keeping this nation safe.  Congressional oversight is important, but there’s an appropriate level and an inappropriate level.  And right now, we’re at that inappropriate level.”

In response to a question following his remarks, Johnson also discussed the effort to encourage more innovation in government, and why he believes the federal workforce is second to none.

“We need people, particularly on the IT side, looking at off-the-shelf solutions as much as possible,” he declared.  “The beauty of information technology is it does make things so incredibly efficient and the gains just build upon themselves.  We just don’t take advantage of it in government.

“Having more people from the private sector come into government would be very helpful.  We’ve got pay restrictions, which is a problem.  I have to admit – coming from the private sector and being a limited government kind of guy – that I’m generally pretty impressed by the quality of the federal workforce.  These are some pretty dedicated individuals, very smart people, who would probably earn a lot more money on the outside but who choose to serve the nation instead.”

The Wisconsin Senator was also asked for his thoughts on the United States’ relationship with Europe and Russia.

“Because of Vladmir Putin’s aggression, because of Charlie Hebdo and what happened in Copenhagen, the relationship is actually strengthened,” he stated.  “Last year, every time we had a European delegation come in, the first half hour of the discussion was about Edward Snowden.  They don’t talk about that anymore.  Now they actually realize that we do need an effective intelligence gathering capability. They recognize that we are in this thing together.

“We need to understand Vladmir Putin for who he is.  He’s not looking for off-ramps.  He’s biding his time.  He’s very strategic.  We need to stand up to him now. We need to match military strength with military resolve.  We’re not going to solve this through sanctions.  He doesn’t care.”

In response to a question about the DHS funding debate earlier this week and what the GOP can expect to achieve this year, Johnson was blunt:

“I think we need to recognize the reality that President Obama is still President. Even if we can get six Democrats to pass a bill in the Senate, we still have to have 67 total to override his veto.  So it’s going to be tough.

“What I’ve been saying since Day 1 is we have to use the House strategically. This is where less is more.  It doesn’t make sense for the House to pass 400 bills that don’t have a chance to get through the United States Senate.  Let’s concentrate on a few things we have to do.

“In my opinion, that means passing a budget, so we have a reconciled budget that will govern the appropriations process.  And then let’s start bringing the most important, high priority appropriations bills to the floor of the Senate, open them up for amendments and full debate, and show the American people how this lawmaking process is supposed to work.

“Let the Senate do its work.  Let the House do its work.  Let’s bring the two products together in a conference, hammer out the differences, and then put it on the President’s desk.”

To view Senator Johnson’s complete remarks before The Ripon Society’s breakfast discussion yesterday morning please click on the link below:

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.