U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, now in the center of a national debate about a U.S. Senate bill to remake the American health care system, on Sunday urged fellow Senate Republicans to slow the blistering pace at which some want to reach a vote on the measure.
Johnson’s remarks came in a nationally televised interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Senate Republican leaders want a vote in the coming week on a plan to roll back much of President Barack Obama’s health care law. The Senate GOP unveiled its proposal Thursday.
Much like its counterpart that passed the U.S. House last month, the bill would cut funding for Medicaid, slash taxes on the wealthy, loosen coverage requirements for insurers and remake federal tax credits for people to buy insurance on the individual marketplace.
Johnson was one of four senators who said Thursday, hours after the plan became public, that they were “not ready to vote for this bill.”
On Sunday, Johnson described himself as “not a ‘yes’ yet.”
“We don’t have enough information. I don’t have the feedback from constituencies who will not have had enough time to review the Senate bill,” Johnson said. “We should not be voting on this next week.”
But Johnson did not say whether, if forced to vote on the bill, he would vote “no.”
The GOP senators who joined Johnson in the Thursday statement were Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky. On Friday, a fifth GOP senator, Dean Heller of Nevada, said he does not support the bill. Republicans likely can lose only two senators on a vote to pass the bill because they hold a 52-48 Senate majority and all Democrats will vote no.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled he wants to pass the bill before the July 4 holiday weekend.
Asked if he’ll work to stop a health care vote in the next week, Johnson demurred. Johnson tweeted Saturday that his remarks about the health care bill are “not a bluff.”
“Until I’m certain this is in the best interest for folks in Wisconsin, I’m not voting yes,” Johnson tweeted.
Johnson also pushed back Sunday on describing the Medicaid funding reductions as “cuts,” noting they are reductions from projected spending levels in future years.
“I don’t see anything other than a reduction in the growth of spending,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s Democratic counterpart representing Wisconsin, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, said Sunday on WISN’s “Upfront with Mike Gousha” that many Wisconsinites with health issues are telling her they’re “panicked” by the proposed GOP health care changes.
Baldwin, D-Madison, acknowledged Democrats have little power to halt the changes. But she added: “We have to fight and we must win. It’s people’s health and lives that are at stake.”