Ron Johnson ignores campaign promises with new legislation

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., speaks to his supporters in the early morning hours at an election night party in Neenah, Wis., on Nov. 9, 2022.

Ron Johnson narrowly won reelection to the Senate in 2022 after claiming to be focused on the economy and lowering consumer costs.

But eight months into his third six-year term, none of the Wisconsin Republican’s 10 bills would do much to address those topics.

“Ron is focused on growing our economy and creating good jobs and economic opportunity for all, which is why he supports pro-growth tax reform and reducing burdensome regulations,” Johnson’s 2022 reelection campaign website claimed. “Ron is getting real results for local families and Wisconsin communities.”

“Democrats like Mandela Barnes declared war on fossil fuels and now gas prices are at record levels,” Johnson tweeted in October 2022. “I’ll continue to fight to make America energy-independent and lower prices for hardworking American families.”

Johnson defeated Barnes, Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor at the time, by 50.5%-49.5% margin.

Since the start of his new term, Johnson has filed multiple pieces of legislation focused on minutiae and right-wing social issues, but nothing that would significantly alter prices or boost job opportunities for his constituents.

Despite its name, Johnson’s proposed Workplace Choice and Flexibility for Individuals with Disabilities Act faces strong opposition from most groups that advocate for people with disabilities. The bill would allow businesses that profit from the work of people with disabilities, but pay them at subminimum wages in segregated workspaces, to treat their jobs as competitive. Doing so would mean that federal government programs to help people with disabilities find jobs would have to include these jobs in their referral process. 

In a July 2018 press release, both National ADAPT and the National Council on Independent Living voiced their opposition to the billl. Kelly Buckland, executive director of the latter nonprofit group, blasted the proposal and its supporters at ACCSES, a trade association representing the interests of disability service providers:

It is dishonest to equate competitive, integrated, community employment with segregated, sub-minimum-wage work and it is a perversion to call the exploitation of disabled labor ‘Choice’. This naked money grab by service providers comes at the expense of disabled lives and liberty. In taking away our opportunities for competitive integrated community employment ACCSES is actively interfering with our ability to earn a living, support ourselves and live our lives.

Another Johnson bill would require that the federal government eliminate endangered species protections for the gray wolf, a species Republicans falsely claim has fully recovered its population. “Control of the gray wolf population must be returned to state wildlife agencies, who can best handle the recovered population,” he said in a June statement.

The nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife has warned that federal protections are still critical to avert extinction for a species that helps keep ecosystems healthy. “Scientists are just beginning to fully understand the positive ripple effects that wolves have on ecosystems,” the group notes on its website.

His Codifying Useful Regulatory Definitions Act would establish a federal definition for what can be labeled and marketed as “natural cheese” in the United States. “Codifying the definition of ‘natural cheese’ will allow consumers the necessary information to make informed decisions when purchasing and enjoying the great products of our state,” Johnson said in a March 2023 press release.

The nonprofit Consumer Reports has opposed Johnson’s proposed definition since he first introduced the bill in 2018, noting: “Unfortunately, this seemingly mundane bill would allow cheese to be labeled ‘natural’ even if the cheese includes artificial ingredients or synthetic substances, such as yellow food dye, or if the cheese was produced using methods or pesticides that consumers do not consider ‘natural’ according to our recent survey.”

Johnson’s SOAR Permanent Authorization Act would make permanent a program that sends taxpayer dollars to private and religious schools to pay for vouchers for students in the District of Columbia. In a 2021 press release, Johnson lauded the program as one “that allows families the opportunity to pursue a high-quality education for their children,” though studies have shown this and other school voucher programs do not improve outcomes for students.

He also proposed a bill to require Senate approval for a future international pandemic preparedness treaty, claiming that doing so will “protect American sovereignty” against the World Health Organization, and another bill that limits the president’s authority to negotiate a nuclear treaty with Iran.

None of Johnson’s bills have received a vote in the Senate so far, though the chamber did approve a non-binding Johnson resolution to officially designate July 2023 as “National Sarcoma Awareness Month.”

“Wisconsin deserves a senator who will fight for them, but Ron Johnson has only ever served his own interests in Washington,” Haley McCoy, press secretary for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, told the American Independent Foundation. “While the legislation Johnson has backed this year underscores that he’s not interested in supporting hardworking Wisconsin families, Wisconsinites can count on Tammy Baldwin to have their backs in Washington.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.