Johnson: I Never Said I Opposed Senate Repeal Bill, I Just Needed More Time

Bill Clark/CQPHO

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) on Wednesday morning clarified that he never outright opposed the Senate bill to repeal Obamacare and gave a more positive assessment of the legislation than he has offered previously.

“I never said I was ‘no’ on this bill. I was very hard ‘no’ in terms of taking a vote this week,” Johnson said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “That was absurd because we didn’t have the information, and now we’re starting to get some information.”

Johnson said on Monday night that he would vote to block the Senate bill from proceeding if leaders pushed for a vote this week. He also penned an op-ed in the New York Times on Monday arguing that the Senate bill does not adequately address the issues he sees with Obamacare. Senate GOP leaders have since delayed a vote on the bill until July.

During his Wednesday morning interview on “Morning Joe,” Johnson dismissed part of the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the Senate bill. The CBO projected that 7 million people in the individual market would lose their health insurance by 2026 if the Senate’s bill goes into effect. The CBO based its projections on coverage in March 2016, which Johnson argued gives a faulty sense of the number of people who will lose insurance. Johnson claimed that if the CBO had used a more recent baseline from January 2017, it would show no difference in the number of people insured in the individual market.

Several Republicans in Congress have dismissed projections from the CBO about their health care bills this year as they’ve tried to defend their legislation, sometimes complaining about the CBO’s methodology.

Asked if he was moving toward support for the bill, Johnson told “Morning Joe” that Republicans may need to pass an imperfect bill and fix it later.

“We have to do something. Anything we pass is not going to be perfect so maybe what we’re going to have to do is — the Democrats passed theirs on a partisan basis — maybe we’ve got to do this and hopefully we can take their offer and work together to actually fix our health care system,” he said.

Asked if Republicans should just skip ahead to work with Democrats, Johnson said that he disagreed with Republican leadership’s push to pass a bill without Democratic support.

“First of all I did not agree with leadership when they immediately said we’re going to do this on a purely partisan basis. We should have focused on the damage done by Obamacare, the skyrocketing premiums,” Johnson said, adding later that “it’s not like Democrats are stepping up to the plate.”

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