Sen. Johnson: ‘Job Interviews And Stuff’ Slowed Response To Whistleblower Report

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 27: Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., speaks with reporters following the Senate Republicans' policy lunch on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
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Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) suggested in a recent radio interview that his office might have responded faster to complaints about problems at a Veteran’s Affairs center in Wisconsin, but his staff was busy during the lame duck session “doing job interviews and stuff.”

Johnson made the comments in a radio interview on the Jerry Bader Show.

“You have to understand what happens here, in between Congresses. There’s a high level of churn within offices. Actually, two of these people on these email chains voluntarily left for other opportunities, other offices. And so, you’ve got to understand the reality of the situation,” Johnson said.

His comments follow local reports in Wisconsin concerning accusations from Democrats that Johnson’s office failed to properly pass on whistleblower complaints about the Tomah VA Medical Center to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Federal Contractor Oversight. The whistleblower complaints, as the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported, center on a report in 2014 which concluded officials at the Tomah medical center were prescribing pain pills with high doses of opiates to patients at the medical center. The center is under investigation for the deaths of three of its patients.

“So, sure, in a perfect world, had this not occurred during an election cycle, when we were in recess, during the lame duck session, when there’s an awful lot of turnover in offices, when people maybe are looking at, you know, doing job interviews and stuff,” Johnson continued. “In a perfect world, sure, they would have been able to – without having the report, and not, as a result, understanding the severity of the situation – might have divined that hey this is something important that we ought to bring to Senator Johnson’s attention.”

The Journal-Sentinel also noted that Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has received criticism for getting the report in August 2014 but not doing anything with it until January, following a news story about the Tomah facility. Baldwin fired a high level staffer and began a review of her office’s handling of the report.

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