Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, speaks during the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" legislative luncheon in Washington, D.C., June 18, 2015. 
Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty

Senator lays out the ideal health care blueprint (which he opposes)

I’ve heard a lot of Republicans say all kinds of notable things about health care this year, but Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) took the conversation yesterday in a direction I hardly thought possible.

The Wisconsin Republican, one of the four principal co-sponsors of the repeal bill currently pending in the Senate, appeared on Fox News and was asked about Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) call for a bipartisan process that follows regular order. Johnson responded:

“Well again, if we don’t pass it this week – and again, I want to pass it this week, that’s what I recommend, this is a real action-forcing piece of legislation – but if we can’t do it, well, I think we should hold hearings.

“We should have a very robust discussion, debate, about here is the problem, then we go through a problem-solving process. Lay out the information to find the problems – the problem or the problems – gather the information, and then set achievable goals. Then start designing legislation to achieve those goals to solve the problem.”

On the surface, it’s probably not a great sign for Graham-Cassidy that one of its top co-sponsors is already looking ahead to what should happen once the legislation fails.

But that’s not the interesting part. Rather, what amazed me was Johnson laying out a responsible blueprint, while simultaneously recommending that senators take an entirely different course of action.

Look at his quote again: the GOP senator made the case that if his bill comes up short, lawmakers can be deliberative and thorough, examining the issue carefully from all angles, in the hopes of finding a consensus solution. In Johnson’s vision, there would be legislative “hearings,” a “robust discussion,” and a sensible “problem-solving process.”

Except, this isn’t what Johnson is actually recommending. On the contrary, he wants largely the opposite: the Wisconsin Republican’s principal goal is to avoid a deliberative process and instead pass a partisan bill that was thrown together without a whole lot of thought or care.

I’m glad Johnson has a smart back-up approach in mind, but the second part of his pitch would be far more compelling if it weren’t at odds with the first part of his pitch.