Johnson carves niche as unbending deficit hawk

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Critics, however, portray Johnson as an inflexible partisan who contributes to the political gridlock that has come to define Congress.

“In a short time, Ron Johnson has proven to be one of the most hyper-partisan and extreme politicians in Washington, D.C.,” said Matt Canter, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “Rather than focus on solutions that will create jobs and help the middle class, Sen. Johnson is a driven ideologue who exacerbates dysfunction in Washington and poorly serves the people of Wisconsin.”

Dysfunction is a term Johnson often uses himself to describe Congress and particularly the Senate. He rails about the Senate’s inaction on dozens of bills passed by the Republican-led House of Representatives. But he hurls his sharpest criticism at the Senate’s failure to pass a budget plan through. By his count at the time of the interview, the Senate had not passed a budget in 960 days.

“To me, that’s jaw-dropping,” Johnson said. “And it has not gotten the publicity it really deserves.”

That’s not for lack of effort from the political novice from Wisconsin, who reveals he had never been to the nation’s capital before choosing to challenge Democrat Russ Feingold for his Senate seat.

No Libyan support

In a dramatic display of his contempt for the Senate’s budget inaction last June, Johnson blocked a resolution in support of the rebellion in Libya against dictator Moammar Ghadafi. During a floor speech, he threatened to withhold support to move forward on Senate matters unless lawmakers began to devise a plan for reducing the nation’s then $14.3 trillion debt.

By objecting to unanimous consent, a parliamentary procedure often used to address non-controversial issues, Johnson had the power to shut down the Senate. He later said he was trying to draw attention to the seriousness of the debt crisis.

“We are facing such a challenge to start grappling with this that of course it’s frustrating when we’re not addressing the problem,” Johnson said. “What is also quite frustrating here is there are still far too many people who don’t even acknowledge the problem, let alone work in good faith to start addressing it, and that’s got to change.”

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