U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) is defending his vote against a bill that would reform portions of the Veterans Affairs medical system.
The Wisconsin Republican was one of three members of the Senate to vote on Wednesday against the measure, which is aimed at addressing treatment delays in the VA medical system that have sparked a massive controversy in recent weeks. The measure would have allowed veterans who face long wait times to go outside of the system, while also giving the VA the funding to hire more doctors and staff.
Johnson says he supports making sure veterans have the care they need, but told affiliate WIBA on Thursday that he had concerns about how quickly the bill was being pushed through. “I like the concept, I want to solve this problem, I want to honor the promise of the finest among us,” but he says lawmakers did not receive cost estimates on the bill until minutes before they were expected to vote on it.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the legislation would cost taxpayers $35 billion in the first two years and $50 billion a year after that. Johnson says there was nothing in there to offset those costs. He says there’s clearly a problem at the VA, but the process being used to react to it is the same one that put the country $17 trillion in debt.
The U.S. House has also passed legislation reforming the VA, which differs from the legislation the Senate took action on. That will send the proposals to a conference committee, which Johnson hopes will produce a bill he can support.