By Larry Bivins, Gannett
WASHINGTON — Sen. Ron Johnson led his freshmen Republican colleagues in the Senate Thursday in accusing President Barack Obama of fear mongering in the debate over raising the government’s borrowing limit.
Johnson drafted a letter signed by all 13 GOP rookie senators attacking Obama for not entering the debt negotiations soon enough and failing to show leadership on the budget.
“Instead, you have been engaged in political theater, demagoguery, and a dangerous game of political chicken,” the letter said. “And now you are playing your trump card…threatening America’s most vulnerable citizens.”
Johnson and colleagues were taking issue with Obama’s remarks Tuesday suggesting senior citizens may have to do without their Social Security checks if no agreement is reached on raising the $14.3 trillion debt limit by Aug. 2. That is the day the U.S. will no longer be able to pay all its bills as spen ding exceeds revenues, according to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
At a press conference, Johnson said Obama was engaging in a familiar tactic used by Democrats and liberals, one they used against Republicans in last year’s elections. Democrats and their liberal allies typically accuse Republicans of trying to ruin Medicare and Social Security.
“The president should apologize for politicizing Social Security, for threatening to not send out checks,” said Rand Paul, R-Ky.
Johnson said Obama’s recent comment was “pretty offensive to us.”
The Oshkosh businessman who ran a plastics manufacturing company before defeating Democrat Russ Feingold in last November’s election said the president has not been serious about budget matters. He pointed to Obama’s budget proposal that was rejected 97-0 by the Democrat-controlled Senate.
“That’s a pretty stunning repudiation of his leadership,” Johnson said.
There was no response to the GOP senators’ letter from the White House.
Johnson has been a steady critic of the administration’s fiscal policies and government spending. His latest criticism comes as negotiations between Obama and Republican leaders appear to be at an impasse. GOP leaders insist on spending cuts and no tax increases in exchange for their support to increase the debt limit. Democrats demand that tax loopholes for the rich be eliminated.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has proposed allowing Obama to raise the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion without congressional approval as long as it is accompanied by spending cuts.
Johnson scoffed at the proposal, pointing that even its supporters call it a last resort.
“I’m looking for success not failure,” Johnson said.
Johnson and his freshman colleagues are co-sponsors of legislation that would cut spending, limit its growth and establish a constitutional amendment that would require a balanced budget.
Johnson see med skeptical of the Obama administration’s prediction of global economic calamity if the U.S. defaults on its obligations. He said default would signal that “we have to live within our means.”