• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Sen. Ron Johnson: Debt Ceiling Debate Should Net Spending Cap

    While some members of Congress still attempt to unscramble all the details of the six-month spending deal struck by leadership last week, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said he’s already steeling himself for the next big debate.

    “This whole CR skirmish — and that’s about all it is — is just setting us up for what I think is the really big fight and that’s over the debt ceiling,” Johnson said yesterday at The Bloggers Briefing.

    Speaking at Heritage shortly before his maiden Senate speech, the freshman senator from Oshkosh said the upcoming discussion about the debt ceiling offers spending-conscious members of Congress an unparalleled opportunity to negotiate major cuts and necessary spending caps.

    “I think our maximum of leverage really is around that debt ceiling,” he said. “The Democrats in the Senate … they’re going to be forced to vote for that debt ceiling increase or they’re going to shut the government down. The only way they’re going to get support from the Republicans like me is if they establish those hard spending caps.”

    Known for his business background and private-sector perspective, Johnson prides himself on his true status as a “citizen-legislator.” He said the president’s weak position throughout the spending debate has evoked a certain realism in him.

    “If we had a president right now who was leading,” he said, “we could maybe accomplish something in the next year and a half. I haven’t seen that. I’m not necessarily confident that’s going to happen. So, unfortunately, unless we get enough Senate Democrats to go along with us to establish hard spending caps, this is going to be kicked down to the 2012 election and that’s what that election is going to be about.”

    Johnson personally favors a constitutional amendment to limit the size of spending in relation to GDP, in addition to a statute to do the same. Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) has introduced such an amendment, while Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) has proposed legislation to statutorily reduce spending.

    But whatever the mechanism, Johnson said, spending caps are essential to solve the debt problem — the big picture that most preoccupies Johnson.

    “The absolute first step has to be establishing that hard spending cap,” he said. “To me, deficits, out-of-control spending, high unemployment, a sluggish economy — those are all symptoms of the root cause. To me, the root cause absolutely is the size, the scope — I’m talking about all the things the government is involved in that it never should have gotten involved in, all the regulatory overreach — and the cost of government. I’m looking for hard spending caps that actually address and attack that root cause.”

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    9 Responses to Sen. Ron Johnson: Debt Ceiling Debate Should Net Spending Cap

    1. Kevin H, college par says:

      Capping spending is a terrible and cowardly idea. It is cowardly because it creates budget process that Members down the road would have to adhere to, while the current Members don't have to deal with it. It's a terrible idea, because it would cause recessions to be deeper and longer. Right now, when something like a recession or terrorist attack happens, the economy takes a hit, and the need for spending is greater. More people out of jobs, more people in need of health and nutrition services, etc. Capping spending would be entirely counter productive and lead to far greater poverty, and slow any momentum from economic gains.

      The American people are alreayd reacting to these far right teaparty ideas. They see the far right conservatives want to balance the budget on the back of seniors and the disabled, while throwing more and more tax cuts to the very wealthy.

      A stand-alone bill with caps is a terrible idea. If caps are to come into play, they must be part of a comprehensive deficit reduction plan that includes tax revenues and tax entitlements.

      Everything must be on the table. Unfortuantly, the far right doesn't want any tax to be on the table – they are unwilling to compromise, and fortunately for the Dems, their far right stance is turning the American public against them.

      The latest polling numbers are staggering how far the Republicans in Congress have fallen. People liked the talking points they heard, but when they see what the reality of the tea party rheotic means, people are running for the hills.

      The Republcians have no history or economic theorty to stand on. Nothing that have done has ever worked. The Democrats were the ones who balanced the budget, with the 93 omnibus, which no republcian voted for and created projected surpluses with the greatest economic and employment boom the country has ever seen. You know what they say about people who don't know history – they are doomed to repeat it.

    2. Bruce Haughey, Sunny says:

      Kevin H,

      I believe the bills that came out of "The Contract with America" is what balanced the budget and helped create a surplus during the Clinton era. This all happened after the Republican take over of both the House and Senate in 1994. This is indeed something the Republicans have done that worked.

    3. John Makowski says:

      @Kevin H:

      WOW kid! Have you ever had a thought that wasn't given to you by moveon.org? Your basically saying that Bill Clinton was responsible for the tech boom of the 90's is that correct?

      I do stand with you on budget caps. I say that we forget budget caps, remove the 16th amendment, and let people decide how much government they would like. Let people decide what kind of light-bulbs, cars, power, health insurance, retirement funds, unemployment insurance, food, and schooling they would like to buy for themselves and their family. I'm amazed at the arrogance of Senators and Presidents that think they have a better solution for 300,000,000 individual's lives, than the individual that is to make the choice his/her self.

    4. Sherman, Lower Alaba says:

      Kevin, the only thing a history of the 90's can teach us is that Democrats raised taxes in '93 and Republicans cut them in '97. The former is history, by the way, that Obama seems eager to doom us to repeat.

      Since you're at the Heritage site, you might want to read this analysis of economic history during the 90's:


    5. George Colgrove VA says:


      You are a big spender and I can understand setting a limit on spending must be fearful.

      When congress increases the debt limit, there should be a rule. For every dollar they raise, they cut a dollar. The Treasury Dept wants to raise the ceiling by $1.6 trillion, so I say, cut $800 billion and raise $800 billion. Problem solved!

      As for caps, I am all in favor of it so long as the cap is based on tax revenue and not % of GDP. We all want the GDP to go up, but I do not think we want the size scope and cost of goverment to go up as well!

      A larger government has to find things to do, so they begin to start the same old cycle of imposing themselves on us. Time to cut the government and chain it down with the constitution.

    6. George Colgrove VA says:

      Some DRUDGE headlines just from today!

      National Debt:

      REPORT: Budget deal cuts this year's deficit by just $353 million, not $38 billion touted…

      GOP Set To Raise Debt Limit From Level GOP Leader Called 'Beyond Comprehension' in 2010…

      Hoyer joins Obama in calling past vote on debt ceiling 'mistake'…

      Left's angst grows over president's 'shift to center'…

      AP POLL: Support for Obamacare drops to 35%…

      Graham vows to shut down Senate — over $40,000 pet project!

      Never ending war


      32 more bodies found in Mexico, ups total to 120… U.S. Warns of Mexico Peril…


      Lies and Fraud:

      AP: GE to return $3.2 billion to US Treasury… 'HOAX'…


      NO SPACE SHUTTLE FOR HOUSTON… Political calculations?

      Male-female pay gap? Study finds women make 8% more than men…

      Pelosi: 'Elections Shouldn't Matter as Much as They Do'…

      Hillary Clinton campaign still owes consultant $329,000…

      Federal Intrusion:

      Another air traffic controller falls asleep on the job…


      'Such pretty hair, you have'…

      TSA DEFENDS: Terrorists will 'manipulate societal norms to evade detection'…

      Teenage Wasteland: Jobless Rate For Young Is 25%—and Rising…

      All brought to you by the people who created the IRS.

      Friends – are we there yet?

    7. Kevin H, college par says:


      That is not correct. It's a common misperception and conservatives continue to repeat the misinformation over and over, that the Contract with America in 94 was the reason we started to balance the budget. But that is incorrect.

      It was the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, for which no Republican voted for, only Democrats voted for it, that cut spending and rasied revenues – created projected surpluses and brought on the greatest period of economic prosperity in history of America.

      Unfortunately, a lot of folks on the right point to Contract with America and the Republicans for getting us on the right path, but it was in fact the balanced budget omnibus of 1993.

      This blog has some great quotes from the Republicans in 1993, you'll notice the quotes are exacty the same as you hear from the Republicans now…and history shows they were wrong – very wrong: http://daggatt.blogspot.com/2009/02/1993-budget-a

    8. George Colgrove VA says:


      Please go to bed and get some rest. The components of the Contract are what saved Clinton. It was Republican leadership (something we lack right now) that cut spending and allowed thr country to pay back some debt! It WAS George W however that took all that away in very lttle time. We are now living in the Bush/Obama economy which is spend till you drop. Well, Kevin, we are about to drop.

      Kensyan economic theory only works for small debt and only when those debts are paid back quickly, once the profits are made. We have not paid back one cent for over 10 years now.

    9. Pingback: Former CBO Director: Let Debt Limit Debate Be Short, Sweet and Successful | The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.