Flashback: Ron Johnson once blasted Democrats for being 'obstructionists' on virus aid

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In 2016, the Wisconsin Republican was outraged by 'political games' as Democrats demanded more funding for the Flint water crisis in appropriations legislation.

Sen. Ron Johnson forced Senate staffers to read hundreds of pages aloud on Thursday night, as part of his effort to delay a $1.9 trillion coronavirus pandemic relief bill.

But just five years ago, the Wisconsin Republican was outraged that the then-minority Democrats were delaying a Zika relief bill he supported as they insisted on more funding for the Flint, Michigan, water crisis.

In a Sept. 28, 2016 appearance on the "Vicki McKenna Show" — flagged by the research group American Bridge 21st Century — Johnson blasted Democrat Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader at the time, for delaying appropriations legislation that included funds to combat the spread of Zika.

"Here we are at the end of the year, only alternative is to pass a short term continuing resolution and probably after that some Omnibus or minibus. Even now he's blocking pretty clean continuing resolution to get us past the election. They pay no political price. This would provide funding for Zika. This is a real problem," Johnson claimed.

He griped that Democrats are the real "obstructionists" and that "mainstream media never fingers dems for being the problem here."

“In divided government you’ve gotta fund things you don’t necessarily agree with but that’s called compromise and it’s the way the system works," Johnson added. "Harry Reid is playing political games with the Zika virus."

But his support for backing compromise to make sure the government has enough money to address a dangerous virus is apparently not a two-way street.

Like his Senate Republican colleagues, Johnson has fiercely opposed President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan, which would provide tens of billions for vaccination and testing to curb the coronavirus pandemic, $350 billion in direct support for state, local, and territorial governments for them to address COVID-19, and more than $125 billion to help schools more safely reopen for in-person learning.

"These are astonishing sums that we're talking about and the majority party here wants to jam this through," he complained on Wednesday. "Having no consideration whatsoever of that fact that we are mortgaging our children's future. At some point and time, there will be a day of reckoning, a debt crisis, and it won’t be pretty."

On Thursday, he used a parliamentary stunt to force the entire 628 page legislation out loud, freezing Senate deliberation on the legislation. The process took nearly 11 hours and went until around 2 a.m. Eastern time.

"I will make them read their 600- to 700-page bill," he told a local radio show on Wednesday. "So that every member of the Senate would have time to read it ... before we start the debate on it."

After wasting hours on that, he said he would then try to take up more time, by forcing votes on up to 100 separate amendments on Friday and Saturday.

In 2017, Johnson pushed to change Senate rules to allow the GOP majority to confirm Donald Trump's appointees quicker.

"Right now precious Senate floor time is just being wasted," he lamented in an Aug. 1 CNN interview.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.