Sen. Ron Johnson, one of a handful of Republican senators being listed as being against the Senate Republicans' healthcare reform bill, insisted on Wednesday that he "never said I was 'no' on this bill," but that he was a "very hard no" in terms of it coming to a vote this week.
"That was absurd because we didn't have the information," the Wisconsin Republican told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program.
"We need more time, we need more information."
However, he said, the Congressional Budget Office's score for the Senate bill is showing about $200 billion of additional deficit reductions, and that's "good news."
"In order to have this thing passed to match with the House, we only need $119 billion," said Johnson. "The $200 billion deficit reduction will give us leeway to make sure we can get the support and pass this bill."
Johnson also pointed out that the CBO's figures showing 15 million Americans losing coverage on the first year of the new plan were compiled using a baseline from March 2016, "when these marks were unstable, but nowhere near where they are today."
The most recent CBO baseline, from January 2017 shows much different figures, and to compare figures from over a year ago are "just wrong," said Johnson.
"That from my standpoint is big news now because the discorporation of the original CBO report is just wrong," said Johnson.
When asked directly if he was moving toward a yes vote, Johnson said he agrees with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who had said earlier on the program that Democrats and Republicans should work together toward a solution.
"These markets are collapsing," said Johnson. "We have to do something. Anything we pass is not going to be perfect. The Democrats passed theirs on a partisan basis . . . hopefully we can take their offer and work together to actually fix our healthcare system. I think that would be best for the American people."
Meanwhile, he said, senators argue about policy absent of information, but now they are starting to get information.
"The information I'm seeing can lead to a good result," Johnson said, while disagreeing with contentions made by Murphy and other Democrats that the goal of healthcare reform is to take people off the Medicaid rolls.
"The goals aren't to take more people off the rolls," said Johnson. "The goals are to reduce premiums so more people can afford coverage, to make sure Medicaid is sustainable for future generations."
Johnson said he also disagrees with contentions that people will die because of the Republican push for reform.
"In 2008, we spent $200 billion on Medicaid," the senator said. "This year, we will spend close to $400 billion on Medicaid. That's double spending in nine years. We're trying to save Medicaid and stop the mortgaging of our children's future."
Johnson also said Wednesday that he hopes the measure passes "big" and with bipartisan support, but "it's not like Democrats are stepping up to the plate."
"Their solution is a single-payer system," said Johnson. "Folks, we know what a single-payer system looks like, the VA [Veterans Affairs] system that spends money and a lot of problems with that. I don't think that's what the American people want. We want lower premiums so more people can afford coverage."
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