Ron Johnson

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson speaks about health care reform during a stop at the Daily Citizen office in Beaver Dam Friday.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, said the U.S. Senate’s recent failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in the U.S. will put pressure on President Donald Trump’s tax reform plan.

“The bottom line, the problems are not going away. We are not giving up,” he said Friday in an interview with the Daily Citizen. “No matter what bill we pass, we’re still going to continue to work on this problem.”

Johnson co-sponsored a health care bill with Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, Bill Cassidy and Dean Heller. The plan was to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and replace it with block grants that would go to states.

Johnson said it is important to give states control and make sure the funds are distributed more evenly than they are in the current plan, which provides one-third of the funds to three large states.

He also said he has been disappointed that the issues of federal debt and deficit are pushed to the back burner in all of the debates over policy issues.

The lack of success with repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act increases the pressure on approving tax reform, the second-term senator said. Johnson acknowledged that in hindsight, Congress and President Trump should have focused first on tax reform.

Johnson also discussed a guest-worker visa programs bill that he introduced in May. The bill would allow non-immigrant visas for citizens not from the U.S. to come to a state and work. The visas could be issued for three years.

Johnson wants to let states manage the visa program. He said that if a state doesn’t want guest workers that’s OK, but states that do want those workers should have access to them. From there, states could set pay rates to make sure wages aren’t depressed in different industries, Johnson said.

Looking at Wisconsin, Johnson said that in manufacturing, construction and dairy there is a need for migrant labor. In addition, he said that it’s hard to get an idea for how many immigrants there are in the U.S. and how many are in the workforce.

He did praise the J-1 Visa program for international student workers, saying that the cultural exchange is helpful and that it benefits countries involved with the program as well.

Johnson was supposed to lead a congressional delegation to Puerto Rico Friday, but the trip was canceled due to the scale of damage caused by Hurricane Maria.

“I don’t remember in my lifetime a series of these devastating natural disasters,” he said. “We dodged a huge bullet in Florida.”

Johnson praised the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to the three recent disasters in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. He said that he thinks FEMA is responding effectively in Puerto Rico.

“I know they are doing everything that they really possibly can,” he said.

Last year, Johnson said he wouldn’t seek another term. He said he is trying to get involved with many policy debates such as the Senate health care bill, tax reform and anything the Senate can pass that he believes will grow the economy.

“I think 12 years will be enough,” he said. “I’ll be happy to come home.”

Ben Rueter covers Beaver Dam, Horicon and Juneau city governments for the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen.