Ron Johnson Gets “F” For Leadership
Republican leaning group ranks him among the worst in Congress running a committee.
Richard Lugar was a U.S. Senator from Indiana (1977-2013) who was considered a moderate Republican, though he moved to the right toward the end, opposing both the Obama stimulus funding and the Affordable Care Act. After losing in the Republican primary in 2014, he created the non-partisan Lugar Center, as “a platform for an informed debate on global issues” and enhancing “bipartisan governance.” Most members of its board of directors have a Republican background.
The center has created a Congressional Oversight Hearing Index, “a new analytical database that enables the public to evaluate how well each committee in Congress is performing its vital oversight role… The COHI grades each Congressional committee on its performance relative to the past performance of the same committee.”
Wisconsin’s Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson is among the 39 members of Congress, in the Senate and House of Representatives, who are rated and he gets an “F”, along within nine other committee heads. Ten committee leaders get an “A” and the rest are somewhere in between.
Once one of the Senate’s “most active” committees, the Lugar assessment notes, its “hearing schedule has fallen dramatically in recent years… From a high of 185 hearings in the 111th Congress (2009-10), hearing activity fell to just 86 in the 115th Congress (2017-18) under Chair Ron Johnson… far below the committee’s average of 122 for the three previous Congresses.”
“Along with the decline in overall hearings has come an even bigger drop in policy and legislative oversight,” the analysis notes. “From a high of 118 policy and legislative hearings in the 111th Congress, the committee under Chair Johnson held only 40 in the 115th. That is by far the fewest the committee held during the period.”
This committee has in the past also “held the most investigative oversight hearings in the Senate,” the rating continues. “However, its record for the 115th Congress under Chair Johnson and PSI Chair Rob Portman (R, Ohio), 10 investigative hearings, is the committee’s lowest figure of the five Congresses studied… It is well below the committee average for the period, and the continuation of a decline in investigative activity since the 111th Congress, when it held 28. Much of the drop-off… under Chair Johnson and PSI Chair Portman can be attributed to a decline in the PSI’s private sector probes.”
Interestingly, given the Republican-leaning background of the group’s board, its analysis gives a generally dismal ranking to the Republican Senate, with eight “F” grades and just one “A” grade. By contrast, the Democratic-run House gets just two “F” grades, with an “A” for nine committee leaders.
Though investigative hearings have declined badly under Johnson, he was quick to act after President Donald Trump’s reported demand that Senate Republicans get “tough” on “Obamagate”, an alleged plot of the Obama administration and the intelligence community to hurt his presidential campaign by investigating its links to and possible collusion with the Russian interference in the 2016 election. This claim, of course, contradicts the Republican-run Senate’s recent Intel report that Russia interfered with the 2016 election to help elect Trump, which would suggest the intelligence community had every reason for the 2016 probe.
Johnson has a long history of ignoring information he was given about Russia’s interference with America’s election. The full story of Johnson’s fawning loyalty to Trump was recently recounted by liberal writer Sidney Blumenthal for a website called Just Security. Most of it is not new, but when assembled into a narrative it is not a pretty picture.
The story comes complete with yet another recantation by former Milwaukee right-wing talk show host Charlie Sykes, who is forever surprised at how wrong he was back then and can always be counted on for such confessions to the national media. “It turned out that Ron Johnson was not who Sykes thought he was,” Blumenthat writes, noting Sykes was a fervant champion who helped Johnson win his first race in 2010. “He was poised to be very much his own man,” Sykes recalls thinking of Johnson. “Instead, he became Trump’s.”
Johnson gets a somewhat better ranking from GovTrack, another non-partisan group which rates all members of Congress for their leadership. Johnson ranks 46th in the Senate in the latest ranking (for 2019), about average among 100 senators. But that’s well behind his fellow Wisconsin U.S. Senator, Democrat Tammy Baldwin, who ranked 16th best for leadership. Impressive, but we’ll know she’s really arrived when Sykes recants all his past criticisms of her.
Update July 22: Top congressional Democrats led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have warned in a letter that “Russian-linked information is being funneled to a committee headed by Senator Ron Johnson” to “further Russia’s efforts to interfere again in the American presidential election” and “to smear the presidential campaign of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.,” the New York Times has reported The situation echoes 2016, when U.S. intelligence experts warned congressional leaders, including Johnson, that Russia was interfering in the 2016 election and Republicans declined to take any action. In response to the Democrats’ latest concerns, Johnson told Politico “They’re simply wrong.”
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