In a radio interview earlier this week, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin lambasted Senate Democrats for what he said was unprecedented obstruction of President Trump’s nominees and said that, in contrast, he “voted to confirm” President Obama’s nominees and “did everything I could to work with President Obama.” Then, mere moments later, he boasted of his role in blocking the nomination of Merrick Garland, President Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee.
Johnson discussed the secretary of state nomination of Mike Pompeo on Tuesday with Minnesota radio host Dan Ochsner, who was in Washington interviewing activists and lawmakers. Ochsner decried the Democratic opposition to Pompeo, when confirmation votes should just be “almost a formality” to ensure that a nominee isn’t “some sort of a felon or someone with really terrible things.”
Johnson shared his disapproval, saying that “this resistance movement, I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”
“I disagreed with President Obama on virtually everything, and yet I voted to confirm his nominees,” Johnson said. “I did everything I could to work with President Obama to make this country more prosperous, safer, more secure. That is what, as Americans, we should do, recognizing the enormity of the challenge of any president’s administration. So I’m just not getting this, this is just outside my historical experience, what’s happened since the day after President Trump’s inauguration.”
“Respecting the institutions, you know, the institution of president, but certainly the institution of the Senate,” Ochsner chimed in.
“How about respecting our nation?” Johnson asked.
After Johnson discussed how Democrats have become such obstructionists in part because “almost the entire media is on their side” when they often “ought to be mocking what Democrats do,” Ochsner changed the subject to ask Johnson his thoughts on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Johnson’s first thought was to praise McConnell for obstructing Garland’s nomination and to boast of his own role in the obstruction. McConnell and the Senate GOP prevented Garland from so much as receiving a Senate hearing for nearly a year in order to hold a Supreme Court seat open for the next president, paving the way for Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch.
“Well, you know, I always credit Leader McConnell with holding firm on Merrick Garland, not giving him a hearing, letting the American people decide the composition of the court,” Johnson replied.
“Now, there was a lot of criticism of Leader McConnell and senators like myself, you know, ‘Do your job,’ and my response was, ‘I am doing my job, protecting your Second Amendment rights,’” he said. “So we had to make the decision back in 2016, do we hold a vote, do we allow the Supreme Court to flip—because it obviously would have flipped from five basically conservative judges, we got Kennedy as a swing vote, and four liberal activists, to five liberal activists.”
“And McConnell made the decision, we’re not going to allow that to happen, we’re going to let the American people decide, and they did, they chose Donald Trump. So we nominated and confirmed Neil Gorsuch, which has certainly solidified that Scalia seat, I’ll call it.”
Another part of his supposedly respectful working relationship with President Obama that Johnson didn’t mention: He single-handedly kept a Wisconsin-based appeals court seat vacant throughout the entirety of his first six-year term in the Senate. Using his senatorial prerogative to block any home-state judicial nomination, he rejected Obama’s first nominee for the seat and then forced him to delay making another nomination for years, a bar he only lifted in 2016 when it was too late for confirmation.
Johnson then said nothing as the Trump nominee for that vacancy—Michael Brennan—has gone through committee and nears a floor vote over the objections of fellow Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin.