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Ron Johnson's One Man Protest

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Good piece in National Review online on Senator Ron Johnson's "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," debut. As I read it, it occurred to me that with his willingness to shake up the status quo, Johnson is turning out to be the maverick that Russ Feingold only pretended to be.


Near dusk, on Tuesday, June 28, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin took to the floor. The mild-mannered former businessman did more than offer a few words — he threatened to halt Senate business. “Unless we receive some assurance from the Democrat leadership that we will actually start addressing our budget out in the open, in the bright light of day, I will begin to object,” he said. “Unless that happens, I will begin to withhold my consent.”

Johnson’s one-man protest raised eyebrows around the upper chamber, where unanimous consent greases the procedural gears. Senate majority leader Harry Reid, sensing trouble, promptly quashed the standoff. But the message was clear: Johnson is not afraid to tussle. Indeed, as the debt debate rages, the freshman Republican has emerged as one of the leading conservatives in the fight, riling Democrats at every turn.

For the low-key Midwesterner, the high-profile scuffle was long coming. Johnson was elected last year, toppling incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold, a popular progressive. Yet for his first six months in office, he shunned the spotlight. His activities were of the backbench variety — tending to constituent affairs, building relationships. By June, however, when Democrats continued to dawdle on fiscal matters, Johnson began to simmer.

“I had enough of it,” Johnson says in an interview with National Review Online. “I know I’m a pretty junior member of Congress, and I don’t have a very loud voice. But what happened last Tuesday was a wake-up call. I never intended to shut down the Senate from that point on. I simply wanted to make a point, to put the Senate on notice.”

Reid certainly noticed. Johnson kept nipping at his heels after the initial filibuster fizzled. Last Wednesday, Johnson cranked up the heat, warning that if Democrats did not propose a budget or work with Republicans on deficit reduction, he might force the Senate to work through the scheduled Fourth of July recess. A day later, Reid cancelled it, keeping senators in town.

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