Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview on Monday that the media “grossly misreported” his proposal to offset the cost of adding Juneteenth as a federal holiday by eliminating Columbus Day.
Controversy erupted last week after Johnson proposed an amendment that would replace Columbus Day with Juneteenth to offset the cost of another federal holiday. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) cosponsored the amendment. The cost of adding an additional national holiday would cost $600 million per year.
Johnson’s proposal engendered a fierce backlash from conservatives such as Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson, who said last week that Johnson and Lankford:
…wanted to delete it [Columbus Day] from the national calendar and replace it with Juneteenth. This is a big change. Americans have celebrated Columbus Day as long as we’ve had a country, since 1792. Columbus Day is a celebration of the nation itself. That’s why it’s a national holiday.
The question is what other acts of revolution and cultural desecration can we expect from our suddenly woke republican senator friends? That’s a good question.
When asked if he thought this approach to offset the cost of another federal holiday by eliminating Columbus Day was a mistake, Johnson said, “I think that this has been grossly misreported.”
Johnson claimed that his proposal was “twisted and taken out of context, the motives attributed to me that don’t exist. Assumptions made incorrectly,” he added.
This strong pushback from the senator is the latest example of the reach of Carlson’s highly impactful Fox News primetime show, which has quickly set cable news ratings records amid the myriad national crises gripping the country from the coronavirus pandemic to the racial unrest in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The senator agreed to an interview with Breitbart News on the topic after intense blowback when Carlson lit him and Lankford up last week over the proposal. Carlson has been particularly critical of Republicans in recent weeks, ripping members of the GOP for not providing a forceful enough response to the public health, economic, and racial strife tearing the country apart. Last week, too, he ripped Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) over a police reform bill the Hoosier Republican senator offered in a testy interview. Then, he tore into Johnson and Lankford over this proposal.
Johnson said that Democrats were reportedly working on a motion to provide for a unanimous consent [UC] of the bill in the Senate to pass the bill that would have made Juneteenth a federal holiday. Johnson said he wanted to devise an amendment to the bill that would pay for the additional federal holiday, offsetting the cost by removing a different federal holiday. Federal holidays cost the government significant amounts of money, since the millions of federal workers still get paid for the day off.
“Rather than just say I object [to the UC], I wanted to have an alternative,What could we do as an alternative?” Johnson told Breitbart News. “So, we thought quickly of a substitute amendment that would substitute something else for it. So if the Senate, or Congress, were to make Juneteenth a federal holiday and celebrate by giving two million federal workers a paid day off. An eleventh day off. Is there something that we could do to mitigate that cost?”
Johnson noted that there were other options he could propose, such as creating a commission, but admitted that the “simplest thing was that we’ll stop paying for Columbus Day, not canceling it, but just don’t pay the two million federal workers to have a paid day off for an eleventh day off and let them celebrate Columbus Day like the rest of us do by working.”
Johnson insisted that he was merely applying his conservative principles about responsible spending.
“If anybody would have read the rationale on this, they would have seen I’m not siding with the mob,” Johnson said. “I’m not joining the mob. I’m being true to my conservative principles, ‘I don’t think we should do this without discussion, debate, or even a vote on how we to spend the $600 million to give two million people a day off with pay.'”
Even so, after the criticism from Carlson, Johnson and Lankford put forward a new amendment that would pay for making Juneteenth a federal holiday a different way than eliminating Columbus Day as a federal holiday.
Instead of eliminating Columbus Day as a federal holiday, Johnson and Lankford announced last Friday that they have proposed another amendment that would pay for a new Juneteenth holiday by reducing the number of federal workers’ paid leave days.
“We’re going to not pay them for generous paid days off for leave,” he said.
Even so, looking back, Johnson said that he wishes that he would have thought of the current proposal to reduce federal workers’ paid leave to pay for Juneteenth instead of eliminating Columbus Day–saying he would not be facing the “crap” he is getting for what Carlson slammed him and Lankford over.
“Do I wish in the few hours that I had initially that I had thought of that? Or I would just say, ‘I don’t care if it’s complex, write it that way? Yes, I wouldn’t be going through this crap. But again, I submit that this has been grossly misreported,” Johnson said.
“I was just trying to block a unanimous consent request to give federal employees another day off,” he said.
Johnson said that oftentimes, conservatives are “too quick to eat our own and assume the worst.”
“It’s not helpful,” he said. Johnson said that substantial spending measures should involve vigorous debate and discussion, and especially a vote, instead of a unanimous consent request.
Despite all this, Johnson said he would not appear on Carlson’s show to explain himself because he does not believe he would get a fair hearing from the firebrand Fox News host. “Let me ask you, do you think Tucker is going to admit that he was wrong in leaping to this conclusion?” Johnson asked rhetorically when Breitbart News asked if he would go on Carlson’s show to make his case. “And just ripping two conservative Republican senators? And he’s going to admit that he was wrong on that?”
“That is what [is] so destructive about this tendency to leap to the wrong conclusion and eat our own,” the Wisconsin senator said. “As a conservative, I understand how often we are disappointed by people we thought were conservative. But I’m not one of those guys. Although, I’ve been painted as one.”
President Donald Trump said during his Friday speech at Mount Rushmore that the left is trying to lead a “cultural revolution,” which would include eliminating statues and other aspects of American heritage.
Johnson said he agrees with Trump “unquestionably” that the left is trying to move for a cultural revolution. He noted that the left has taken over many American cultural institutions such as higher education, the media, and law.
Asked what Senate Republicans plan to do about the left’s mission to topple statues and eliminate other parts of American history, Johnson–the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee–said he plans to hold hearings on the matter.
“We should be laying out the reality of these things,” Johnson said. “Laying out the reality of how many — what is the level of black on black violence? We can certainly get upset; it is reprehensible about what happened to George Floyd, but what about all of the other murders since then? Where’s the outrage from black leaders on the part of black leaders to those murders? To Officer Dorn? To me, that is what my committee is trying to look at right now.”
Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.