Editor's Note: The La Vista Sun was contacted by U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns’ office to clarify the senator’s position on defunding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Johanns does not support a continuing resolution that would shut down the federal government if Obamacare is not defunded. He is, however, a cosponsor of an effort by Sen. Ted Cruz to permanently defund Obamacare.
A raucous crowd at La Vista City Hall got little comfort from U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns Aug. 15 when he insisted he would not support a Republican effort to defund President Barack Obama's signature Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
About 12 of the Senate's 44 Republican senators have signed on to an effort to fund all current functions of the federal government except for implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which has come to be known as Obamacare.
Their hope is that Democrats will agree to defund the Affordable Care Act rather than cause the federal government to shut down because of a lack of borrowing power.
Among the advocates of the strategy is Republican Deb Fischer, Nebraska's other U.S. senator.
But Johanns said he is not on board.
The Nebraska Republican said such an effort would be doomed to failure since much of the act's funding is non-discretionary, there are not enough votes in the Senate to pass such an effort and, even if a defunding measure passed, it would be certain to face a presidential veto.
Johanns said opponents of Obamacare, among whom he counts himself, are helpless to change the law in the face of a Senate that has 56 Democrats to 44 Republicans.
That stark majority is the governing fact in Congress, he said, because it ensures that all leadership positions rest with Democrats and they will not permit the signature achievement of a Democratic president to be repealed or to go unfunded.
“The majority rules, and 56-44 tells the story,” he said. “The majority are people who voted for the bill and generally support the agenda of the president who likes this bill and who himself got re-elected.”
Johanns said he is an opponent of Obamacare, voted against it and wishes to see it repealed but the defunding approach is the wrong strategy.
That drew an angry roar, with one audience member demanding that Johanns take a stronger stand.
“You are the problem, and people like you, who do not stand up and push back,” Johanns was told.
But Johanns held firm, insisting the Republicans' minority status in the Senate made it impossible for a defunding strategy to succeed.
“We need to nominate and elect people who agree with what you are saying,” Johanns said.
“It's 56-44 when I go back. It is what it is.”
Other issues arising during Johanns' one-hour presentation included the federal budget deficits and the national debt, the Keystone XL Pipeline, and the avaibility of the Medicare program.
Johanns said he favors an amendment to the U.S. constitution that would require the federal government to balance its budget, believes the Keystone XL Pipeline represents an important step toward energy independence for the nation, and believes Medicare enrollees should be subject to means testing.
As a member of the Baby Boomer generation, Johanns said he represents the problem that is facing younger Americans: a massive flood of retirees claiming expensive and unsustainable medical benefits.
“I have always believed in means testing for Medicare,” he said.
“Medicare is not sustainable. The disability portion is already in trouble, and in 10 or 12 years there will be much more money going out than going in.
“Versus my kids paying for my healthcare or me, I volunteer. Higher premiums, copays and medication charges? OK.”