WASHINGTON — Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) on Wednesday discussed a national strategic agenda set out by No Labels, a bipartisan organization.
“We have to lay out the reality of the situation,” Johnson said in lauding the group’s efforts. “We have to have the courage to tell people the truth.”
The group’s co-chairmen, former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, its cofounder, Andrew Tisch, and Andrea Hogan, president and chief executive officer of Merchants Metals Inc., testified.
As his group conducted national polls asking where people wanted the government to focus its attention, four specific issues rose to the top, Lieberman testified, and that led to four specific goals of a National Strategic Agenda. The goals include creating 25 million new jobs over the next 10 years, balancing the federal budget by 2030, securing Medicare and Social Security for the next 75 years, and making America energy secure by 2024.
Johnson asked Huntsman how he would evaluate the American people’s understanding of the depth of the problems that No Labels is trying to address. “It’s encouraging to me to see the poll results,” Johnson said. But, he said, it is difficult to convey scale of the nation’s deficit problems.
“While serving as governor, there was a real need to ratchet up the financial literacy of young people – some had a hard time balancing a checkbook,” said Huntsman. “Now if you can’t balance a checkbook, how can you understand even your very rudimentary presentation of our nation’s numbers?”
Johnson commented that before he was elected to the Senate, he volunteered in the education system in Oshkosh and worked with the school board there to add a financial literacy requirement for graduation.
Witnesses and committee members highlighted throughout the hearing the need for bipartisanship and compromise.
Lieberman remarked on former U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy’s committee rule that produced significant bipartisanship. “The rule was if we can agree on 60 percent on this bill before us, let’s just set aside the 40 percent and do the 60 percent,” Lieberman said.
Johnson agreed. “When you spend a lot of time figuring out all the areas of agreement, you develop a relationship, you develop a level of trust. So when you finally come to those areas of disagreements, it’s just a whole lot easier to find common ground, and what you may find is – let’s not even deal with those, let’s just concentrate on the areas of agreement and move forward.”
“I’m so encouraged by what you’re trying to do here,” Johnson told the witnesses. “You’re trying to set up that process of agreement.”
Chairman Johnson’s full written opening statement can be found here.
The full hearing can be viewed here.