Sunday, February 17, 2013

Is Senator Johnson a Quitter?

A couple of weeks ago, Senator Johnson spoke wot the MJS's Washington bureau chief, Craig Gilbert, and various issues involving Johnson's transition into his second session of congress, including the reshuffling of his committee assignments. One passage of the discussion is particularly worth noting:
[L]ast month Johnson left his biggest committee assignment - appropriations - and joined the foreign relations panel... 
Johnson said in an interview this week that he left appropriations because he got tired of being one of the only members routinely opposing spending bills. 
"Most of the votes we had in committee I was losing 29-1 or 28-2," says Johnson, who also serves on the Budget, Commerce, Small Business and Homeland Security panels.
I'm absolutely baffled that the Senator thought it would be a good idea to either a.) admit this, or b.) spin his departure from the committee in this way. Regardless of which option one chooses, he's basically saying, "Yeah, I saw I had a really tough job ahead of me, so I quit."

People might not like politicians, but we still want them to be fighters. We admire tenaciousness and perseverance, especially against long odds and/or in the service of lost causes. William Proxmire spent 12 years handing out his famous Golden Fleece Awards. It took Russ Feingold almost 10 years to pass his idea of campaign finance reform through Congress. Expecting anything to happen overnight in the Senate, especially from one of the body's most junior members, is a bit unreasonable.
He complained the minority had little real power, and his anti-spending votes often placed him in the minority of the minority. Johnson was also the only Republican on the panel who wasn't a "ranking member" (meaning the designated lead senator for his party) on any of the appropriations subcommittees.
The only way one really becomes a ranking sub/committee member on one of, if not the, most sought after committees in the Senate is seniority. This may be contrary to Johnson's experience on the Homeland Security committee (where he is a ranking member of the subcommittee on Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia), but the statures of the two committees are completely different. If you want power in the Senate, you have to wait your turn.

Presumably, based on the other notable passage in Gilbert's piece, Johnson intrinsically understands this:
Given his frustrations over federal spending, the outcome of the 2012 election and his party's minority status in the U.S. Senate, Johnson was asked whether he expected to seek a second term. 
"I'm certainly taking the steps to do so," he said.
Yet given that the word "frustration" is almost never absent from any article about Johnson, it's not difficult seeing him quit the Senate all together when the chance comes.