A July 23 Wisconsin State Journal editorial:

Shortly after U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s re-election last fall, our State Journal editorial board urged him to embrace his new freedom.

He seems to be doing just that.

The Oshkosh Republican pledged during his campaign last year not to seek a third term if he won his second, which he did. That means he doesn’t have to spend countless hours over the next six years raising campaign donations for another re-election bid. Nor does he have to kowtow to party leaders for support or, for that matter, worry about how his views and votes are playing with the public.

He can simply do what he thinks is best for our nation and Wisconsin.

Our editorial board didn’t endorse Johnson in the November election, but we liked his no-nonsense approach to public service, and his attention to soaring debt.

“His self-imposed term limit should make it easier to take tough votes and cut deals,” our Nov. 9 editorial stated. “Success will require compromise.”

So far, so good. Johnson is showing some needed independence that we wish more of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation would exhibit.

Johnson drew national attention in January for urging his fellow Republicans to work with Democrats on fixing Obamacare. He also cautioned his party leaders against rushing something so big and complicated through Congress.

They didn’t listen. But Johnson’s warnings proved right. The GOP “repeal and replace” health care overhaul barely cleared the House and now is on life support in the Senate, largely because Republican leaders tried to secretly negotiate and then spring the bill on members.

It hasn’t work.

Johnson helped slow down Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, criticizing his GOP colleagues for huddling behind closed doors to draft a deal. More recently, Johnson refused to vote the week after details of McConnell’s legislation finally came out. Johnson was right that lawmakers and the public needed more time to digest and assess potential impacts.

Now Johnson is holding out for more health care savings. Real affordability, he contends, will require pulling back on Obamacare protections for people with preexisting health conditions, and halting further expansion of participants in Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor, elderly and disabled. Johnson and other Republicans believe Medicaid is expanding beyond its mission.

We get his points but fear the Congressional Budget Office’s predictions of millions of people losing their health care coverage under any version of the Republican proposal so far.

We also wish the ongoing debate would focus more on how health care is delivered. Obamacare started to address the need for payment reform, so patients pay for the quality — not quantity — of care they receive. That needs more attention.

And the most glaring problem with Obamacare is the lack of competition in some of its state-based insurance marketplaces, though Wisconsin consumers still enjoy choices.

We’re siding with the GOP moderates over Johnson’s more conservative vision for health care. Yet we respect Johnson for seeking savings he believes are vital to success, and for staying open to compromise across the political divide.

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Dunn County News editor

Barbara Lyon is the editor of The Dunn County News in Menomonie, WI.

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