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Why Ohio Congressman Bill Johnson Supports Trump's Revised Travel Ban


President Trump issued a revised travel ban yesterday. It affects travelers from six countries instead of seven. Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen are still on the list. Iraq is off. Also different this time, there's an explicit exemption for permanent U.S. residents and current U.S. visa holders from those countries. Republican Congressman Bill Johnson supports the executive order, and he's in our studios this morning. Thanks so much for coming in.

BILL JOHNSON: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: It is a 90-day ban, as it was before. This time, the administration is rolling it out a little bit slower. The order is not immediate, as it was last time. It takes effect on March 16. But I want to ask you, the justification the administration gave for the immediate implementation of the original order was because of a national security threat. The president said he didn't want to give potential terrorists a heads up about the ban so they could hurry up and jump on a plane. So does that immediate threat no longer exist?

JOHNSON: No, the immediate threat is still there, Rachel. What he's trying to do is, I believe, is to be accommodating and show that he can govern rather than try to create controversy. And I think he's demonstrating that he's willing to do that. The need for this certainly still exists. I'm sure you've seen the reports of some 580 people that have been not only arrested but tried and convicted for terrorist activity. Some 380 of them are foreign-born. This is from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sixty of those people came from one of those original seven countries. Now Iraq is out. So I don't know if that number adjusts a little bit. But we've got clear, irrefutable evidence that we've got people coming from those conflict countries, terrorist-producing countries that are trying to do bad things in the United States. So I think it's absolutely the imperative and the sense of urgency is still there.

MARTIN: But as you know, the majority of fatal terrorist attacks that happen on U.S. soil do not happen as the result of refugees. They happen because U.S. citizens are radicalized in some way. I'm thinking about Omar Mateen, who was the Pulse Nightclub shooter in Orlando, killed 49 people. This ban does nothing to prevent something like that.

JOHNSON: Well, certainly it does. I mean, look at the Somalian that pulled out a knife and went to work at Ohio State University right there where I live in Columbus...

MARTIN: No one was killed in that attack, we should say.

JOHNSON: ...Before he was shot by police. So it's not just American-born or American-inspired. And I have to tell you, Rachel, you know, am I concerned about travelers' inconvenience getting into our country? Certainly I'm concerned about that. However, I'm more concerned about the single mom who worries about sending her kids to school or taking them to the mall to buy school clothes and being afraid of what might happen while she's there because somebody from another country decides that they want to do harm in America.

If we don't prevent these things before they happen, we're doing little to protect our national security.

MARTIN: As you know, there've been all kinds of critics of the temporary band. The former head of the CIA and the former head of the NSA, General Mike Hayden, has called the order dangerous and has said it feeds propaganda from groups like ISIS, who like to talk a lot about America being at war with Islam. And they can now point to this order and say, see, we told you so and then use it as a recruiting tool.

JOHNSON: Well, you know, I'm a 26-and-a-half-year veteran of the United States Air Force. Rachel, I firmly believe you have to call your enemy who your enemy is. ISIS has made it clear who they are. Many throughout the Muslim world and the Islamic world recognize that there is a radicalized element within Islam that is conducting a lot of this terrorist activity. I think it's absolutely the prudent thing to do. And, you know, I can certainly respect a differing of opinion. But those who are opposing this travel ban - temporary, by the way.

It's a pause, it's not a ban. It's a pause. They're not opposing it because they want it done smoother or more efficiently. They're opposing it because they don't want it done at all.

MARTIN: Before I let you go, I need to ask you about another important development...

JOHNSON: Certainly.

MARTIN: ...Out of Washington. The House Republicans, as you know, have released their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. The plan keeps in place popular parts of the ACA. It lets people stay up to age 26 on their parents' plan, covers people with preexisting conditions. But it scraps the individual mandate, which was the bedrock of Obamacare. Is this a plan you can support?

JOHNSON: Absolutely, I am all for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. I live in one of the regions of the country where people have been the most disenfranchised. Many people that I know were booted off of their plans, lost access to their doctors. And when you live in a rural area like Appalachia, now you have to drive 35, 40 miles to get to a doctor that you did not choose but that was chosen for you. And someone else tells that doctor what kind of tests and prescription drugs you can be administered - Rachel, that's not access to affordable health care.

MARTIN: Well let me ask you, how do you feel about the Medicaid expansion? Because a handful of senators wrote a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying that they didn't like anything that would roll back the state's ability to expand that program because it will jeopardize health care for the most vulnerable citizens.

JOHNSON: Well, you know, our governor, John Kasich, he accepted Medicaid expansion, did implement that in Ohio. So it really doesn't matter what I think. What I have to do now is deal with the fact that most of the people that were placed on Medicaid expansion, Medicaid under that expansion rule, or move, are from my district. And we can't leave them behind. This has got to work for all Americans.

MARTIN: Ohio Congressman Bill Johnson, thanks so much for coming in.

JOHNSON: Thanks, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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