Politics

BET founder hopes GOP keeps Senate, sees divided government keeping left-wing in check

Key Points
  • BET founder Robert Johnson said Thursday that divided government in Washington would lead to "more reasonable dialogue."
  • The Georgia runoff elections in January will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.
  • Johnson told CNBC that when one party controls the House, Senate and the White House, "it seems to move us back to that ... zero-sum game."
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RLJ Founder Bob Johnson: Balanced government is better for the country

Robert Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television, told CNBC on Thursday that he hopes the Republican party keeps control of the U.S. Senate in order to provide a counterbalance to proposals from Democrats.

"I think balanced government, where each party has a chance to put in their best ideas and propose their best solutions is better for the country overall than when the country is in the hands of one party," Johnson said on "Squawk Box." "When the country is in the hands of one party, some of the more, I would call it, aggressive behaviors of the party tend to take hold, and it seems to move us back to that ... zero-sum game where my gain is your loss."

Johnson's remarks come ahead of next month's Senate runoff elections in Georgia, which will determine the balance of power in the upper chamber. For the GOP to maintain control, only one of the Republicans running needs to win because the party currently holds a 50-48 seat advantage. Sen. David Perdue is facing off against Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, while Sen. Kelly Loeffler is on the ballot against Democrat Raphael Warnock.

Democrats kept control of the House of Representatives in November's election, though they did lose some seats, and captured the White House after President-elect Joe Biden defeated incumbent President Donald Trump.

Johnson, who has donated to Democrats often in the past, said before the presidential election that he was unsure of Biden's policies, particularly around corporate taxes and the pandemic. "Where I come out as a businessman, I will take the devil I know over the devil I don't know anytime of the week," said Johnson, although he did not outright endorse Trump in the Sept. 30 CNBC interview.

On Thursday, Johnson said he believed there would be "more reasonable dialogue" in Washington when it comes to passing legislation and addressing other issues in the country if Republicans hold onto the Senate. For evidence, he pointed to the bipartisan coronavirus stimulus proposal from a group of Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate.

"People like [Democratic Sen.] Joe Manchin and others from Democratic party and others from the Republican said, 'You know, we've got to work together for the country. We've got to work together for the economy and we've certainly got to work for people who have been disenfranchised for years,'" said Johnson, founder and chairman of investment firm The RLJ Companies.

Before serving as vice president under former President Barack Obama for two terms, Biden was a long-time Democratic senator from Delaware. He has often touted his past experience and desire to work on compromise legislation with Republicans, particularly with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY.

"I'll take him at his word that he's a person who can reach across the aisle," Johnson said of Biden. "He can talk to Republicans. He can talk the liberal wing of his party to bring them into line when they go too astray, so those are the kinds of things I'm looking for."

Another thing Johnson said that he's hoping Biden will be able to do is to bring support to Black-owned businesses impacted by the coronavirus and the pandemic's economic consequences. He suggested Biden organize a meeting of business groups and financial institutions to help develop an assistance plan.

"You throw in a horrible pandemic that sort of destroys the economy for a large part of the country, Black businesses are going to be the first to go into a deep recession, depression, and they cannot recover without capital, and I don't think it's just a matter of lending capital. I think you've got to pursue the concept of direct grants to these businesses," Johnson said.