U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, took to the House floor today to tout legislation that would raise the national minimum wage, calling it "common sense economic policy."
"When millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules can't support themselves or their families, when they live in poverty, we face an economic crisis," Pocan said.
In a statement, Pocan said the Fair Minimum Wage Act would boost wages for 30 million Americans, raising income by more than $50 billion over the three-year course of gradually raising the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour. The level would be indexed to inflation thereafter.
Pocan's speech coincided with protests and single-day strikes at fast food restaurants in more than 100 cities nationwide, including Milwaukee and Madison.
U.S. Rep. Tom Petri today introduced legislation to provide a tax credit for small-dollar federal campaign contributions, arguing it would encourage those donors to get more involved in political campaigns.
The measure would restore a tax credit for contributions between $200 -- the threshold for disclosure in federal campaign finance reports -- and $600.
Petri, R-Fond du Lac, said a credit for small donations previously existed between 1972 and 1986, and that as campaign operations increasingly move online, "campaigns could tilt the playing field away from special interests and large donors and empower small donors and average Americans."
"Campaigns are becoming more and more expensive with no signs of slowing down. And most would agree that the ideal way to finance a campaign is through a broad base of donors," Petri said in a statement. "Unfortunately, most Americans aren’t in the position to donate hundreds or thousands of dollars -- but they want to get involved. We should be encouraging political participation."
Wisconsin's U.S. senators split along party lines today as the chamber backed the so-called "nuclear option" offered by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
The provision requires a simple majority vote of the chamber to approve executive appointments -- except those to the U.S. Supreme Court -- meaning Republicans can no longer block most of President Obama's nominees through a filibuster, which requires 60 votes to break.
Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, joined all but three Senate Dems -- Carl Levin of Michigan, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Pryor of Arkansas -- in supporting the proposal, which passed 52-48.
Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, who voted with his GOP colleagues in opposition, called Reid a "power-driven, cynical politician" in a statement on the vote.
"Democrats are quickly losing the support of Americans across the nation," Johnson said. "Today, responding to that voter backlash to his extreme agenda that is undermining our economy and health care, Majority Leader Harry Reid reversed Senate rules to distract public attention away from the failure of Obamacare and to make it easier to pack the federal courts with ideologically extreme judges who will rubber stamp the radical agenda of the Democratic Party."
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told a group of Wisconsinites last week that the GOP's best weapon in 2014 is Obamacare.
"Obamacare is an issue coming out of Virginia that everyone on the Democratic side of the aisle should be aware of," said Priebus, referring to the closer-than-expected win by Dem Terry McAuliffe over GOP opponent Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia governor's race.
"And our approach is going to be to tattoo Obamacare on Democrats' forehead and beat 'em with it," Priebus said Tuesday during a 40-minute question-and-answer session at Bullfeathers, just down the street from RNC headquarters. "And we're going to do that and do that all over the country." He also said the RNC has been engineering a "permanent ground game" in key states including Wisconsin.
Priebus rebuffed critics who said the national party didn't do enough to help Cuccinelli. He said it was "insane" to think that the transfer of $11 million from the Republican Governors Association and RNC wasn't enough. "I would say to some critics that there was plenty of opportunity to transfer money into Virginia ... and some of them that are the loudest critics didn't produce a nickel."
He said Cuccinelli's loss and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's big win wasn't because one was a social conservative and one was a moderate. "There's not a huge difference there (on their positions) other than ... Chris Christie -- very similarly to Scott Walker -- is a person who has made some very bold, big promises and then followed through on those promises."
And he downplayed the negative effects of the Tea Party. "We also wouldn't have as many seats in the House and the Senate if it weren't for the Tea Party. ... Passion on the ground is irreplaceable. I think you've seen that in Wisconsin," where there is a unified movement, he said.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Friday urged Gov. Scott Walker to reverse his decision to turn down federal money to expand Medicaid, even as she praised him for his move to extend BadgerCare coverage by three months.
"There is $10 billion of federal funding that would come into Wisconsin over the next 10 years if the governor and the Legislature chose to expand Medicaid," Sebelius said. "Ten billion for newly insured folks in Wisconsin to get health care, and frankly, those dollars are now being absorbed by community hospitals paying for uncompensated care, by taxpayers who pay for care of others," she said.
The governor said Thursday he's in favor of allowing people to continue coverage through March 31, the deadline to enroll in health care through the Affordable Care Act.
"Having people take the full advantage of open enrollment, which lasts until the 31st of March, makes sense, so people don't drop through the cracks," she said, citing support for the change from Dems Tammy Baldwin and Tom Barrett.
Sebelius said Wisconsin was once "on its way to run a state-based marketplace and actually was one of the early innovator states" and had "incredible technology builds" started. Then, she said, "the new administration came in and decided they would no longer follow that plan any longer would would instead become part of the federal marketplace."
She said she hoped Wisconsin and the 35 other federal marketplace states would create state-based programs. "We'd love to hand over the baton," she said.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, delivered this week's GOP national address, slamming President Obama for the "fraud" he perpetrated on the American people through Obamacare and urging voters to hold House and Senate Dems responsible for helping him.
Johnson called the president's apology "phony" and described his statement that "if you like your health care plan, you can keep it" as a "fully vetted, coldly calculated, and carefully crafted to deceptively sell your healthcare plan to a trusting public."
"It was a political fraud echoed relentlessly by House and Senate Democrats who should be held accountable for the disastrous consequences of their grand deception," Johnson said.
Johnson also touted his bill to allow people to keep the health insurance plans they had before Obamacare took effect. The House voted on similar legislation Friday with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, joining Republicans in supporting the bill.
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, today joined with the state's Republican congressmen in support of a bill aimed at maintaining current health insurance plans under the Obamacare law.
The House passed the measure, titled the Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013, 261-157, with 39 Dems voting for the proposal and four Republicans voting against it.
The bill would extend through next year insurance plans set to end under the standards of the Affordable Care Act, and would allow new constomers to enroll in those plans. It stands little chance in the Dem-controlled Senate.
"I’ve always said that the ACA is not a perfect bill. The only way that health care reform can work is if we learn from what’s working, and fix what isn’t," Kind said in a statement. "I voted for today’s bill because it’s important to keep that commitment."
Wisconsin's other two Dem members, Mark Pocan of Madison and Gwen Moore of Milwaukee, voted against the bill.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin announced legislation today to improve "transparency, oversight and accountability on National Security Agency domestic surveillance."
"Over ten years ago, I voted against the USA PATRIOT Act because I believed it would open the door to government overreach," Baldwin said in a statement. "We have now seen that secret, domestic surveillance programs at the National Security Agency have crossed the line."
Baldwin, D-Madison, said the Freedoms and Privacy Act of 2013 would also bolster due process protections relating to information sharing between law enforcement and the intelligence community and "protects Americans’ right to privacy under the 4th Amendment."
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin today called on the Walker administration to allow thousands of BadgerCare participants above the federal poverty line to maintain their current coverage through the end of March.
In a letter to the governor, Baldwin, D-Madison, wrote that the state's current outreach to those citizens -- combined with the widespread problems with the federal government's health insurance exchange website -- puts "thousands of people are at risk of losing their coverage."
Baldwin commended some positive steps taken by the state to reach those low-income Wisconsinites, including through phone calls, but said "reaching all of these individuals in a timely manner remains a significant challenge." She wrote that altering the state's current waiver request would align the BadgerCare changes with the deadline for open enrollment on the Obamacare marketplace.
"This solution would give the people we work for more time to enroll, gain access to (Affordable Care Act) premium tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies, and eliminate the risk of lost coverage on January 1," Baldwin wrote.
The senator also wrote that the administration could temporarily expand BadgerCare up to the parameters outlined in the health care law "at no cost to the State of Wisconsin," again criticizing the governor for his decision to reject Medicaid expansion funding earlier this year.