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Friday, October 17, 2014

 8:24 AM 

Wis. GOP lawmakers call for more action to address Ebola

GOP members of Wisconsin's congressional delegation are calling for more action to address concerns over the Ebola virus.

U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble of Sherwood urged House Speaker John Boehner to call the House back into session to, in part, impose a travel ban on West African nations affected by the epidemic and authorize additional aid for the region.

"The present and growing threat of Ebola is one that, if left unchecked, could inflict lasting and severe harm on not only the United States but upon all nations," Ribble wrote in his letter to Boehner.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Oshkosh also called for restrictions on travel for those in nations hit hard by the virus, and chastised the Obama administration and the Centers for Disease Control for their response to the ongoing epidemic.

And U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Menomonee Falls urged the CDC to focus on top health priorities, saying past efforts addressing issues such as transportation safety and farmers' markets reflect "how the cost of mission creep and government expansion can be measured in lives as well as money."

"The CDC has just now released protocols for healthcare workers to minimize the risk of infection from communicable diseases," Sensenbrenner said. "This should have been done years ago -- before two healthcare workers were infected with Ebola. It is past time for the CDC to prioritize its mission and spending."

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, has criticized the calls for travel bans, saying such restrictions would be impractical and make the disease harder to track.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

 3:20 PM 

Moore: Travel ban would 'exacerbate' Ebola epidemic in West Africa

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore today criticized calls for a ban on travel to and from West Africa in light of concerns over the Ebola outbreak in the region and newly diagnosed cases in Texas.

"This idea may seem like a quick fix but in reality, isolating West Africa will only exacerbate the epidemic in the region," said Moore, D-Milwaukee. "Aside from being impractical, this reactionary strategy will force Ebola patients underground making it nearly impossible to track their movements, hinder the capacity for international healthcare workers to transport and administer critical aid, and erode the continent’s fragile economy."

Moore also knocked U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, after he called for quarantines and "some measure of travel bans" during a stop in Marshfield. Johnson has also criticized the initial response from the Centers for Disease Control.

"If Senator Johnson and his colleagues are looking for a silver bullet to address Ebola, they will be sorely disappointed to learn that such a thing doesn’t exist," Moore said. "Those calling for travel bans need to remember that it is paramount for us as elected officials to inform, not inflame."

Monday, October 13, 2014

 8:17 AM 

Pocan: Debate over same-sex marriage settled

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan said he believes the debate over same-sex marriage is settled during an appearance on Sunday's "UpFront with Mike Gousha."

The Madison Democrat, who is openly gay, said the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to consider appeals to multiple court rulings indicate bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.

According to Pocan, the U.S. Supreme Court will likely delay ruling on the issue until a lower court issues a decision that differs from those seen in other states, or until same-sex marriage reaches a "critical mass" of legality in at least 34 states, as happened with interracial marriage.

"It is very clear that the Constitution says we have to have equal access to marriage," Pocan said.

Pocan said the state ban on same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships prevented him and his partner, wed in Canada in 2006, from filing joint taxes or having access rights in the event of an emergency.

"The fact that my state and my federal government are in unison on the law, that our marriage is the same as anyone else's marriage, that is really very substantial," Pocan said. "We have the same equal access to the privileges and responsibilities that are under marriage, and I think that is a good thing for thousands and thousands of couples across the state."

Friday, October 10, 2014

 8:27 AM 

Baldwin asks for changes to rail regulations

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is calling on the Obama administration to alter federal railroad regulations discouraging "competitive switching," in which freight rail shippers use different rail lines.

In a letter to Surface Transportation Board Chairman Daniel Elliott, the Madison Dem, along with fellow Sens. Al Franken, D-Minn., and David Vitter, R-La., writes that switching would provide "more options and better service" for rail companies.

By contrast, the senators write current regulations discourage switching, leading to reduced competition and increased shipping costs for businesses. They also note "recent projections of record grain and soybean harvests could set the stage for unprecedented disruptions this fall," and that affected power plants could result in shutdowns and higher energy prices.

"Businesses and consumers throughout our economy’s supply chain stand to be negatively affected by these disruptions," the senators write.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

 7:37 PM 

Sensenbrenner, Judiciary Committee members seek answers from Secret Service

Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner joined a bipartisan group of colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee in pressing acting Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy for answers to more than a dozen questions surrounding recent security breaches.

In addition to Sensenbrenner, chair of the Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee, those signing the letter included: Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.; Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers, D-Mich.; and Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Bobby Scott, D-Va.

"In light of recent events and evident security failures, the House Judiciary Committee has grave concerns about the policies, procedures, and judgment of the United States Secret Service," they write.

The list of 13 questions focuses primarily on policies and procedures related recent security breaches, including a Sept. 19 incident in which man jumped a fence and made it into the White House, and an incident three days earlier in which an armed security contractor with a criminal record was allowed to ride in an elevator with the president. The letter also asks which steps are being taken to improve morale at the Secret Service.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

 8:15 AM 

Wis. lawmakers oppose placing bat on endangered list

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy and three other Wisconsin Republicans were among nine members of Congress to oppose a proposal to place a species of bat on the endangered list.

In a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Daniel Ashe, the lawmakers -- led by Duffy, R-Weston -- wrote that listing the species would "have a significant impact on industries throughout the upper-Midwest while doing little to address the cause of the Northern Long-Eared bats’ supposed population decline."

The letter adds although the lawmakers support measures to combat White Nose Syndrome -- a fungal disease that has decimated bat populations in other states -- additional information on its transmission and spread is needed "before implementing regulations that will do nothing to control this disease."

"The FWS itself recognizes that human activities and land management have not had an appreciable effect on the Northern Long-Eared bat," the lawmakers wrote. "Yet an endangered species listing would likely focus on curtailing all conceivable human-induced impacts."

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, and U.S. Reps. Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood, and Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, were the other Wisconsin lawmakers signing onto the letter.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

 2:35 PM 

Ethics board finds cause to continue investigating allegations against Petri

A unanimous Office of Congressional Ethics Board found "substantial reason" to believe GOP U.S. Rep. Tom Petri violated House rules in taking actions benefiting companies in which he had a financial stake.

House Ethics Committee Chair Michael Conway, R-Texas, and Ranking Member Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., announced today the body would continue to review the matter to gather more information, though doing so "does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee."

Petri, R-Fond du Lac, asked the House Ethics Committee earlier this year to look into allegations he acted on behalf of Oshkosh Corp. while owning stock in the company. At the time, he said he had sought the committee's advice in his actions and did nothing improper.

In the Office of Congressional Ethics report, it noted Petri and his staff sought the committee's guidance at times, but did not "seek advice before taking all official acts."

The report also said Petri and his staff in 2012 and 2013 contacted the EPA on behalf of Manitowoc Co. even though he owned stock in the company.

The board voted 5-0 in June with one abstention to continue looking into the allegations. The House Ethics Committee released the board's report today as part of its announcement the review would continue.

Petri said today he was "deeply disappointed" that the committee has not already resolved the case "once and for all" and described the Office of Congressional Ethics report as "flawed."

The House Ethics Committee statement did not indicate when the committee would wrap up its review or if it would empanel an investigative subcommittee, normally a step before more serious actions are taken against members.

Petri insisted the Office of Congressional Ethics ignored the "well-documented record" of his office's interactions with the House committee, saying he sought its advice and then followed it in his actions.

“But I remain hopeful that the Ethics Committee -- and anyone objectively reviewing the record -- will conclude that I have acted properly and complied with House rules; any suggestion to the contrary by the Office of Congressional Ethics report is untrue, biased and incomplete," Petri said.

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· Tammy Baldwin (D)
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· 1st CD: Paul Ryan (R)
· 2nd CD: Mark Pocan (D)
· 3rd CD: Ron Kind (D)
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