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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.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

 5:25 PM 

GOP members back Johnson's Obamacare appeal

Thirty-seven GOP members of Congress have filed an amicus brief supporting U.S. Sen Ron Johnson’s request for a federal appeals court to find he has standing to challenge an Obama administration ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

The members, which include U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida, argue the Obama administration has tried to rewrite Affordable Care Act “on a wholesale basis.” That includes a decision to allow the federal government to subsidize health insurance for lawmakers and some congressional staffers.

That decision has altered their personal health benefits in a way harmful to the members, denied their statutory right to equal treatment under the law and forced them to be complicity in illegal activity, the brief argues.

Johnson raised similar arguments in his suit, but a district court judge ruled he did not have standing to challenge the decision.

“When private citizens enter public service, they do not forfeit the right to seek redress in court for personal injuries suffered at the hands of the Executive Branch,” the lawmakers wrote.

No Wisconsin member signed onto the amicus brief.

A district court judge this summer rejected Johnson's lawsuit, finding much of the injuries alleged in the suit were speculative. Johnson has since appealed, but the case is not likely to be resolved ahead of the election.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals court last week granted a request from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to push back to Nov. 14 the deadline for its response brief to Johnson’s appeal. The senator will have until Dec. 12 to file a reply brief to that response, if he chooses.

Friday, September 19, 2014

 9:39 AM 

Johnson, Baldwin split on Syria vote

Wisconsin's U.S. senators split on a resolution backing a plan from President Obama to arm and train Syrian rebels to combat ISIS.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, was among the strong majority to endorse the plan, which passed 78-22. The House backed the plan Wednesday.

Johnson said although he shared concerns about whether "we will be training individuals who eventually may become our enemies," it was "important to show coalition partners that the U.S. Congress will support strong and resolute action to address the growing threat of ISIS."

Johnson also noted the plan wasn't debated separately from a proposal to fund the government after the end of the month, criticizing "yet another take-it-or-leave it vote with no ability to improve the bill."

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, however, said although she supported a number of provisions included in the measure -- including the extended government funding, reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank and providing aid to combat the West African Ebola crisis -- she had concerns about "another open-ended U.S. military entanglement in the Middle East."

"Spending American taxpayer money to arm and train Syrian rebels demands a much fuller debate in Congress and it is fundamentally wrong for the campaign season here at home to prevent that from happening," Baldwin said.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

 8:17 AM 

Kind, Ryan support plan to arm Syrian rebels

U.S. Reps. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, and Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, were the only members of Wisconsin's congressional delegation to back the president's plan to arm and train rebels in Syria.

The legislation cleared the House 273-156 with 159 Republicans and 114 Dems supporting it.

U.S. Reps. Sean Duffy, R-Weston; Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee; Mark Pocan, D-Madison; Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac; Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood; and Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls; all opposed the bill.

Pocan said the briefings he's had this week have raised more questions that remain unanswered and raised concerns about "another prolonged war in Iraq."

"This $500 million down payment will only further entangle us in a part of the world most Americans want us out of," he said.

Kind called the legislation the "best of the bad options that we have" and said he is opposed to committing ground troops to the region.

"I supported the measure because it gives the president bipartisan support to help him build a coalition in opposition to this growing threat, provides oversight resulting in greater accountability, and is the best plan to avoid putting combat troops on the ground," Kind said.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

 8:15 AM 

Johnson seeks standing to challenge Obamacare rule

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is urging a federal appeals court to find he has standing to challenge an Obama administration ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

The administration allows the federal government to subsidize health insurance for lawmakers and some congressional staffers.

Johnson, R-Oshkosh, argued in yesterday's brief that administration ruling imposes substantial administrative burdens by requiring him to work with senior staff to determine which employees will continue to receive federal benefits, depriving him and the aide who joined him in the suit of their constitutional rights to equal treatment, and forcing them to participate in an unlawful scheme in which they receive special benefits not available to the public.

A district court judge this summer rejected Johnson's lawsuit, finding much of the injuries alleged in the suit were speculative.

Monday, September 15, 2014

 9:06 AM 

Johnson nominated as UN representative

President Barack Obama has nominated U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson to serve as a representative to the United General Assembly that begins tomorrow.

Johnson, R-Oshkosh, will join fellow U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., at the UN's 69th assembly session.

He thanked the president for the nomination despite his "outspoken opposition to many of the policies of both President Obama and the United Nations," noting that not only is it customary for a member from each party to attend the assembly, but "I intend to use this opportunity to gain insight on a wide range of important global issues."

"In these perilous times, it is important for all of us to find common ground and stand united in our dealings with the rest of the world," Johnson said.

Friday, September 12, 2014

 8:40 AM 

Duffy bill would alter credit reporting law benefiting 'deadbeat parents'

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy announced legislation to strike a federal provision he says enables the avoidance of child support payments.

Duffy, R-Weston, said the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires credit reporting agencies to give 10 days notice prior to reporting on the collection of child support, giving "would-be deadbeat parents ample time to run up their credit, dump savings and assets or otherwise give the impression they can afford far less for their children."

"The law should not encourage or provide parents a way out of supporting their children," Duffy said.

The measure was offered with U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla.

 8:37 AM 

Pocan rolls out bills targeting corporate inversions

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan has introduced three bills aiming to curb corporate inversions.

Pocan, D-Madison, in recent weeks has criticized the practice, in which companies merge with a smaller foreign company to avoid U.S. taxes.

One of the newly introduced bills would crack down on earnings stripping, in which interest paid on debt to affiliated foreign companies reduces or wipes out U.S. taxable income.

The others would, in part, require immediate payment of taxes on overseas profits and require corporations to disclose both pre-tax profits and the amounts paid in state and federal taxes.

"Large corporations have taken advantage of tax loopholes to hide billions in corporate profits overseas and avoid paying taxes in the United States," Pocan said. "Enough is enough. This legislation will stop corporate deserters from abusing the U.S. tax system."

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