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Monday, August 18, 2014

 1:49 PM 

House Ethics Committee extends review of Petri case

The House Ethics Committee announced today it is extending the deadline to decide whether to take action in a case involving U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac.

Petri earlier this year asked the committee to look into whether he had a conflict of interest in his advocacy for Oshkosh Corp., a defense contractor in his district in which he also owns significant stock.

Today’s statement from the committee chair and its ranking member noted an extension “does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgement on behalf of the committee.” The committee will now announce a course of action by Sept. 30.

"I look forward to the Committee on Ethics completing its review," Petri said. "I remain confident that the committee will find that I acted properly, and that I reasonably sought, relied on, and followed the committee’s advice and that I complied with House rules."


 9:36 AM 

Ryan insists he hasn't made up his mind about 2016

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan was featured on this weekend's "CBS Sunday Morning" with a profile focusing on his new book, "The Way Forward."

In the segment, Ryan, R-Janesville, was pushed on whether he'll run for president in 2016. He again said he hasn't made up his mind, prompting this exchange with Richard Schlesinger of "48 Hours."

"I think you're an honorable man but I don't believe you," said Schlesinger.

"I really don't," said Ryan.

"On this one point, I don't," said Schlesinger.

"I hear you say that but here's the way my mind works. I don't roll out of bed every morning thinking 'gosh, what should I do to become president,' I don't think like that," said Ryan.


 9:33 AM 

Johnson: ISIS 'not going away'

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, warned the U.S. may be war weary, but Islamic State of Iraq and Syria forces are not.

He said on Fox News Sunday that the ISIS has a long-term goal of setting up a base to use against the West.

"We need to be highly concerned about this," Johnson said. "This threat is a gathering storm. It's not going away."


Thursday, August 14, 2014

 5:04 PM 

Baldwin seeks delay in postal service changes

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin joined two other senators to call for a one-year moratorium on planned U.S. Postal Service delivery cuts.

A letter circulated by Baldwin, D-Madison, Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Jon Tester, D-Mont. -- and signed by 50 senators in all -- seeks to block Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe’s proposal to close up to 82 mail processing plants, slow first-class mail delivery and eliminate up to 15,000 jobs.

A moratorium would give Congress more time to enact effective postal reforms, the senators wrote.

“At a time when our middle class is disappearing, the loss of 15,000 good-paying Postal Service jobs will harm our local communities and economies,” the senators wrote in the letter. “Slowing down mail delivery even further will hurt senior citizens on fixed incomes, small businesses and the entire economy.”

The letter asks leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee to include the moratorium as part of legislation that must pass by Oct. 1 to keep the government running in the new fiscal year.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, was not among the members to sign onto the letter.


Monday, August 11, 2014

 9:28 AM 

Johnson defends Walker, but calls attacks on Burke 'demonizing success'

U.S. Sen. Johnson says he's a "big supporter" of Gov. Scott Walker, but that it's a bad idea to demonize success.

Walker's campaign against likely Democratic challenger Mary Burke has included ads highlighting outsourcing by Trek Bicycle, while Republicans have frequently criticized her personal wealth.

Johnson, R-Oshkosh, characterized the approach as "demonizing success," but told "UpFront with Mike Gousha" he believes Walker has improved the business environment in the state.

"I think every elected official really ought to concentrate on trying to make ... an attractive place for business," Johnson said.

See more from his appearance on the show here.


Monday, August 4, 2014

 9:18 AM 

Duffy defends GOP response to immigration crisis

The lack of bipartisan support for a Republican bill in response to the immigration crisis has left the issue unresolved as federal lawmakers head into recess.

Northern Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy told Sunday's "UpFront with Mike Gousha" earlier versions of the legislation lacked sufficient GOP support.

The 7th Congressional District Republican said the bill, which aimed to effectively discontinue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, was necessary to avert additional waves of children undertaking the treacherous journey to the border.

"If we don't start sending the kids back to their moms and dads, this is just beginning of the crisis," Duffy said.

He defended a GOP statement that called on President Obama to take steps to mitigate the situation, saying it is within the purview of the presidency to allocate resources in response to a crisis. The move was criticized because it came on the heels of House Republicans' efforts to sue the president for accused overreach through executive orders.

"The president does have some authority to act, without modifying or changing the law," Duffy said.

He contended Obama's actions on issues like drug laws and welfare-related work requirements circumvent the role of the nation's law-making bodies, and weaken the balance between the executive and legislative branches.

Despite the legal action, Duffy said impeachment is off the table for Republican leaders. He said the prospect is perpetuated by Obama's own party as a focal point of support.

"This has been a fundraising tool for the Democrats and for the president," Duffy said. "He's trying to excite his base going into this next election."


 9:11 AM 

Johnson to appeal Obamacare lawsuit

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson plans today to appeal a judge's ruling dismissing his lawsuit over an Obama administration ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

The federal judge in Green Bay found Johnson had failed to demonstrate any true harm he faced from the decision allow the federal government to subsidize health insurance for lawmakers and some congressional staffers. The judge also ruled Johnson and the aide who joined him in the suit lacked standing to file it.

Johnson, R-Oshkosh, wrote in a column over the weekend that he planned to file the appeal.

"If a member of Congress does not have standing in this case, who does? And if no one has standing to force the administration to faithfully execute the law, how can the rule of law be maintained?" Johnson wrote.


Friday, August 1, 2014

 9:15 AM 

Johnson, Baldwin split on highway, border bills

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, and Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, split on an extension for the nation's highway and mass transit programs as well as an emergency spending measure to address the border crisis.

The $11 billion, 10-month extension for the highway program heads to the president's desk after clearing the Senate 81-13.

Meanwhile, the $2.7 billion emergency funding measure to respond to the border crisis failed to clear a procedural vote, 50-44. Sixty votes were needed for it to advance.

In both cases, Baldwin voted for the bill, while Johnson was opposed.

Both, however, did sign off on legislation to address the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs. That bill was approved 91-3 and now heads to the president's desk.

Johnson was one of a handful of senators to oppose an earlier version of the legislation. He said his work since then to produce a "more fiscally sound bill" resulted in better legislation that he could support.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

 4:41 PM 

Wis. senators divided on outsourcing, border spending bills

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson split on a pair of cloture votes before the Senate today.

Baldwin, D-Madison, voted in support of legislation to end tax breaks for outsourcing and to allocate emergency spending at the border with Mexico. Johnson, R-Oshkosh, opposed both measures.

The outsourcing bill, which also would have provided incentives to companies moving jobs back to the U.S., drew a 54-42 vote, falling short of the 60 votes needed to move forward.

Baldwin said she was disappointed in the vote, arguing the nation's "tax policy and economic development efforts should not provide tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas, they should support job creation in Wisconsin."

The border bill, meanwhile, advanced by a 63-33 margin. The legislation would provide $2.7 billion to address a surge in unaccompanied children arriving in the country from Central America.


 10:08 AM 

Sensenbrenner bill would allow states to refuse placement of undocumented children

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner today announced legislation that would give states the right to refuse placement of unaccompanied immigrant children by federal officials.

Under the UAC State Authority Act, the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary would be required to notify a state's governor prior to transferring those immigrants into that state, and the governor would have a 10-day window to refuse the transfer.

Amid a surge in undocumented children entering the country from Central America, reports have indicated dozens have been placed with Wisconsin families while officials in Madison and Milwaukee consider facilities in which to house others.

A group of GOP state lawmakers, meanwhile, last week asked the Obama administration to "discontinue" efforts to place children in Wisconsin.

"While I recognize the severity and sensitivity of this crisis, we must secure the border and make a clear statement to those seeking citizenship in the United States: Illegal activity will not be rewarded," Sensenbrenner said. "The administration should be transparent about its intentions."


 9:50 AM 

Pocan co-authors tax exemption for forgiven student debt

Dem U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan and Frederica Wilson have introduced legislation to establish a tax exemption for student loan debt that's been forgiven under federal programs.

Under the Relief for Underwater Student Borrowers Act, debt forgiven under the Income Based Repayment or Pay as You Earn programs would no longer be treated as taxable income, matching other loan forgiveness programs such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness or TEACH Grants.

Pocan, of Madison, and Wilson, of Florida, argued the bill would help address record levels of student debt nationally.

"This legislation closes a major gap in our tax code which penalizes some borrowers who have been granted debt relief after at least 20 years of consistent repayment towards their student loan debt," Pocan said.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

 10:51 AM 

Kind seeks additional safety measures for oil shipped via rail

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind is asking federal officials to consider requiring additional safety measures for crude oil shipped by rail.

In a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Kind, D-La Crosse, asks the agency to further examine the practice of stabilizing crude oil shipped from the Bakken fields in North Dakota. Stabilizing, Kind says, removes the most volatile elements of crude oil prior to shipping and is required for most pipelines -- but not for rail transportation.

Kind notes Wisconsin has seen "exponential growth in crude oil rail traffic" amid a 4,000 percent increase nationwide from 2008 to 2013, increasing the risk of potential derailments and dangerous fuel spills. He also writes that Bakken oil is "much more volatile" than most other types of heavy crude oil.

“As more and more of this volatile oil moves through our communities, we need to implement appropriate safety measures to reduce the risk of fatal accidents on our rail system,” Kind said in a statement. “DOT is taking steps in the right direction by moving to phase out old tank cars and reducing speed limits, but action needs to be taken immediately to make the Bakken crude oil moving through Wisconsin less dangerous.”


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