U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, downplayed differences within the GOP Sunday, calling them nothing more than disagreements over tactics.
Speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation" yesterday, Ryan echoed the theme of his speech at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference.
"I called it the 'Battle of Ideas.' It's creative tension, and I don't think there's really this vast civil war in the Republican Party that like many in the left likes to suggest there is," Ryan said.
The House Budget chair also deflected a question about running for president, saying he planned to sit down with his wife in 2015 to discuss it.
Ryan also criticized President Barack Obama for his approach to Russia while arguing Vladimir Putin's political weak spots should be exploited. He said that includes targeting "some of the oligarchs around him that are his enablers and he is their enablers." He suggested going after their ability to travel and their financial holdings overseas.
U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner today called on President Obama to postpone a September trade mission to Russia in light of recent developments in Ukraine.
In a letter to the president, Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, writes that the Commerce Department-led mission to Moscow and St. Petersburg -- announced earlier this week -- "stands in direct conflict" with both congressional efforts to enact sanctions against Russia and the administration's boycott of the G-8 Summit.
"We need actions as well as words," Sensenbrenner writes. "I respectfully request that you take immediate action to recall this announcement and stop the Department of Commerce from leading the trade mission."
Ryan, R-Janesville, called the GOP "the party of ideas," while arguing Dems would overreach in a "50-yard dash" campaign.
"They’re going to run from their record," Ryan said. "They’re going to point fingers, and they’re going to try and make us the villain in their morality play."
The congressman called President Obama's agenda a "total fiasco" and said Dems' focus on income inequality shows "they’re out of ideas."
"I’ve been in politics long enough to know that if you throw your weight around like this, you will get thrown out of office," Ryan said. "That is not just how a majority party acts."
The congressman also rejected arguments from Dems that the GOP is engaged in a "civil war" between tea party conservatives and establishment Republicans, referring to it instead as "creative tension."
"What I see is a vibrant debate," Ryan said. "We are figuring out the best way to apply our principles to the challenges of the day."
Ryan added the debate is often about tactics rather than policy, and praised proposals from several fellow Republican lawmakers on a wide range of issues, including the immigration reform proposal backed U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida -- also considered a frontrunner for the party's 2016 presidential nod.
He also compared the "battle of ideas" over his budget proposals as chairman of the House Budget Committee in recent years to the Reagan Revolution, noting that cutting taxes was considered controversial at that time in GOP circles.
"When I introduced my budget for the first time 2008, I had just eight co-sponsors. ... Then the Tea Party members got elected, and now the House has passed it three years in a row," Ryan said. "This is how it always is: you fight it out, you figure out what works, you come together. Then you win.
"It’s messy, it's noisy and it's a little bit uncomfortable, but the center of gravity is shifting."
U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner defended his proposed changes to the federal Voting Rights Act after coming under fire from a conservative activist group.
Video released today by Project Veritas shows founder James O'Keefe -- who gained notoriety after secretly filming ACORN workers in 2009 -- questioning Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, during a town hall meeting last month in Ixonia.
A statement from the group accuses Sensenbrenner of "lying to his constituents about the protections of the Voting Rights Act, or lack thereof for white voters."
Sensenbrenner responded that under the bill, citizens or the Department of Justice would be able to bring actions alleging voter discrimination "against any racial group, including white voters."
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin concedes that after more than a year in her new role as the junior senator from Wisconsin, it's better in the majority.
The freshman Democrat from Madison went from minority status as the 2nd CD rep in the House to one of 100 in the Senate, where she has occasionally wielded the gavel as a member of the Democratic majority. But she told a WisPolitics.com gathering in D.C. last week that different dynamics in the Senate have also helped develop legislation able to move through a contentious Congress.
"The only major things that we have gotten through this session, and can get through in the future, are issues around which there's some bipartisan agreement. And that's what we've shown in the Senate," Baldwin said during a WisPolitics.com breakfast at the Monocle restaurant on Wednesday.
The main example, Baldwin said, was the immigration reform proposal developed by the Senate's "Gang of Eight" that passed with a "pretty strong bipartisan vote" last summer.
But that bill -- like most others backed by Dem senators in the current session -- has been unable to gain traction in the GOP-run House. Baldwin called recent reports on immigration reform stalling in the House "disappointing" but said she hasn't given up hope of ultimate passage.
The reason, Baldwin said, is the House GOP leadership's occasional willingness to deviate from the so-called "Hastert Rule" -- a self-imposed requirement that at least half of caucus members support legislation before bringing it up for a vote. When that happens, minority Dems can join in and help move legislation.
"And that's how we would see immigration reform," Baldwin said.
Although House Speaker John Boehner hasn't said he'd be willing to ignore the Hastert Rule on immigration, Baldwin said, "This is something that is politically important to the Republican Party to achieve, even if they achieve it in a very bipartisan way, and I think he recognizes that more than some of his rank-and-file members."
Wisconsin's House delegation split along party lines on legislation to overhaul the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The delegation's five Republicans joined the majority in a largely party-line 232-182 vote, while Wisconsin's three Dems were opposed to the bill. The bill would alter the bureau’s leadership structure and fund it through congressional appropriations.
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, called the bill "a blatant attempt to undermine the CFPB, opening the door to another financial crisis where Main Street loses jobs thanks to Wall Street recklessness."
But U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Weston and a sponsor, said the measure would "reform the CFPB and actually make it work."
"When we don't fund agencies through this institution, we lose authority, we lose oversight," Duffy said. "Let's take that power and control back into Congress, and let's actually put the power back in the hands of the people."
The bill is considered unlikely to move through the Dem-controlled Senate.
Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb was in Washington this morning to testify on highway freight issues before a House subcommittee.
Gottlieb, speaking on behalf of the the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, told the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit that the nation must decide whether or not to "make the investment to meet the freight transportation demand projected for the future."
"If sufficient investment is made, economic growth can be supported while insufficient investment will stifle economic productivity, growth and economic competitiveness," Gottlieb said according to prepared testimony.
The secretary pointed to Wisconsin as an example, arguing freight intensive industries account for nearly half the state's GDP. He also pointed to increasing demands on highways, pointing to the rapid growth of the frac sand mining industry in the western and central parts of the state.
U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac and the subcommittee chairman, opened the hearing by saying that the "safe, efficient, and reliable movement of goods" will be the priority for lawmakers as they prepare to craft the successor to the federal highway funding bill set to expire in September.
"Not every community is located adjacent to a railroad, airport, waterway, or port, but consumer goods are almost invariably transported along the Nation’s four million miles of highways and roads for at least part of the journey," Petri said in prepared remarks.