• WisPolitics

Friday, May 29, 2009

 4:18 PM 

Janesville plant hopes for new life under GM restructuring

Despite General Motors closing the last of its operations in Janesville last month, the southern Wisconsin city's Congressional representatives are taking another crack at a new product line for the city's shuttered GM plant.

In a letter to new GM president Frederick Henderson, U.S. Reps. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, and Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, joined U.S. Sens. Kohl and Feingold in urging the company to reconsider Janesville as it approaches bankruptcy.

"We have been informed that as part of its restructuring plan, GM will commit to manufacturing a compact car at a facility within the United States rather than manufacturing this type of vehicle in a foreign country," the letter states. "The combination of a dedicated workforce, strong community support, and an aggressive state and local incentive package to help encourage GM to place a new product line at the Janesville plant all make the Janesville plant an ideal location for this new product line."

A compact car line would be a marked departure for the Janesville plant, which had primarily assembled the large Tahoe line of Chevrolet SUVs.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

 4:40 PM 

Feingold: SCOTUS nomination proves 'elections matter'

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, called U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor a "great pick" this afternoon following cautious initial remarks on the nomination.

"It looks like the President has made a great pick for the Supreme Court," Feingold said via Twitter Thursday. "Nothing shows elections matter more."

Feingold, who serves along with Wisconsin colleague Herb Kohl on the Senate Judiciary Committee, must still question Sotomayor and vote her out of committee before the Senate can take up her nomination.

 12:27 PM 

Baldwin touts public option in health care reform package

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin acknowledged this morning that a single-payer public health care system, which she has long advocated for, is unlikely to be part of a fast-tracked health care reform bill this summer.

Nonetheless, the Madison Democrat said she is hopeful that a public option will be part of a health care package currently under negotiation in Congress. Baldwin held a press conference on health care in the Capitol following a roundtable discussion with insurance, health and labor leaders.

"If I had a magic wand, I'd start with the single-payer plan," Baldwin said while acknowledging that the provision is likely off the table. She said that President Obama supports some form of public option to cover uninsured and underinsured Americans and said that a federal mandate could be part of the discussion as well.

"Everyone must participate so that we do share risk," Baldwin said.

Baldwin also stressed the need for to states to retain some flexibility in dealing with health care. She lauded Wisconsin's SeniorCare program for its cost-effectiveness and efficiency and said states must continue to be able to innovate to serve as laboratories for national health care.

"Our experiment here with SeniorCare in Wisconsin can insure more people at lower costs and compete fairly with private plans," Baldwin said, knocking the Bush administration for efforts to eliminate the program in favor of Medicare Part D.

Baldwin said advocates and the American public in general are starting the latest debate on health care reform at a greater level of consensus than ever before and said she was "very hopeful" that the bill would get done this year. The House Subcommittee on Health, of which Baldwin is a member, hopes to have a discussion draft done by mid-June, and Baldwin said the current pace would move the bill through Congress by the end of July.

"I expect the next few weeks in Congress to be really monumental," Baldwin said.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

 12:47 PM 

Feingold campaign wants early presence in Fox Valley

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, told supporters in a fundraising e-mail that his campaign needs more than $27,000 to open a Green Bay campaign office and "ensure that we take early advantage of the success President Obama and Democrats had in this area of the state last November."

The campaign is asking for contributions of $30 toward funding office space and a campaign organizer earlier than usual in advance of the 2010 election.

"A field office in Green Bay allows us to step up our community outreach and voter contact efforts immediately," Feingold writes in the e-mail. "We already have a growing group of volunteers in the area ready to hit the ground running. ... All we need to get going is a base of operations and the staff to organize our efforts."

 11:11 AM 

Former Doyle aide gets key spot in Pelosi's office

Kelly Berens, a former special assistant to Gov. Jim Doyle, has been named the national director of advance for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Berens, a native of Stevens Point, has been with Pelosi's office since 2008, when she joined the speaker's advance office. She worked with Doyle from 2003-07.

 10:16 AM 

Kohl, Feingold praise Sotomayor selection

President Barack Obama this morning named U.S. 2nd Circuit Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sotomayor, if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first Hispanic and third woman to sit on the nation's highest court.

She would succeed Justice David Souter.

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee and the second in seniority for the Dems on the Judiciary Committee, is pleased with the nomination.

"It would be tough to classify her as a liberal or a conservative, and my hope is that she is a candidate I can support. I look forward to learning more about her experience and views during her confirmation hearings later this summer," Kohl said in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton and Kohl's fellow Judiciary member, recalled his support for Sotomayor's nomination to the federal bench in 1998.

"Evaluating a Supreme Court nominee is a responsibility I take very seriously considering the significant impact a Supreme Court justice can have on our country," Feingold said in a statement. "I look forward to thoroughly reviewing Judge Sotomayor's record and questioning her during the Judiciary Committee's hearings."

See remarks at the announcement from President Obama and Judge Sotomayor here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

 4:02 PM 

Kagen gets second opponent

Brown County Supv. Andy Williams, a Green Bay attorney, plans to announce Monday that he's running for the 8th CD next year as a Republican.

Williams, who's been on the county board for about a year, said he wants to return power back to local governments, adding he believes the federal government has assumed too much authority and imposed too many mandates on the states.

He cited as an example the federal government threatening to withhold highway aid unless the states changed their threshold for drunken driving to a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent, compared to the old standard of 0.10 percent.

Williams said U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, isn't necessarily part of that problem. But he also hasn't tried to be part of any solution to it.

"I think his focus is only on what he brings back to Wisconsin," Williams said. "I think he does a good job of that, but he doesn't do a good job of stopping the flow of money from our district to the federal government."

Door County Supv. Marc Savard has already announced plans to run for the seat as Republican.

 12:02 PM 

USDA to fully utilize dairy allocations

U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, and Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, announced in a statement Friday that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has agreed to fully utilize the Dairy Export Incentive Program.

The senators argue the DEIP, which provides incentives to dairy exporters competing with subsidized foreign dairy products, will "help level the playing field for U.S. dairy exports."

"As Chair of the Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee, I understand that this is a difficult time for dairy farmers and the Dairy Exports Incentive Program will clear the markets of surplus and allow farmers to compete domestically and internationally," Kohl said.

 11:49 AM 

Sensenbrenner asks HHS to rescind review of conscience protection

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, has authored a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking the federal government to rescind a review of current regulation of conscience protection.

Sensenbrenner, in the aftermath of President Obama's commencement address at the University of Notre Dame Sunday, has echoed the president's reference to prohibiting mandatory participation in abortion procedures for health care workers who object.

His letter, co-signed by 28 other House Members, asks the government to end an ongoing review of 2008 standards prohibiting discrimination based on conscience for programs receiving federal funding.

"In the absence of guidance and education, cases of discrimination may go unchecked and professionals may continue to leave their fields, exacerbating the health care workforce crisis that is already plaguing our country," Sensenbrenner writes.

 11:36 AM 

Obey at the height of his power

Congressional Quarterly profiled Congress' "passionate curmudgeon" Thursday -- U.S. Rep. Dave Obey -- with a lengthy article detailing the massive influence the Wausau Democrat now has over the national economy.

Noting the favorable political climate -- including the Obama White House and a deferential Senate counterpart in Daniel Inouye of Hawaii -- CQ says that, in his 40th year in Congress, Obey has accumulated more influence than any of his previous House tenures.

UW-Madison political scientist David Canon tells CQ that Obey is "clearly exerting so much more influence over the economy than any of his predecessors."

Read the full article here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

 2:33 PM 

Feingold wants Wisconsin stop for education tour

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, wants Wisconsin added to the 15 states on Education Secretary Arne Duncan's "Listening and Learning: A Conversation about Education Reform" tour.

In a letter to the former Chicago schools superintendent, Feingold wrote that his annual county listening sessions contribute to his positions on education, and that "Wisconsin stakeholders could also provide unique and thoughtful advice to you as you continue your education reform tour."

Duncan's tour is part of an effort to "seek feedback from a broad group of stakeholders around federal education policy" ahead of the scheduled reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind law.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

 3:45 PM 

Ryan, Gregg urge Obama to tackle Meidcare

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, has once again joined forces with U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., this time to urge President Barack Obama to address the financial sustainability of Medicare.

In a letter sent to the president that was dated Tuesday, Ryan and Gregg expressed their disappointment that action has yet to be taken to tackle the problem. Ryan and Gregg are the ranking Republicans on the House and Senate budget committees, respectively, and often collaborate on fiscal issues.

"Our nation's fiscal situation is dire. Medicare is already cashing in securities from its trust fund to pay benefits and the program will go broke in 2017, just eight years away," Gregg and Ryan wrote in a May 19 letter to Obama. "We are writing to express disappointment that the administration has chosen not to send a legislative proposal to Congress to address the Medicare funding warning that was declared ... and to encourage your support for common sense solutions we have developed to address this issue."

Read the letter.

By David Drucker

-David M. Drucker

 12:53 PM 

Ryan unveils health care plan with fellow Republicans

U.S Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, and a group of his fellow Republicans in the House and Senate on Wednesday unveiled a comprehensive health care reform bill designed to compete with the proposals being pushed by Democrats.

The Patients' Choice Act includes only one government mandate that all individuals acquire some form of health insurance. But it creates no new government program and was described as adding no additional costs to the taxpayers.

"We're showing that the American people can have a system of universal coverage without the government running it," Ryan said during a Capitol Hill news conference. "If you like (the insurance) you've got, you can keep it, and you'll probably end up with more money in your pocket at the end of the day."

The Patients' Choice Act would create state health care exchanges that allow consumers to pick the private insurer of their choice, while generating tax credits to make coverage more affordable. The bill would also change the rules governing how the uninsured are treated by Medicare, the government-run program that ends up paying the tab for those without insurance.

Joining Ryan as cosponsors of the legislation are U.S Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and U.S. Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; and Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

Democrats in the House are in the process of drawing up a health care reform bill, with tentative plans to bring it to the floor for a vote by the end of July. In the Senate, Democrats and Republicans are engaged in bipartisan negotiations and hope to have a bill supported by both sides of the aisle ready by August.

Major disagreements remain, including how to finance the reform and whether to include a government-run insurance option as a part of the legislation. The Patients Choice Act is not a part of either of these processes.

See more on the plan.

By David M. Drucker

 11:45 AM 

Kagen off to White House for social gathering

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, is headed to the White House tonight for a bipartisan social gathering.

President Obama has made a practice of inviting lawmakers to the White House for various social functions, and Kagen said during a conference call with reporters this morning that he hoped to hook up with the president and his wife to talk about issues other than just health care.

Kagen said the Dem caucus met with Obama aide David Axelrod yesterday about health care. The allergist said he told Axelrod about his belief that there needs to be more transparency in the marketplace for health care costs.

"I'd like to see a medical menu where you stand in line at the pharmacy and you'll get to pay the same lowest price as the person in front of you or behind you," Kagen said.

Tonight's event will be Kagen's third trip to the White House since Obama took over. He also participated in a news conference on small business and stimulus funds and attended a meeeting with Obama chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel.

Kagen was also asked this morning about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's insistence that the CIA misled her in its briefings about torture techniques being used after the 9/11 attacks. Some Republicans have criticized Pelosi for accusing the CIA of lying and some want her to step down from her post.

Kagen called it a "he said, she said" situation in which the truth may never be known. He said he'd like to see an investigation into the use of torture in interrogations.

"I think it's very imp to establish that the United States does not believe in torture, does not engage in torture and would be pleased to see an investigation into all uses of torture," he said.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

 1:35 PM 

Obey raises question about CIA briefing memo

Talking Points Memo is reporting that U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, sent a letter to CIA Director Leon Panetta raising questions about an agency briefing memo.

As the controversy swirls about what the CIA told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in regards to interrogation techniques being used following the 9/11 attacks, Obey writes in the letter that there was a mistake in a CIA briefing memo detailing a Sept. 19, 2006, meeting.

See the report.

 1:28 PM 

Kind announces health care effort

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, this afternoon unveiled the Comparative Effectiveness Research Act of 2009, which he hopes will be included in the massive health care reform bill currently being negotiated on separate tracks in the House and the Senate.

"I think it is a critical component, so that health care is evidence-based and value-based," Kind said during a conference call with reporters.

The bill, which Kind is co-sponsoring along with U.S. Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., would not create a government bureaucracy. Rather, it would involve private health insurers sharing health care information so that doctors and patients could make the best possible decision about a course of treatment.

Schrader, Schwartz and Kind were adamant that nothing get in the way of doctors and patients making medical decisions and emphasized that the passage of their bill would involve no government intervention in the health care process.

Kind said the goal is to "empower" doctors and patients with information and in doing so make it easier for them to enjoy affordable care that is also of the highest quality.

The Comparative Effectiveness Research Act calls for the creation of a non-governmental institute to "guide health research programs" and to then provide the information gleaned from the research to patients and doctors.

By David M. Drucker

 12:46 PM 

Feingold blocks resolution honoring Reagan

A Senate proposal to honor Ronald Reagan leading up to the 100th anniversary of the 40th president's birth in 2011 faces an unusual roadblock from U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton.

According to a report in Roll Call, Feingold is blocking a bill to commemorate Reagan's birth until his own provision, the Wartime Treatment Study Act, can be attached to the proposal.

Republicans have thus far denied the amendment. Feingold's bill would establish a commission to study the treatment of German, Italian, and Jewish Americans during World War II.

UPDATE: Feingold today dropped his objection and said he would continue to look for ways to push his proposal through.

Here's his statement:

"I have no interest in trying to hold up this bill to honor President Reagan. By trying to offer my amendment to examine the mistreatment of German, Italian and other European Americans during World War II, I had hoped we could pass two non-controversial and important bills. Unfortunately, that didn't turn out to be the case and with the anniversary of President Reagan's birth approaching, it is important that we pass this bill commemorating our 40th president. But the German, Italian and other Americans who were mistreated during World War II deserve to see this injustice addressed during their lifetime and I will continue to look for ways to pass my legislation which has already passed the Judiciary Committee several times, as well as received wide, bipartisan support in the Senate."

 9:38 AM 

Kind, Petri raise money at Springsteen concert

U.S. Reps. Tom Petri and Ron Kind benefited from fundraisers held at a Bruce Springsteen concert last night in Washington, D.C., according to Politico.

Petri of Fond du Lac was one of about half a dozen Republican lawmakers who held fundraisers at the concert put on by Springsteen, who has been known to campaign for Dem candidates and was a harsh critic of former President Bush.

The American College of Radiology put on the fundraiser that benefited Kind, D-La Crosse. Those who paid $2,500 got to attend a pre-concert reception at a Mexican restaurant across from the concert venue, according to the story.

Monday, May 18, 2009

 12:41 PM 

Baldwin delivers commencement address at Smith

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, traveled to Northampton, Mass., Sunday to deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree from her alma mater, Smith College.

Baldwin, also celebrated her 25th class reunion, recalled her initial math classes on campus, in which her professor asked the students to solve "insoluble problems" -- problems with no solution.

"Far too often, our greatest challenges are portrayed as insoluble problems. And our reaction is to throw up our hands, say 'oh well,' and go on to the next challenge," Baldwin told the graduates in prepared remarks. "But history teaches us that even our biggest problems have solutions"

"No matter what you do in the years to come, devote part of your time to working on what looks right now to be an insoluble problem," Baldwin added. "You may not see any progress for many years. But it may also be the greatest contribution to the world you ever make."

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, also addressed his alma mater this graduation season, speaking to graduates of Miami (Ohio) University May 9.

Friday, May 15, 2009

 1:09 PM 

Feingold, Kohl back energy assistance funding

Both Wisconsin senators have signed onto a letter asking leaders of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies to maintain $5.1 billion for low-income energy assistance funding in next year's Senate appropriations bill.

In the letter to subcommittee chair Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., 41 senators stressed that the current funding levels would still not reach all eligible families, and that any cut would "force millions of families to stretch their budgets tighter."

"These tough economic times hit low-income individuals and families especially hard," said U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton. "(A)nd this program is crucial to helping them cope with energy bills that can spike in the hot summer months and frigid winter months."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

 12:51 PM 

Moore spokesman leaving for DNC

Derrick Plummer is leaving his post as communications director for U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, to join the Democratic National Committee as the regional press secretary for the Midwest.

Plummer's last day with Moore is Friday, and he starts with the DNC on Monday.

 11:02 AM 

Kagen supports Obama efforts to reform student loan program

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, expressed support today for President Obama's proposal to reform the current federal program for student loans.

Instead of lending money to students through private lenders, Obama is proposing increasing the amount of financing that comes directly from the federal government and passed onto students through their colleges.

During a teleconference with reporters, Kagen said that government funding is a much more reliable and cheaper way for students to finance their education and that it is a "great idea to go to direct lending."

Kagen also said that banks are taking advantage of students who already have significant debt.

He also said the U.S. was completely unprepared for the recent swine flu outbreak and said funding is necessary to develop vaccines that are preventive and effective. He stressed that this is "an important aspect for our investment of our tax dollars." He said $1.5 billion has been allocated to stockpile and develop vaccines.

In addition, Kagen said he has proposed bills to help schools become energy efficient.

-By Tara Stankovic

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

 2:30 PM 

Lawmakers ask for more info on Chrysler plans

Four of Wisconsin's federal lawmakers sent a letter to Obama officials today seeking more information on why Chrysler plans to close a Kenosha plant while shifting some work to Mexico even though there is adequate manufacturing capacity at its plants in the U.S.

The lawmakers -- U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold and Reps. Gwen Moore, Tom Petri and Paul Ryan -- noted they urged administration officials last month to "give full and fair consideration to auto industry restructuring plans that prioritized retention of domestic manufacturing jobs."

But they pointed out Chrysler is seeking another $8 billion in taxpayer money to implement a restructuring plan that would shift some engine production to Mexico while shuttering the Kenosha facility. That money would push the government's total investment in Chrysler to $12 billion.

"As you work with representatives of Chrysler during bankruptcy proceedings, we again urge you to work with all interested parties to curtain the impact any bankruptcy restructuring plan will have on manufacturing jobs in the United States," they wrote to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers, director of the National Economic Council.

See the letter.

 11:53 AM 

Flynn urges senators to keep fed funding for local law enforcement

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn urged a U.S. Senate committee Tuesday morning to continue federal funding for local law enforcement activities, saying safe streets are the best way to promote economic development.

"We need a visible police presence on the streets," Flynn told the Judiciary Committee, which includes Dem U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl.

He added that when real estate developers are pondering a project in his jurisdiction, the first and only thing they ask him about is the crime rate.

"We are the social service agency of first resort for the poor," Flynn continued.

Kohl, the No. 2 Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked Flynn what needs to be done to ensure that federal funding grants to local law enforcement are spent properly and effectively. "How can you assure us?" Kohl asked.

"We should be audited," Flynn answered. "There should be strings attached."

Flynn's argument in large part was that crime leads to poverty and that the best way to prevent an economic freefall was to keep the streets safe so that city centers can function as a magnet for real estate developers and middle class families.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, questioned whether federal funds were absolutely necessary to keep the crime rate low. But he agreed with Flynn in at least one regard.

"Chief Flynn, let me say that you're right that crime creates poverty," Sessions said.

Meanwhile, Feingold welcomed Flynn to Capitol Hill and lauded his work as Milwaukee's police chief. In his opening statement before as a member of the committee at today's hearing, Feingold reiterated his support for federal financial support of local law enforcement and said that the money from Washington, including what was provided via the economic stimulus package signed into law earlier this year, is critical to reducing the crime rate.

"I am pleased that funding to support the invaluable services that state and local law enforcement provide, after being slashed under the previous administration, was provided in the economic stimulus package that Congress passed earlier this year," Feingold said. "It is important that Congress continue to stay informed of the situation on the ground, and provide assistance where necessary and appropriate."

See Flynn's prepared testimony.

- By David M. Drucker

Monday, May 11, 2009

 5:28 PM 

Obey calls for $2 billion boost in pandemic preparedness

House Appropriations Committee Chair U.S. Rep. David Obey said today he will request $2 billion to beef up the nation's ability to respond to pandemic diseases in a supplemental appropriations bill being drafted.

Obey's call comes as the number of cases of the H1N1 flu virus, also known as "swine flu," is increasing in America and globally.

The appropriation would providing funds to build up the nation's stockpile of antiviral medication, speed up development of a vaccine, increase monitoring and laboratory capacity, and fund other related purposes, Obey told reporters during a conference call this morning. The bill would also include $350 million to assist states in strengthening and rebuilding their public health programs, Obey said.

Obey noted that he had included $900 million in the stimulus bill to deal with pandemic flu, but he said it was pulled out from the Senate version at the urging of Republicans who argued it was unrelated to the economy.

Obey pointed to the H1N1 flu's effect on the Mexican economy, which he said is in "shambles" because of it.

"When you close schools, when you shut down as many businesses as they have in Mexico, it has a huge depressing effect on the economy," Obey said.

Obey said some 11,000 public health professionals have been laid off due to the slumping economy, which the money for state programs aims to address.

"Anytime we lose 11,000 people in the public health care system because of the economic crunch, that creates a severe hole in our capacity to respond and to protect the public's health," Obey said. "We were right to put than money in the stimulus package in January, and we're right to pursue a much larger effort now."

He also noted that previous congresses had failed to fully fund former President George W. Bush's efforts to boost pandemic preparedness.

Obey said it's unclear how severe the flu will be this season or when it reemerges next season, but the nation needs to be prepared.

"Eventually, we will face a severe pandemic, and we need to greatly expand the country's ability to deal with it," Obey said.

Obey also discussed a bill that passed the House yesterday meant to protect credit card holders, saying the credit card industry has been a "racket" that levied $19 billion in penalties to consumers last year through sometimes "shady" practices. The bill is now headed to the Senate.

 4:04 PM 

Kagen, Zipperer remember ex-U.S. Rep. Cornell

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, paid tribute to Rev. Robert Cornell today as a politician who "spoke truth to power long before it became popular."

Cornell, a former congressman, passed away Sunday at St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere at age 89. He was the only Democrat before Kagen to win re-election in the Fox Valley district, serving in the House of Representatives from 1975-1979.

"He served our children as an experienced professor at St. Norbert College, and in his public life as a great Democrat in the 8th District of Wisconsin. He served with honor and great passion," Kagen said in a statement. "He committed his life to those who needed his help the most; those who were in need. And when I needed his counsel, he always found time to guide me."

Cornell, who taught for years at St. Norbert College, also drew praise from Rep. Rich Zipperer, R-Pewaukee and a former student of Cornell's.

"His sense of humor reminded me that, even when debating serious issues, it is important to never take yourself too seriously," Zipperer said, noting his frequent disagreements with his liberal-leaning mentor. "And, as the first person ever to tell me I should run for office, I have Father Cornell to thank for helping prepare me to serve in elective office."

 1:07 PM 

Feingold to hear from Milwaukee police chief

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn will be in Washington Tuesday as part of a panel on local law enforcement before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton and Judiciary member, has indicated he will be in attendance for the hearing, titled "Helping State and Local Law Enforcement." U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, also serves on the Judiciary committee.

Flynn, who has served as chief of the Milwaukee Police Department since November 2007, will be joined by Lt. Kris Carlson of the Burlington (Vt.) Police Department -- home of Judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy -- and David B. Muhlhausen of the D.C.-based Heritage Center for Data Analysis.

Friday, May 8, 2009

 4:17 PM 

Chrysler CEO apologizes for confusion over Kenosha plant

Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli sent a letter to members of the Wisconsin congressional delegation and Gov. Jim Doyle for misleading them on the Kenosha engine plant.

Nardelli said during a conference call last week that Chrysler was still considering keeping the plant open. He wrote that he had mistakenly conveyed information about the status of the Trenton, Mich., plant in response to a question about the Kenosha facility.

A bankruptcy filing revealed the day after the conference call that Chrysler would close the plant.

"[P]lease accept my sincere apologies for the confusion. We will continue to work with the people of Kenosha to ensure an orderly transition," Nardelli wrote.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

 4:19 PM 

Sensenbrenner seeks to deny bailout for Chrysler

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls and an ardent opponent of numerous federal bailout measures, is hoping the Obama administration denies bailout funds for one company in particular.

Sensenbrenner wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner Thursday asking him to reject funding for Chrysler, which is seeking bankruptcy protection and recently announced plans to shut down its Kenosha plant.

The longtime GOP congressman said in a statement that using tax dollars to outsource Kenosha jobs to Mexico is "unacceptable."

 3:25 PM 

Petri to keynote AEI conference

U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, will serve as keynote speaker at a Tuesday conference on low-income taxpayers presented by conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute.

Petri, according to a statement from his office, will discuss the "punishingly high" marginal tax rate increases for families moving from poverty to the middle class.

Petri is scheduled to speak at 9 a.m. at Washington D.C.'s Wohlstetter Conference Center. The conference will also feature Cato Institute director of tax policy studies Chris Edwards and a number of resident AEI scholars.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

 4:10 PM 

Sensenbrenner hopes to maintain current ethanol blend level

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, has signed onto a letter by fellow members of Congress asking the Obama administration to decline the EPA's request increase the percentage of ethanol in blended gasoline.

Sensenbrenner said increasing the blend beyond its current 10 percent level will negatively affect consumers in a bad economy.

"While I support renewable fuels, increasing the ethanol blend in gasoline will have the unintended consequence of rising fuel costs for Americans," Sensenbrenner said in a statement. "As ethanol requires more fuel to travel the same distance, drivers will need to refuel more often, and therefore, feel the pinch at the pump more frequently."

 3:41 PM 

Kind rips budget over lack of farm subsidy reform

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, criticized the recently passed federal budget bill over what he called "a lack of farm subsidy reform."

Kind, who made national headlines advocating changes to agriculture subsidy programs in last year's Farm Bill, joined his Wisconsin Democratic colleagues in voting for the $3.4 billion Obama budget last week.

He said lawmakers stripped the budget bill of proposals to cap subsidies at $250,000 and eliminate subsidies for producers making more than $250,000.

"It is obvious that the American public is concerned with the way our government doles out taxpayer subsidies to large agribusiness," Kind said in a statement. "Rather than continuing to favor the largest producers, we must redirect our focus to helping our family farmers stay in business while finding budget savings to reduce our national deficit."

 2:01 PM 

Kind rips budget over lack of farm subsidy reform

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, criticized the recently passed federal budget bill over what he called "a lack of farm subsidy reform."

Kind, who made national headlines advocating changes to agriculture subsidy programs in last year's Farm Bill, joined his Wisconsin Democratic colleagues in voting for the $3.4 billion Obama budget last week.

He said lawmakers stripped the budget bill of proposals to cap subsidies at $250,000 and eliminate subsidies for producers making more than $250,000.

"It is obvious that the American public is concerned with the way our government doles out taxpayer subsidies to large agribusiness," Kind said in a statement. "Rather than continuing to favor the largest producers, we must redirect our focus to helping our family farmers stay in business while finding budget savings to reduce our national deficit."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

 2:29 PM 

Kohl meets with Treasury officials on Kenosha plant

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl has joined the chorus of outrage from the Badger State over the impending closure of the Chysler plant in Kenosha following the embattled carmaker's intention to declare bankruptcy.

Kohl, D-Milwaukee, issued a statement following a Tuesday morning meeting with Steven Rattner, the top Treasury Deparment official on the auto industry reorganization. He blasted the company's decision, saying it is counterproductive to eliminate the 800 Kenosha jobs while expanding the company with unproven workers.

"It's galling that a company that came here, hat in hand, to plead for taxpayer money to survive would turn around and move jobs out of the country," Kohl said. "There is no place that Chrysler will find better skilled workers than they have in Wisconsin, and it's important for the people making these decisions to understand that."

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