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Monday, August 31, 2009

 1:51 PM 

Doyle to co-host White House energy forum in Michigan

Gov. Jim Doyle and Michigan counterpart Jennifer Granholm are once again set to co-host Obama administration officials for a forum in the Wolverine State.

In March, the two Dem governors hosted the first of several Regional White House Forums on Health Reform in Dearborn. On Wednesday, Doyle and Granholm will host Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and other White House officials in Saginaw for a Clean Energy Economy Forum.

Doyle's office said the forum will provide the administration an avenue to "continue to lay out President Obama's vision for a comprehensive energy plan to jump-start the American clean energy sector" with local and regional energy stakeholders.

The forum, which is limited to invitation-only, is slated to begin at 1 p.m. EDT.

See details here.

 11:17 AM 

Sensenbrenner enters treatment for prostate cancer; will run for re-election next year

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner issued a statement Monday that he is beginning treatment for early stage prostate cancer, but said his prognosis is good and affirmed his intention to run for re-election in the 5th CD next year.

"My treatments will have a minimal effect on my duties of serving the people of the Fifth Congressional District," said Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls. "I intend on maintaining my active schedule, both in Washington and in the District, and will still hold the numerous town hall meetings that have been scheduled."

Sensenbrenner said his doctor put the cure rate for his stage of prostate cancer at 85 to 95 percent.

His campaign committee issued a separate statement reaffirming Sensenbrenner's commitment to running for a 17th term in 2010.

"I want to continue the battle to improve our economy, restore jobs and reduce government spending. My strong record demonstrates my commitment to individual freedom and less government intrusion in our lives," Sensenbrenner said. "I stand ready to continue my representation of these core principles."

Sensenbrenner originally announced his 2010 candidacy in March.

 8:14 AM 

Sargeant to face confirmation vote to SBA post after Senate returns

Madison resident Winslow Sargeant, nominated to the post of Small Business Administration Counsel by President Barack Obama, is scheduled to get a confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee after the Congress returns from the August recess, a spokeswoman for the committee told WisPolitics on Thursday.

Sargeant's confirmation hearing was held just before the Senate adjourned for the month-long summer recess on Aug. 7. But the busy legislative schedule -- which included confirming now-Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court -- precluded the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee from holding a confirmation vote on Sargeant and sending his nomination to the floor for a vote of the full Senate.

The spokeswoman said a date for Sargeant's committee confirmation vote would likely be scheduled after the Senate returns from the recess on Sept. 8.

Sargeant has a doctorate from UW-Madison in electrical engineering and is a managing director at Venture Investors LLC, a venture capital firm based in Madison.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

 10:27 AM 

Feingold asks for support on Afghanistan timetable

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, who made headlines earlier this week by calling for a "flexible timetable" for U.S. forces to depart Afghanistan, is asking his supporters to endorse the proposal.

In a fundraising e-mail from his campaign, Feingold, D-Middleton, provides a link for supporters to sign on as supporting the initial proposal for a timetable, in order to show "the people of America and Afghanistan that we have a strategy and a commitment to leave."

"While there are still four months left in the year, 2009 is now the deadliest year for international forces in Afghanistan since 2004," Feingold writes. "We are clearly not moving forward, and we can't continue this open-ended commitment indefinitely."

 10:16 AM 

Health care reform advocates support Kagen in Green Bay

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, was greeted by hostile crowds at several health care town hall meetings earlier this month, but got a more friendly reception Wednesday from a pro-reform crowd on the UW-Green Bay campus.

The event featured a standing-room only crowd filling the student union at a rally sponsored by 20 groups, including the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, JOSHUA, Citizen Action of Wisconsin and Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups.

Kagen told audience members he supports reforming health care, but wouldn’t specify a particular congressional proposal. He also said there was still a lot to be done on the legislative side.

"The bill is not over. We're in about the fourth inning," Kagen said. "This discussion is going to go on and on until we get it right. We're going to take our time to get it right, because we can't afford to get it wrong."

The allergist said he would not support health care reform that denies health care to Americans with pre-existing conditions.

"When you discriminate against any citizen, it's immoral, it's un-American and it cannot stand. It's going to end this year," he said.

A handful of conservative protesters gathered outside the UWGB union, while 2,000 mostly conservative activists attended an Americans for Prosperity rally opposed to the current reform proposals in Middleton. The event featured former GOP U.S. Rep. Scott Klug and ABC News correspondent John Stossel.

See more WisPolitics coverage here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

 1:46 PM 

Obey plans telephone forum on health care

U.S. Rep. Dave Obey has announced plans to answer questions on health care reform Monday through a district wide telephone forum.

Obey, D-Wausau, writes in a message on his House Web site that the approach will allow thousands of people from across the 7th CD to participate in the event in "the most constructive way to involve the largest number of people possible in a good discussion on this important topic."

Dem lawmakers have faced a series of hostile crowds across the country, and Wisconsin Republicans have been trying to pressure Obey, chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee, to meet with constituents on the topic.

"I'm looking forward to a good discussion with people from all over the District, a chance to separate fact from fiction, and an opportunity to ensure that people have accurate information -- not misinformation -- about what's going on," Obey writes on his site.

The call is expected to begin around 7:30 p.m. on Monday. A computerized program will randomly contact 50,000 households in the district to allow people to be connected to the discussion, according to Obey's site.

Alternatively, the page also provides a link for those who are 7th CD residents to sign up. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

UPDATE: Ashland Co. DA Sean Duffy, who's running against Obey as a Republican, criticized Obey for settling on "a single, impersonal conference call"

"It's time for Dave Obey to stop dodging voters," Duffy said in a statement. "He needs to put down the phone and have a real, meaningful conversation with the hard-working families and seniors of the 7th district."

Monday, August 24, 2009

 2:56 PM 

Feingold calls for 'flexible timetable' in Afghanistan

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, said today that the Obama administration and military officials should begin developing a "flexible timetable" for removing American troops from Afghanistan.

In a meeting with the editorial board of the Appleton Post-Crescent, Feingold said the American presence in that nation is putting increased pressure on Pakistan, which he said "is where the witch's brew of every kind of nightmare comes together in a nuclear country."

"This isn't something that can't be adjusted. It isn't something that can't be thought out," Feingold said, noting he has discussed the timetable possibility with President Obama as well as Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "But I think what you do is increase the view that we are occupying the country, we don't have a strategy, if you don't say look, this is basically what we think we'll do."

Feingold's comments came the day after Mullen described the situation in Afghanistan as "serious" and "deteriorating," and hinted that a request to increase the troop presence could be forthcoming.

"After eight years, I am not convinced that simply pouring more and more troops into Afghanistan is a well thought out strategy," Feingold said.

Watch the editorial board meeting here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

 9:14 AM 

Attendees at Kind forum split on health care reform

RICHLAND CENTER -- Compared to many health care reform town hall meetings across the country, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind's forum Tuesday at the Community Center was rather tame.

That doesn't mean that the 500 or so people who crammed the building didn't express their opinions.

"I'm wholeheartedly in favor of the public option," said an Elroy man who is fighting cancer. "I underwent chemotherapy, and my only hope now is a stem cell transplant. One month before the transplant was scheduled, my insurance company decided not to pay for it.

"A federal agency finally came to my aid. In my case, the federal government was the good guy and my insurance company the bad guys."

Comments, from people who had their numbers drawn from a hat, split almost equally between support for a public option in reform and opposition.

"The AMA warned against socialized medicine in the '50s," said a Mauston man. "The bills being debated are not constitutional. We are bankrupt. If you think we can pay for it by creating a bigger bureaucracy, I have a couple bridges I can sell you."

Loud ovations followed some of the comments from both sides of the debate, but the tone never got nasty and confrontational, compared to many other forums around the country. Part of that might have been the format.

Comments were limited to two minutes each. No posters and signs were allowed into the hall, and an emphasis was on showing respect even if people differed.

"I think this was a very civil and respectful event," Kind said. "I also think you made some very helpful comments."

Kind has emphasized the need to include quality health care as an element in any bill, and not just pay for quantity of health care. He actually voted against the House bill when it first came out of committee because it did not include provisions to ensure quality care.

He said Tuesday that he favors creating a large "purchasing pool" through which farmers, small business people and others could buy affordable health care insurance. Whether that is through a public option or another alternative remains to be seen.

"Please remember there is no single plan yet," Kind told the crowd. "It is still very much a work in progress. In that regard, these forums are very timely."

Dr. Aaron Dunn, who runs a free clinic in Iowa County, was an invited panelist at the forum and made a strong pitch for reform. "The current system is a sinking ship. The 47 million people without health insurance are already in the water, but many who have insurance are in lifeboats made of sticks," he said.

Dunn said insurance costs will double in the next 10 years if the status quo is maintained, and businesses and health care facilities will go bankrupt.

A public option could help insure more people and drive costs down, but nobody will be required to opt for it, Dunn said. Kind emphasized that he would want a public option to compete on "a level playing field" with private insurance companies and not be perpetually financed by taxpayers.

Kind will hold additional sessions in upcoming weeks, including:

Thursday, Aug. 20, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Tomah High School

Friday, Aug. 21, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Whitehall High School.

Tuesday, Aug. 24, 12:30 to 2 p.m., Darlington Memorial Hospital.

Tuesday, Aug. 25, 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., a telephone town hall by calling 1-877-229-8493, code 13433.

Check Kind's web site for any possible changes in venue because of anticipated large crowds: http://www.kind.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=95§iontree=95

-- By Gregg Hoffmann, for WisPolitics.com

Friday, August 14, 2009

 1:16 PM 

AFP plan town hall meetings

The Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity plans to hold town hall meetings the last week of August in Madison, La Crosse and Rothschild to discuss health care legislation pending before Congress.

All three events will be hosted by ABC News reporter John Stossel, and the Dem member of Congress representing each of the cities has been invited to attend.

"We are requesting that you join us on a panel of elected officials and health care professionals to discuss the health care policy issues facing this nation and Wisconsin," AFP Wisconsin state director Mark Blocks writes in the invite extended to U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau. "This event will be a fair and open discussion, and your point of view would be valuable to this exchange."

The Madison event is scheduled for Aug. 26, while the events in La Crosse and Rothschild, just south of Wausau, are schedued for the next day.

See Stossel's Web site.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

 6:35 PM 

Health care, demagoguery hot topic at Petri town hall meeting

WATERTOWN -- Both sides of the health care debate traded cat calls at a town hall meeting U.S. Rep. Tom Petri held Thursday afternoon that included one testy exchange the lawmaker had with a member of the audience.

Columbus resident Keith Peterson challenged Petri to support requiring all members of congress to sign on to a public option offered in a version of the health care legislation now before lawmakers. Petri, R-Fond du Lac, refused, telling the town hall meeting he wouldn't be baited by a "demagogue."

"You've got to be kidding," Peterson said, speaking loudly enough into the microphone to spark feedback. "You're a Republican? ... Why, you've got me fooled, buddy."

Most of the talk at the meeting centered on the ongoing health care debate, which has sparked a series of contentious town hall meetings around the country. Thursday's event was largely civil.

However, there were catcalls yelped throughout the meeting as those on one side of the issue mocked those on the other side.

An elderly man voiced his support for the plan, saying that Medicare has provided care for millions and done it relatively well. He received a spattering of applause along with some chuckles and audible sighs. When another attendee railed against the growing cost of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, several different attendees yelled, "Get over Bush!"

Several people told Petri the government should "get out of health care" while bringing up various statistics. Supporters of the bill yelled, "Get your facts!"

"There's a lot of uncertainty about what the legislation contains or does not contain," Petri said. "The truth is that it's not defined very clearly in the legislation."

Petri spent almost the entire town hall meeting listening to the attendees without giving his own opinion on the issue, except to say he voted against the bill in committee. He told the attendees that he and his family are members of a Health Savings Account policy and he successfully added an amendment adding HSAs to the bill during a committee meeting. But a similar amendment was taken out of the bill in a different committee.

"So I don't know where that stands," Petri said.

The meeting had two emotional moments. A visibly upset veteran told Petri that something "needs to be done" for returning soldiers suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma. Another man came with his son who was severely injured and blinded by "some illegals." His adult son attempted to stand up and nearly fell, bringing at least two women to tears. The father then said that "illegal aliens" would be covered by the universal health care bill proposed in Congress.

Supporters of the legislation have insisted that is not true.

Watertown Mayor Ron Krueger said 150 people attended the meeting inside the room, with probably another 100 outside the door.

 12:15 PM 

Kind sets 'ground rules' for town halls

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, seeking to "meet the needs and address the concerns of all event attendees," has established several "ground rules" for an upcoming series of health care town hall meetings.

Kind, D-La Crosse, has prohibited all "disruptions" and "talking over each other." Health care events throughout the nation have been plagued by loud disruptions from protesters opposed to the current plans for health care reform.

In addition, all audience members will be required to fill out an "informational sheet" before entering the events, and questions will be taken through a random lottery system.

Kind spokeswoman Leah Hunter said the attendees will be asked for information that is typically gathered at the congressman's public hearings, including name, address and a summary of their question if they have one. She said the information also helps staff to follow up with constituents after the meeting.

Given that town hall meetings on health care reforms have gotten rowdy in other districts, Hunter said there isn't a plan laid out to handle those who don't follow the rules for the session.

"I think we kind of want to take it as it comes," she said. "I hope people do respect the rules and no further action is necessary."

 10:12 AM 

NRCC attacks Kagen on health care, energy

The NRCC is running a new TV ad that urges viewers to tell Steve Kagen to write a health care plan for "us, not Nancy Pelosi."

The narrator in the spot says Kagen voted with Pelosi, the House speaker, on the stimulus package, the budget and the "National Energy Tax."

It then shows a clip of Kagen saying he's writing the health care bill and asking, "What would you like in it?"

"Since you asked, how about no government-run plan? No tax increases on small businesses? No cuts to Medicare?"

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

 10:43 AM 

Moore health care forum draws 900

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore led a sometimes lively session on health care reform Tuesday evening, with roughly 900 attendees on both sides of the debate filling the auditorium of Milwaukee's North Division High School.

While discussion about enhanced consumer protections and efficiency measures in the House's health care reform bill were met with applause and little visible opposition, discussion about a public insurance option, and its effects on the deficit and current health care system, drew a loud mix of applause, cheers and jeers.

The session included two invited speakers sharing their stories about troubles with heath insurance and a presentation on the bill with Tom Oliver, a professor at UW's School of Medicine and Public Health. Moore then held and a question and answer period, first reading from e-mailed questions and then fielding questions from both supporters and opponents of the bill.

Acknowledging people on both sides of the debate who attended, Moore encouraged respect and thanked people for coming out to express their opinion.

"This is democracy," Moore said.

See more WisPolitics coverage here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

 10:41 AM 

Kind expecting large crowds for health care events

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind has moved two of his four planned health care town hall sessions to larger venues to accommodate expected large crowds.

Kind, D-La Crosse, has moved his Aug. 20 session from the Tomah City Hall council chamber to Tomah High School, and the Aug. 21 session has been moved to Whitehall High School after originally being planned for that town's Tri-County Memorial Hospital.

"We've had a number of calls coming from people who were concerned about capacity," said Kind spokeswoman Leah Hunter.

U.S. Rep Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, has also moved one of his town hall meetings on health care to accommodate the anticipated crowd.

Thursday's event in Watertown was originally scheduled for City Hall's Council Chambers. It has been moved to the Watertown Senior Center's Terrace Room. The meeting is schedueld from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

"Given the interest in health care, the City Hall Council Chambers would be too small to accommodate the large numbers of people who have been coming out to meet with me at earlier town meetings," Petri said. "I want everybody to get in and have their say."

Health care town halls across the country have been inundated with protesters concerned by what they see as a turn to socialized medicine in President Obama's health care reform proposal. The meetings, including one in Green Bay with U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, have occasionally turned into unruly affairs as reform opponents shout down the congressmen and other citizens.

Kind also has listening sessions scheduled for Aug. 18 at the County Courthouse in Richland Center and Aug. 25 at Darlington Memorial Hospital. Hunter said other venues are also being considered for those two sessions.

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, drew national headlines over a contentious health care forum in Green Bay last week. Among other members of the Wisconsin delegation, U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, is planning four telephone town halls later this month, with the focus on health care. Each call will reach out to about 50,000 contacts. Baldwin is also scheduling several media appearances, including shows where listeners can call in with questions.

GOP U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Janesville is scheduled to hold more than a dozen town hall meetings in his district during the August recess -- and like his Democratic colleagues, they'll focus primarily on health care. On the docket are events in Eagle, North Prairie, Sharon, Genoa City, Paddock Lake, Kenosha, Williams Bay, Fontana, Walworth, Darien, Janesville, Rochester, Sturtevant, Racine, Big Bend, New Berlin and Greendale.

In addition, both Wisconsin senators are planning a series of town hall meetings and listening sessions this month. Feingold has yet to release a schedule of his events, but his office confirmed this week they're in the planning stages. Kohl already has constituent events planned for Madison, Rhinelander, Green Bay, Wausau, Ashland, Superior, La Crosse, Kenosha, Racine, Milwaukee, Eau Claire, Marinette, Janesville and the Fox Valley.

See more in the Aug. 7 WisPolitics REPORT.

- Greg Bump, David Drucker

Friday, August 7, 2009

 12:05 PM 

Feingold, Kohl back 'cash for clunkers'

U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl voted to approve $2 billion in additional funding for the "cash for clunkers" program Thursday evening.

The bill passed 60-37, with 6 Republicans endorsing the funding and 4 Dems voting nay. The vote came almost a week after the House approved the funding on the last day before the chamber broke for the August recess.

See more on the House vote here.

Feingold said that the program, while flawed, was improving the economy. He added that the extension would fix an auto insurance requirement in the original bill that excluded some Wisconsin drivers.

"Now that the program will continue, I hope that the Department of Transportation takes steps to address the concerns of consumers and car dealers so the program operates more smoothly," Feingold said in a statement.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

 2:02 PM 

Sotomayor confirmed as U.S. Supreme Court justice

Dem U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold of Middleton and Herb Kohl of Milwaukee joined the majority this afternoon in voting to confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sotomayor was confirmed by a 68-31 vote. Nine Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the New York federal judge.

Feingold and Kohl had each previously supported Sotomayor's nomination as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"Throughout her career and during the confirmation process, Judge Sotomayor has proven to be a thoughtful, intelligent and careful judge, committed to the rule of law," Feingold said in a statement. "I did not see in her record or in her public statements a strong desire to overturn precedent or to remake constitutional law in the image of her own personal preferences, and I certainly did not see bias of any kind."

 2:01 PM 

Kind to hold health care forums

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, announced today that he will hold a series of listening sessions on health care reform throughout the 3rd CD later in the August congressional recess.

From Aug. 18 through Aug. 25, Kind will hold forums in Richland Center, Tomah, Whitehall and Darlington. He will also hold a telephone town hall conference on health care on Aug. 25.

The announcement comes on the heels of a number of highly publicized disruptions of congressional health care forums by conservative protestors, including one aimed earlier this week at fellow Wisconsin Dem Steve Kagen.

"Traveling the district and meeting with the people of western Wisconsin remains my favorite part of the job," Kind said in a statement. "Health care reform is a serious issue that needs an immediate solution, which I look forward to discussing with the people in the district."

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

 12:16 PM 

DNC defends Kagen in radio ad

U.S. Rep. Stave Kagen is among 23 swing district Democrats targeted for supportive radio advertising from the Democratic National Committee during the August recess, The Politico reports today.

The Appleton Democrat, who has generated national publicity following a chaotic health care reform forum in Green Bay on Monday, will be featured in the DNC ad for supporting President Obama's policies on health care reform or economic stimulus legislation. Most of the districts will feature health care reform -- just four will focus on the stimulus.

Kagen is the lone Wisconsin congressman to be featured in the ads.

 8:26 AM 

Kagen: Insurance industry behind 'organized' town hall protests

A defiant Congressman Steve Kagen charged today that "the insurance industry" is behind a misinformation campaign that included what he called organized protests at two town hall meetings in his district this week.

Kagen, a twice-elected Dem from Appleton targeted by Republicans next year, was harassed by hundreds of protesters at his health care forums in Green Bay and Appleton.

He called the protests "very well organized."

"I couldn't have organized it better," he told a Wisconsin Public Radio call-in program this morning. "I believe some people are being frightened (with misinformation) ... The first casualty of war is truth."

Later, asked if he would continue to fight for the so-called public option, Kagen declared, "You can count on it. I can't be bought."

Then he added opponents of health care reform are engaged in a campaign to spread misinformation: "The insurance industry is behind all of this."

Kagen argued that health care reform would increase quality and decrease costs, especially for small businesses.

"We're going to become a community again."

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

 11:26 AM 

Kagen drowned out at health care forum

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen is back in his district for the August congressional recess, and kicked off his week with the first in a series of forums on health care reform at the Brown County Library Monday evening.

But instead of the planned "town hall" format, the Appleton Democrat was on the receiving end of sustained shouts of protest against the health care plan touted by the White House and congressional Democrats.

A capacity crowd of 300 filled the library, with many more being turned away when seats were no longer available. The Brown County Democratic Party attributed the chaotic atmosphere to "a group of unruly radicals" who showed up early in an organized effort to prevent supporters from voicing their opinions.

Kagen had another forum scheduled for this morning in Appleton. He will be in Marinette tomorrow.

Monday, August 3, 2009

 2:17 PM 

Kapanke announces congressional bid

State Sen. Dan Kapanke officially announced his candidacy for the 3rd Congressional District today.

The La Crosse Republican, a sales manager for Kaltenberg Seed Farms and owner of the La Crosse Loggers independent baseball team, will face U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse and a seven-term incumbent.

Elected to a second Senate term last year, he will not have to give up his seat to run for Congress.

Kapanke filed his papers to run last week.

 10:27 AM 

Kagen, Kind, Obey on NRCC target list

The National Republican Congressional Committee lists three Wisconsin Dems among its 70 targets for 2010.

The NRCC sent out an e-mail over the weekend listing the targets, which include Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, and Dave Obey, D-Wausau.

Kagen was a target last fall, but won re-election over Republican John Gard by an even larger margin than their 2006 race.

Meanwhile, Republicans haven't put much effort into challenging Kind and Obey in the last few election cycles. But they already have several candidates lining up to challenge both men.

In the 3rd CD, state Sen. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse, has filed papers to take on Kind.

In the 7th, Ashland County DA Sean Duffy has announced plans to take on Obey, while Rudolph farmer Dan Mielke has also jumped into the race after losing to the incumbent with 39 percent of the vote last fall.

See the e-mail.

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