• WisPolitics

Friday, October 30, 2009

 10:10 AM 

GOP congressmen hauling health care bill home

Republican U.S. Reps. Paul Ryan of Janesville and Jim Sensenbrenner of Menomonee Falls are taking the sizable House health care bill announced Thursday on the road this weekend.

Each congressman will leave a copy of the 1,990 page health care bill at a library in advance of a district listening session. Ryan's is taking place today at the Franklin Public Library, while Sensenbrenner will hold a listening session at the Elm Grove Public Library on Saturday.

Ryan and Sensenbrenner note that their appearances will be open to the public, whereas the announcement by House leaders was invitation-only. They also apologize for not leaving a copy at each district library before cracking, "the airline on their flights back to Wisconsin this evening only allowed one carry-on item each."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

 12:46 PM 

Feingold proposes same-day registration for all federal elections

A new bill proposed by U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., would mandate national same-day voter registration for all elections where federal offices are on the ballot.

The bill would not affect either of the authors' home states -- both of which already have same-day registration -- but could force states without same-day registration to change their laws if the bill is enacted.

Feingold's office said the bill would only affect congressional and presidential election days, leaving states to maintain their current procedures for other elections.

"The system in Wisconsin, which allows for same day registration, has worked well for more than 30 years and is a major reason why Wisconsin is a national leader in voter turnout," Feingold said in a statement. "In fact, the states that frequently have the highest voter turnout all allow Election Day registration. We should take action to get more people involved in the political process and same day registration is a proven way to do it."

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, is an initial co-sponsor of the bill.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

 1:29 PM 

White House refutes Ryan-cited health insurance report

The White House is firing back on a series of reports by insurance companies that show large increases in health care premiums under recent proposals from Democratic leadership.

The latest -- a study of three states from WellPoint, Inc. -- joins previous reports from America's Health Insurance Plans and Blue Cross Blue Shield in drawing heat from the administration for allegedly "cherry picking certain policies and ignoring major aspects of reform."

The Blue Cross Blue Shield analysis was cited by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, during a speech on the House floor Tuesday.

"Wisconsinites might want to know that just recently our Blue Cross Blue Shield program announced that people in their 20s, under this health care bill, will see a 199 percent increase in their health insurance premiums," Ryan said, noting other dramatic increases for older participants according to the report. "The shame of all of this, Mr. Speaker, is that we could fix what's broken in health care without breaking what's working in health care."

 11:36 AM 

Baldwin to attend hate crimes bill signing

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, will attend a bill signing ceremony today in the White House Rose Garden for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act.

The act, which would add protections for gender, gender identity and sexual orientation to existing hate crimes law, is included in the FY2010 National Defense Authorization Act, which will be signed by President Obama today.

Baldwin's office says the bill is "our nation's first major piece of civil rights legislation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people." Baldwin is one of three openly gay members of Congress.

 10:27 AM 

Kagen pitches jobs tax credit

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen believes Congress should enact a new jobs tax credit to stimulate employment over the next two years.

Kagen, D-Appleton, said lawmakers are working on a proposal that would provide a 15 percent tax credit on new hiring in 2010 and a 10 percent credit in 2011. He noted that the traditional methods to spark an economic recovery -- boosting the housing and automobile sectors and lowering interest rates -- have already been tried.

"We're in a position now where almost 15 million people are now unemployed," Kagen said in a conference call with reporters. "As we begin to continue the process of stopping the bleeding ... there are several ways that we can work ourselves out of the recession."

Kagen added that a similar tax credit in the late 1970s drove a 11 percent increase in employment.

"This is a temporary, two-year tax credit, and would effectively put labor on sale," Kagen said.

He also touted the Small Business Financing and Investment Act of 2009, which is currently in drafting in Congress. Kagen said the plan would allow the Small Business Administration to directly loan to borrowers if no local lenders are interested, and would increase the loan guarantees in the SBA's Rural Lender Outreach Program.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

 11:48 AM 

Wisconsin GOP challengers named to NRCC watch list

A trio of Wisconsin Republicans running for Congress next year have been named "On the Radar" candidates by the National Republican Congressional Committee, the first step in the committee's "Young Guns" program for open-seat and challenger candidates.

Ashland Co. DA Sean Duffy, state Sen. Dan Kanapke of La Crosse, and Kaukauna roofing contractor Reid Ribble each earned the designation in their challenges against U.S. Reps. Dave Obey, Ron Kind and Steve Kagen, respectively. The NRCC named 32 "On the Radar" candidates Tuesday, along with nine "Contender" candidates, the second of three steps in the Young Guns program.

"These candidates have become formidable contenders by meeting the rigorous goals laid out by the Young Guns program and putting in place the pieces for a winning campaign," said NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions in a statement. "The early progress of these candidates is not only a testament to the Young Guns program, it is a sign of the changing political environment that Democrats will have to face next year."

The Young Guns program was founded by U.S. Reps. Paul Ryan of Janesville, along with House GOP colleagues Eric Cantor of Virginia and Kevin McCarthy of California. Duffy and Ribble both face primary opponents heading into the 2010 election cycle.

 9:40 AM 

Obey secures environmental exemptions for Great Lakes ships

U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, has obtained exemptions from new shipping emissions regulations for at least 13 vessels operating in the Great Lakes, according to a report from Politico today.

Obey, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, inserted the exemptions in a deal brokered on a $32 billion natural resources bill, according to Congressional sources cited by Politico.com. The ships would have been threatened by the new, tougher EPA regulations set to take effect in December.

The report says Obey has support on the issue from a number of Great Lakes-area Republicans, as well as U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn. and chairman of the House Transportation Committee. Obey responded that the exemptions would "allow EPA to go ahead with a new clean air rule without sinking the Great Lakes fleet -- and all the jobs it creates in the region."

Monday, October 26, 2009

 10:52 AM 

Feingold questions troop increase, blasts Cheney

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold said Sunday that President Obama would have problems with the American public if he commits to a 40,000 troop increase in Afghanistan, but said the president is right to be careful in making "one of the toughest decisions I've ever seen a president have to make."

Feingold, D-Middleton, appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation" following fellow U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. McCain -- a frequent collaborator with Feingold on campaign finance issues -- said Democrats would have problems with a proposed troop increase.

"It's not about one party," Feingold responded. "In fact, I'd say there's a broad majority in this country that thinks it's a very bad idea to put in 40,000 new troops on top of the 60,000 or 70,000 we have now."

Feingold has opposed the troop increase floated by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and has called for a flexible timetable for U.S. troops to leave the war-torn nation entirely.

He added that recent comments made by former Vice President Dick Cheney on Afghanistan were "terrible."

"It's too early on Sunday for dancing. So let me just say I think what the vice president said was terrible," Feingold said. "The notion that President Obama is 'dithering'? He's doing his job."

Feingold also addressed health care reform, reiterating that it would be difficult for him to accept any proposal without a public health insurance option.

Friday, October 23, 2009

 12:29 PM 

Feingold hits Sunday talkshow

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, along with fellow Senator and campaign finance reform advocate John McCain, will be the guests on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday morning.

Check local listings for broadcast times in Wisconsin media markets.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

 3:12 PM 

Kind, Walz tout Medicare reimbursement deal

U.S. Rep. Kind said that an agreement reached with House leadership on Medicare reimbursement reform represents "the best chance of the fundamental reform that's needed" in the health care system.

Kind, D-La Crosse, joined fellow Dem U.S. Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota and two Mississippi Valley doctors in a conference call with reporters on the agreement, which would change the current volume-based Medicaid reimbursement formula to a new system -- development by the Institute of Medicine -- emphasizing the quality of patient care.

Kind said that Medicaid rates have been shortchanging the high-quality health care systems in his Western Wisconsin district for years, and that the agreement paves the way for American health care to start delivering improved, lower-cost care.

"We will no longer be paying for the volume of care given, but rather for the outcome," Kind said, noting that the savings would help millions of uninsured Americans gain access to health care coverage in a final health care agreement.

The proposal would require an immediate study on updating the current Medicaid formula, ending what Kind called the "proxy data" that has led to the unfair rates in Wisconsin and Minnesota. In addition, the agreement includes language designed to prevent lawmakers from changing the new formula at the 11th hour. Kind said Congress could halt the changes with a joint resolution of disapproval, but that measure would be subject to a presidential veto.

"We can't take for granted that we will pick up any Republican votes in support of payment reform two years from now," Kind said. "But I think this also has regional dimensions to it."

Kind said that the aim of the legislation was not to pit districts against each other over their respective rates of reimbursement, but to change the system to reward quality, creativity and innovation in the health care sector.

Walz said failure to address the reimbursement rates would have been a deal-breaker for him on a health care reform bill, and that the agreement represents "the single biggest reform we've done in health care" since the 1960s.

 12:03 PM 

Snowe holding up Sargeant nomination

Madison businessman Winslow Sargeant passed a Senate committee vote last month to serve as Small Business Administration counsel, but a final confirmation vote before the full Senate has hit a snag.

Reports indicate that U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine is holding up Sargeant's nomination in the chamber. Snowe, the ranking GOP member of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, joined the remaining five Republican members in voting against Sargeant's confirmation in committee.

During the hearing on SBA nominees, Snowe said that the nominee to serve as SBA counsel should have a legal background. Sargeant, who directs a Madison investment firm and holds a doctorate in electrical engineering from UW-Madison, does not have a law degree.

"Although I believe Dr. Sargeant brings a wealth of small business experience to his candidacy, and would be an outstanding nominee for countless other positions within the SBA, I do not believe that now is the time to deviate from Advocacy's regulatory role during this critical time in our nation's economic recovery," Snowe said in a statement on the committee vote last month.

Committee chairwoman Mary Landrieu, D-La., responded that there is no statutory retirement that the counsel be an attorney, and that two of Sargeant's prospective predecessors in the Bush administration have endorsed his nomination.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

 11:37 AM 

Ryan leads Capitol Hill fitness craze

A Politico story today credits U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, with helping to create "something of a craze on Capitol Hill" out of the P90X workout.

The P90X -- introduced to Congress by its creator and professional trainer Tony Horton -- is a 12-disc home workout routine that claims about 28 disciples on the Hill. Ryan told Politico he's been using the routine with North Carolina Democrat Health Schuler, a former NFL quarterback.

"Heath and I have been doing it together for six months," Ryan said. "And since Tony has been coming to do it, more have joined, and now there's about a dozen that do it, a morning and evening crowd."

Ryan takes credit for introducing the workout to, among others, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia and fellow House Republicans Kevin McCarthy of California and Kevin Brady of Texas.

"When I saw Paul Ryan -- man, he's gotten in great shape," Brady said. "He doesn't have a six-pack; he's got, like, a 12-pack."

 11:26 AM 

Kagen wants dairy appropriation to go through MILC program

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen said today he wants most of the $290 million in direct aid to dairy farmers included in the 2010 Agriculture Appropriations Bill to go through the MILC program.

The appropriations bill was signed today by President Barack Obama. The bill includes $350 million in aid to dairy farmers -- $60 million to buy cheese and other dairy products to bring down surpluses, and $290 million in general aid. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will determine how the $290 million is divided.

Kagen said he expressed to Vilsack his wish that 80 percent of the aid be distributed through the MILC program, instead of creating a new program to dispense the aid, and the other 20 percent can be distributed through a different format.

"It makes sense to use an existing program," Kagen said this morning during a conference call with reporters.

Kagen, a member of the House Committee on Agriculture and the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry, said dairy farmers are struggling with historic lows for their products.

"Hopefully the floor will now be firmed up and prices will come back to allow our farm families to be profitable and successful," he said.

Kagen said the money should begin to flow to Wisconsin farmers in late November or early December.

Kagen also said that he hasn't made up his mind yet on the merits of Obama's proposal to cut $250 checks to seniors to make up for a lack of a cost of living increase in Social Security.

"I think we have to address those people who need help the most," Kagen said. "Senior citizens living on fixed incomes need our support. I will take a look at the bill, but I haven't determined yet if that might be the best way of taking care of our seniors."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

 1:55 PM 

Feingold introduces spending reform bill

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold unveiled his "Control Spending Now Act" Tuesday, including more than 40 provisions the Middleton Democrat argues will reduce the federal deficit and curb wasteful spending.

The bill would also institute reforms to the earmarking process, agricultural subsidies and "corporate welfare." Feingold also called out a number of cost-saving government measures, including returning unspent Wall Street bailout money, canceling a C-17 aircraft program, allowing the FDA to charge businesses for failed inspections, and eliminating a radio and TV signal to Cuba that goes largely unused.

"A consistent message I hear from Wisconsinites -- regardless of party -- is the need to reduce wasteful spending," Feingold said in a statement. "With our nation facing record deficits, Americans are rightly concerned that their children and grandchildren will be forced to shoulder this burden."

Feingold added that he doesn't expect all the provisions to pass in one comprehensive package, instead arguing that "Congress must get the message that it needs to reform its spending habits."

National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Colin Reed said Feingold's bill was inconsistent with his vote in favor of federal stimulus legislation earlier this year.

"With Halloween fast approaching, it appears Russ Feingold has decided to masquerade this year as a deficit hawk," Reed said. "Unfortunately for Wisconsin taxpayers, Feingold's costume is more trick than treat, as his newfound sense of fiscal responsibility comes in the same year that he helped push the federal deficit to a whopping $1.4 trillion with his votes for President Obama's trillion-dollar stimulus bill and bloated budget."

A Feingold spokesman responded that the senator has "a long history of fiscal responsibility," noting his vote against an omnibus appropriations bill this spring.

Monday, October 19, 2009

 10:53 AM 

Ryan leader Wis. delegation in fundraising, cash on hand

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan had the most lucrative third quarter among Wisconsin's members of the state's congressional delegation, according to a WisPolitics check of campaign finance reports.

Ryan, a rising star in GOP circles, pulled in $256,983 during the three-month period that ended Sept. 30, pushing his warchest to more than $1.4 million.

Here are some highlights from the finance reports members filed by last Thursday's deadline.

Paul Ryan
The Janesville Republican's totals include $152,438 from individuals and $104,075 from committees.

His PAC contributions include three from Wisconsin-based entities: the Alliant Energy Employees ($2,000), Wisconsin Energy Corp. ($1,000) and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans ($3,500).

Some of his largest PAC donations included a total of $3,000 from Boeing, $2,500 from the NRA, $2,500 from the Caterpillar Employees, $3,500 from DC law firm Patton Boggs, $5,000 from the American Association of Orthodontists and $5,000 from the American Concrete Pumping Association.

Tammy Baldwin
The 2nd CD Dem raised $143,914, spent $80,197 and had $587,718 cash on hand.

About 65 percent of her fundraising total came from individuals, while her PAC contributions were led by $17,200 from the health care industry. Baldwin has been a proponent of a single-payer system during her time in the House and has been a vocal member of the Dem caucus' progressive wing about the need for a public option in the health care reform package now being debated.

Baldwin's health care PAC donations included $5,000 each from the American College of Radiology Association and U.S. Oncology Inc. Good Government Committee.

She also received $15,000 from the cable industry with $3,000 from Charter Communications, $2,500 from Comcast Corp. and $1,000 from Time Warner, along with an $8,500 donation from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

Her biggest expense during the quarter was $28,571 sent to the DCCC that was labeled "excess funds" on her report.

Ron Kind
The 3rd CD Dem's flirtation with a run for governor during the quarter didn't seem to hamper his federal fundraising efforts. He raised $167,781 during the period, spent $98,389 and had just more than $1 million cash on hand.

His total included $38,081 from individuals and $129,700 from PACs.

His PAC contributions included $3,500 from 3M, $3,000 from Abbott Laboratories Employees, $3,000 from Burns & McDonnell in Kansas City, $5,000 from Garney Holding Co. in Kansas City, $5,000 from KMPG Partners/Principals & Employees and $5,000 from the New Democrat Coalition.

His biggest expense of the quarter was $25,000 in membership dues to the DCCC.

Gwen Moore
The Milwaukee Dem raised $67,491, spent $69,708 and had $38,549.

Of the money she raised, $24,978 came from individuals, while $43,517 came from PACs and parties.

The groups donating to her campaign included the International Union of Painters & Allied Trades ($5,000), National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors ($4,000) and Northwestern Mutual Federal PAC ($4,500).

Moore also continues to employ her sister, who lives in Lithonia, Ga. Moore lists more than $10,000 in payments to Brenda Moore over the period, as well as $179 in reimbursement for travel and health care. Brenda Moore also gave her sister a donation worth $352.40, listing her occupation as a self-employed political consultant.

Jim Sensenbrenner
The 5th CD Republican raised $31,833, spent $41,525 and listed $403,590 cash on hand.

Of that, $14,333 individuals with another $18,000 from PACs. Sensenbrenner also gave Acell Inc. of Maryland a $500 refund.

His PAC contributions included $2,500 from the National Association of Home Builders, $2,000 from the Recording Industry Association of America and $1,000 from the Universal Music Group.

Several of the members listed various expenses for travel over the course of the period, but Sensenbrenner had the largest single expense listed: $3,485.95 in reimbursement for travel to a fundraiser. The report doesn't detail what the expenses entailed, and his campaign didn't immediately return a call from WisPolitics seeking comment. Sensenbrenner listed another $1,100 in travel expenses on the report.

UPDATE: Sensenbrenner's campaign says the expense was for a trip that Sensebrenner, his wife and his chief of staff took to Canada to meet with conservative business leaders.

Tom Petri
The Fond du Lac Republican raised $72,659, spent $70,554 and had $973,059 cash on hand.

The total included $22,409 from individuals and $50,250 from PACs.

Among the PAC donations were $2,500 from American Airlines, $2,000 from American Beverages Licenses PAC $2,000, $5,000 from the Association of American Railroads, $5,000 from Federal Express and $2,000 from UPS.

His biggest expense was almost $32,000 paid to Carol Goeas & Associates in Alexandria, Va., for fundraising.

Dave Obey
The 7th CD Dem raised $156,075, spent $77,096 and had $894,016 cash on hand.

That total included $35,215 from individuals and $121,750 from PACs.

As chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Obey has influence over a host of issues, and that was reflected in his PAC donations.

They ran the gamut from the Ice Cream, Milk and Cheese PAC ($1,000) to unions like the Ironworkers ($5,000), Bricklayers ($5,000), Electrical Workers ($5,000), Steelworkers ($5,000) and Longshoremen ($2,500).

He also received $5,000 from Deloitte and Touche, $5,000 from the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education, $7,500 from the CWA-COPE committee and $5,000 from the Action Committee for Rural Electrification Natural Rural Electric Cooperative.

Obey's report also listed expenses for fundraisers in three cities outside of Wisconsin: Philadelphia ($1,363), Boston ($1,295)and Santa Monica, Calif. ($1,477). He listed $2,222.20 in air travel expenses and more than $11,250 in credit card expenses that don't include a break down of what was purchased.

Steve Kagen

The second-term 8th CD Dem raised $191,747 during the third quarter, leaving him with $468,765 cash on hand.

Kagen, of Appleton, also reported $63,053 in expenses during the period. He raised $87,962 from individuals.

He listed PAC donations from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association ($3,500), the American College of Cardiology ($5,000), the American Dental Association ($6,500), the American Resort Development Association Resort OWN ($5,000), Bart's Bridge ($5,000), the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades ($5,000) and the NRA ($1,500).

Kagen has been identified as one of the Dems' top incumbents to defend next year and has been added to a party program to help vulnerable lawmakers. His report shows $11,500 in donations from the DCCC as well as donations from the campaigns of fellow Dems Bruce Braley of Iowa ($2,000), John Larson of Connecticut ($2,000), Jan Schakowsky of Illinois ($1,000) and Tammy Baldwin of Madison ($1,000).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

 3:09 PM 

GOP challengers report large fundraising totals

Three Republican congressional hopefuls have reported sizable fundraising hauls ahead of tomorrow's reporting deadline.

Ashland Co. DA Sean Duffy reported that he raised nearly $140,000 during the third quarter in his uphill bid to unseat northern Dem U.S. Rep. Dave Obey.

Duffy said he had $120,000 cash on hand as of Sept. 30, the close of the period. According to his campaign, he had 516 donors with almost 75 percent of them contributing $100 or less, and 85 percent of his donations came from Wisconsin.

Reid Ribble, a Kaukauna roofing contractor hoping to take on Dem U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen of Appleton, has reported raising more than $130,000.

Both candidates must get through primaries next year to face the incumbent Dems: 2006 Obey challenger Dan Mielke is running again, while Ribble so far faces Door Co. Supv. Marc Savard and Brown Co. Supv. Andy Williams.

In the 3rd CD, state Sen. Dan Kapanke reported $111,000 raised toward challenging U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse.

Kagen, Kind and Obey are both listed as targets for Republicans on some national watch lists. Kagen is in his second term, while Kind and Obey have long been entrenched in their respective districts.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

 12:57 PM 

Delegation defends Oshkosh Corp. Defense contract

The Wisconsin congressional delegation is defending a state company's lucrative Pentagon contract after two competitors raised concerns about the contact bidding process with Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

According to The Hill, the entire delegation issued a letter to Gates today urging him to uphold the $3 billion contract awarded to Oshkosh Corporation. The report indicates that two other companies, BAE Systems Inc. and Navistar, have each protested the Oshkosh contract.

"We are concerned with the blatant efforts to affect the outcome of this independent, quasi-judicial review by attempting to raise protest issues through a public media campaign and through improper contact with Department of Defense officials," the letter states.

The letter also counters efforts from members of the Texas congressional delegation, who have petitioned Gates on behalf of BAE. The company manufactures the vehicles for the program -- titled the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles -- in Sealy, Texas.

"(S)ome have gone so far as requesting that the Army provide highly confidential and sensitive source selection materials for their review," the Wisconsin letter continues. "We believe this is both inappropriate and a dangerous precedent that could result in undue interference in the competitive process."

"Oshkosh Corp. won this contract fair and square," said U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, in a statement from the delegation. "(B)ut the losers are trying to take it away."

 11:00 AM 

Kagen: Wall St. tax should help fund health care

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen said Wednesday he favors a tax on Wall Street transactions -- rather than on medical devices or other businesses -- to fund part of the massive health care reform bill.

"I think that Wall Street should participate in the recovery of the American economy," the Appleton Democrat told reporters during a conference call, arguing that questionable practices by those investors sparked the economic collapse last year.

Kagen said a fee of 0.25 percent on all trades would generate more than $100 billion annually, providing critical access to citizens in need of health care.

Kagen said he couldn't speculate on the fate of a public option after the Senate Finance Committee approved their version of the health care bill Tuesday, without a public plan. But as House and Senate leaders work to merge the bills in the coming weeks, Kagen said, "I think there has to be something like a public option, regardless of what you call it."

Kagen also touted yesterday's report on the impact of federal stimulus spending in Wisconsin, saying that the thousands of jobs created by the spending included "putting money where it really belongs" -- into public safety and education.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

 11:38 AM 

Washington Times: Butler a 'radical' nomination

The Washington Times is urging the U.S. Senate to do detailed research into Louis Butler's "troubling rulings" on the Wisconsin Supreme Court before voting to confirm him to the federal bench.

In a Sunday editorial, the conservative paper cited Butler's appointment as the first proof positive that President Obama intends to stack the lower federal courts with radicals, charging Butler's "appreciation of a judge's proper role seems lacking."

The editorial says Butler is such a judicial activist that voters rejected him twice.

"Wisconsin voters knew what they were doing," the editorial says.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

 4:44 PM 

Feingold: Afghanistan surge would be a 'very serious error'

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold says that President Obama would be committing a "very serious error" if he follows a recommendation to substantially increase troop levels in Afghanistan.

Feingold said his opposition to the troop surge of 40,000 suggested by military leaders may even lead him to vote against funding for expanding the operation.

"I would take whatever appropriate steps are necessary to try to persuade (Obama) not to do it, including using my vote," Feingold, D-Middleton, said today in an appearance on CNN's "Situation Room."

Feingold is pushing for a flexible withdrawal timetable from Afghanistan, and said he has talked with the president about that option. He said remaining in Afghanistan takes the focus off going after al-Qaida on an international level.

"The idea of being (in Afghanistan) indefinitely is counterproductive, it helps unify the Taliban," he said. "It's really the opposite of what we need to do. It does not make sense and it's a very serious error if you want to be serious about going after al-Qaida internationally."

Feingold also said he would oppose a smaller troop infusion.

"I think that's muddling through," said Feingold when asked he if would support a surge of have the recommended 40,000. "I think there ought to be a recognition here ..,. that it's time to start thinking about how we disengage from this situation, how we put it back in an appropriate context of an international fight against al-Qaida rather than an attempt to create nation building. And I certainly don't think we can do it by adding 40,000 troops. I certainly don't think we can do it by splitting it in half as apparently the president and others are looking at. It has to be a real strategy. And the appropriate strategy is to draw down in Afghanistan and use our resources internationally with others in the world who want to stop al-Qaida to go after al-Qaida. That is our enemy, not the people of Afghanistan."

 2:23 PM 

Obey: McChrystal approach to Afghanistan 'highly unachievable'

U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, delivered a stinging indictment of the proposal to increase the American military presence in Afghanistan today, arguing in a statement that a further escalation would cement Taliban opposition and create unsustainable costs for the U.S. government.

Obey joins a chorus of Dem lawmakers who are questioning the reported recommendations of Gen. Stanley McChrystal to the White House: That up to 40,000 more troops be deployed in Afghanistan to disrupt Taliban momentum and train additional Afghan soldiers. Obey declared that McChrystal's goals in the country were "highly unachievable."

"If we were to engage in that kind of strategy, even its advocates tell us that it would require the willingness to make a commitment of a good ten years, and maybe double that. And the cost would be astronomical," Obey said. "The military cost alone would approach a trillion dollars or more. ... I do not believe the American people will buy it. A policy that is not sustainable is no policy at all; it is a Hail Mary pass that even Brett Favre would be highly unlikely to complete."

Obey, who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, would likely wield tremendous influence on any Defense spending bill to fund the troop increase.

"As an Appropriator I must ask, what will that policy cost and how will we pay for it?" Obey said. He recalled how he watched first-hand as Soviet officials in the 1980s told him that "the very fabric of their political system was being devoured by their misadventure in Afghanistan."

"We are a much richer and a much stronger country then they were, but we would still pay a price that is far too high," Obey said. "That's why I believe we need to more narrowly focus our efforts and have a much more achievable and targeted policy in that region, or we run the risk of repeating the mistakes we made in Vietnam and the Russians made in Afghanistan."

 10:52 AM 

Sensenbrenner gets Dem challenger for 2010

Democrat Todd Kolosso of Menomonee Falls will announce Monday his plans to challenge GOP U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner in the state's 5th CD.

Leah Horn, campaign manager for Kolosso, said he is a small business owner. She said the campaign will focus on issues affecting small business, health care reform and farm policy.

Kolosso has not run for political office before.

"Over the past eight years or so watching the Bush Administration (Kolosso) has gone from being a Ronald Reagan fan to being more connected to the Democratic Party," Horn said.

The announcement is set for 10 a.m. at the Mill Building in Menomonee Falls.

Sensenbrenner, also of Menomonee Falls, affirmed his intention to run for a 17th term in August, despite disclosing his diagnosis with early-stage prostate cancer.

 10:40 AM 

Wisconsin Dems -- except Kind -- back ag appropriations bill

The House approved the 2010 Agriculture Appropriations Bill by a 263-162 vote Wednesday, with the Wisconsin delegation splitting 4-4 on the measure.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse and a frequent advocate of reforming federal agricultural spending, voted with the state's three GOP congressman against the bill. The remaining Dems each voted to endorse the bill.

"We need to help dairy farmers who are struggling with milk prices that have fallen to historic lows while the costs of production -- including feed, fertilizer, and fuel -- have grown," said U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, in a statement on the vote. Obey, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, touted $350 million in aid for dairy farmers included in the bill last week.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

 11:57 AM 

Sensenbrenner, Ryan named 'taxpayer heroes'

U.S. Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, and Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, have been named two of 59 "taxpayer heroes" in the House of Representatives by the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste.

The winners received a score of 80 percent or more on the group's Congressional Ratings; Sensenbrenner scored 96 percent, while Ryan scored an 85 percent.

"Rep. Sensenbrenner put the interests of taxpayers ahead of politics by consistently voting to cut wasteful spending, reduce the tax burden, and make government more accountable to taxpayers," said CCAGW President Tom Schatz in a statement on the award. "The 2008 Congressional Ratings show that many elected officials continue to demonstrate little regard for the harmful effect a large and cumbersome federal government has on taxpayers' wallets."

See the full 2009 report here.

 11:46 AM 

Feingold, Kohl ask for Medicaid adjustments in Finance bill

Both Wisconsin's U.S. senators have signed onto a letter to the chamber's lead health care reform negotiators asking that states who have expanded Medicaid coverage to low-income residents not be penalized by unfair reimbursement rates.

U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl joined seven other senators in signing the letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. The letter argues that under the Finance Committee's version of the bill, Wisconsin and other states would be unfairly burdened in the effort to expand Medicaid in other states.

"I am proud Wisconsin has taken the initiative to expand Medicaid coverage for those who need it most in our state, but we should not be punished for doing the right thing," Feingold said in a statement. "The Senate Finance Committee bill would burden states like Wisconsin that have led in expanding Medicaid at a time when we simply cannot afford more financial hardships."

Other Dem senators signing onto the letter include Pat Leahy and Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken of Minnesota, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, and Kristen Gillibrand of New York.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

 1:14 PM 

Feingold convenes hearing on White House 'czars'

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold convened the Senate Judiciary Committee's Constitution Subcommittee today to examine the role of so-called "czars" within the Obama White House, hoping to "have an informed, reasoned, thoughtful discussion about the constitutional issues surrounding the president's appointment of certain executive branch officials."

The Middleton Democrat, who chairs the subcommittee, has joined some conservative commentators in expressing concerns about the administration officials. Feingold, in particular, is worried about presidential appointments to key positions overruling Congressional oversight of the Cabinet.

"No one disputes that the president is allowed to hire advisors and aides," Feingold said in his opening statement at the committee hearing. "But Congress and the American people have the right to ensure that the positions in our government that have been delegated legal authority are also the positions that are exercising that authority."

Feingold lamented that the Obama administration did not send a witness to testify at the hearing, and said the observations that Republican presidents also appointed czars don't apply to the current discussion.

"While there is a long history of the use of White House advisors and czars, that does not mean we can assume they are constitutionally appropriate," Feingold said. "It's not good enough to simply say, 'well, George Bush did it too.'"

In a letter sent Monday from White House counsel Gregory Craig, the administration told Feingold that "none of the positions... raises any valid concerns about accountability, transparency, or congressional oversight."

Monday, October 5, 2009

 1:12 PM 

Dems sound alarm on health care reform following BadgerCare announcement

Gov. Jim Doyle's announcement this morning that the state will suspend enrollment in the BadgerCare Plus Core Plan at the end of this week included reaction from each of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation's seven Democrats.

And every one said the dramatic influx of Wisconsinites applying for the program underscores the need for national health care reform.

Doyle announced that the plan -- which covers adults without dependent children -- has reached capacity in just three months, and that beginning noon Friday, those who apply will be placed on a waiting list.

"If there was any doubt that instituting a public health care option would fulfill a great need, let the overwhelming response to Badger Care Plus prove otherwise," said U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl of Milwaukee in Doyle's announcement. "Even in Wisconsin, which boasts several model health care programs, people are clamoring for affordable health care coverage."

"60,000 uninsured Wisconsinites have applied for BadgerCare coverage in under 100 days, and now because of the cap they're going to be forced to wait yet again to get the coverage they need for a checkup, for a mammogram, for medication for the flu," added fellow Milwaukee Dem U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore.

Friday, October 2, 2009

 11:02 AM 

Senators fire back on Butler complaints

U.S. Sens. Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold fired back against criticism of the nomination of former Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler to the federal bench in Madison.

"We follow the 30 year-old guidelines established by the Wisconsin Federal Nominating Commission Charter to fill judicial vacancies, including this one, and the Commission favorably recommended Judge Butler as a candidate," Kohl, D-Milwaukee, said in a statement.

"We have no doubt that Judge Butler has the qualifications, experience and intellect that will serve him well as our next District Court judge."

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, yesterday ripped the nomination of the former Doyle-appointed state Supreme Court justice as "another example of the mismanaged way Washington is working under President Obama." Sensenbrenner was integral in judicial nominations under the Bush administration, but was shut out of the current process in accordance with the nominating commission's guidelines.

Feingold called Wisconsin's nomination process a model for filling judicial vacancies.

"The current makeup of the Wisconsin Federal Nominating Commission follows the same rules that have been in effect for decades," Feingold, D-Middleton, said in a statement. "The commission process allowed President Bush to swiftly fill two Wisconsin judicial vacancies, including a vacancy on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, without any of the partisan fights that other states experienced, even though neither of Wisconsin's senators was from the president's party and both sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 8:09 AM 

Survey USA poll: Kohl at 53 percent approval rating, Feingold 49 percent

The latest poll from Survey USA shows Wisconsinites with a mixed view of both the state's Democratic U.S. senators.

The poll, conducted Tuesday and Wednesday, had Herb Kohl's approval rating at 53 percent, while 49 percent of respondents liked the job Russ Feingold is doing.

Thirty-seven percent disapproved of Kohl's performance, while 43 percent said the same about Feingold.

In September, 47 percent approved of Kohl's performance, while 46 percent approved of Feingold’s work.

In addition, the poll found the state evenly split on President Obama's job approval: 47 percent of respondents approved of the job the president is doing, with 47 percent disapproving.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

 11:00 AM 

Kohl, Obey garner praise for dairy assistance agreement

The Wisconsin Farmers Union, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and the state's agriculture department are praising U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl and U.S. Rep. Dave Obey this week for securing $350 million for dairy farmers in the FY2010 Federal Agriculture Appropriations Bill.

Kohl, the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations panel, and Obey, the House Appropriations chairman, announced the agreement in a joint statement Wednesday. The provision would utilize $60 million for purchasing dairy products for food banks and nutrition programs, with the other $290 million providing expedited financial support directly to dairy farmers.

"I would have preferred that all the funds to be provided as direct payments through the existing MILC program formula," said Obey, D-Wausau. "We didn't get everything we wanted, but the compromise ensures important and timely help to farmers and our rural communities."

DATCP Secretary Rod Nilsestuen said in a statement that the provision may help avert "a farm crisis of similar magnitude to the 1980s."

 10:54 AM 

Feingold, Kohl praise Butler nomination; Sensenbrenner criticizes process

U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl hailed President Obama's nomination of former State Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler to the federal bench this morning.

Butler, who was defeated in his Supreme Court race in 2008, would replace Judge John Shabaz if confirmed by the Senate. His nomination must first clear the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which both Feingold and Kohl are members.

"I have no doubt that Judge Butler has the qualifications, experience and intellect that will serve him well as our next District Court judge," said Kohl, D-Milwaukee, in a joint statement with Feingold. "We congratulate him on this nomination and look forward to helping move it through the Senate."

"Judge Butler has a long record of ably serving Wisconsin and I look forward to his continued service to our state in this important federal post," added Feingold, D-Middleton.

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, who had a key role in federal judicial nominations during the Bush administration, blasted Butler's nomination as "another example of the mismanaged way Washington is working under President Obama."

The state uses a Federal Nominating Commission to screen applicants for judicial openings and recommend candidates to be considered before lawmakers send their list of finalists to the White House. As the senior Republican in Wisconsin's congressional delegation, Sensenbrenner had input in the process while Bush was in the White House, including being allowed to appoint four members to the commission.

But with a Dem in the White House, Feingold and Kohl were each given four picks for the body, while Sensenbrenner was shut out.

See more on Butler's nomination here.

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· 1st CD: Paul Ryan (R)
· 2nd CD: Mark Pocan (D)
· 3rd CD: Ron Kind (D)
· 4th CD: Gwen Moore (D)
· 5th CD: F. James Sensenbrenner (R)
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· July 2013: Wood's 2001 DC inauguration trip turned into new career
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