• WisPolitics


Thursday, December 31, 2009

 5:10 PM 

Butler nomination sent back

The nomination of former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis J. Butler Jr. for a federal district judgeship has been returned to the White House after the U.S. Senate failed to act on the appointment before the first session of the 111th Congress concluded on Thursday.

Butler -- nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Wisconsin -- was confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee in early December on a 12-7 vote. U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, and Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, both voted to confirm Butler in committee.

However, Butler's nomination never received a vote of the full Senate, in large part because the chamber was consumed with the debate over health care reform legislation. The Senate approved an $871 billion health care package on Christmas Eve in the first vote to be held on Dec. 24 in 114 years.

Sources familiar with Butler's nomination say there appeared to be nothing holding up his confirmation other than the busy Senate calendar. According to the rules, the White House in January can resubmit Butler's nomination to the Senate.

There is no need for the former state Supreme Court justice to go through another Judiciary Committee hearing. As long as Obama re-nominates Butler, the Judiciary Committee can quickly confirm him and forward his nomination to the full Senate for a floor vote.

"The Butler nomination, along with some other judges and executive nominees, got sent back," said one Senate source familiar with the Butler appointment. "This is not unusual."

-David M. Drucker


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

 1:27 PM 

Liberal group pressures Feingold on health care in TV ad

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold has come under fire from the liberal activist group Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which this week launched a $20,000 television ad campaign that takes the Middleton Democrat to task on health care reform.

In a 30-second spot set to air on broadcast television in the Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee markets, PCCC urges Feingold to vote against any final health care bill that does not include a public insurance option. Feingold last week voted for a Senate bill that does not include a public insurance option despite the fact that he is a strong proponent of the proposal.

The ad, scheduled to run through New Year's weekend, features video clips of President Barack Obama explaining his support for the public insurance option. Upon the conclusion of the ad, the following written recommendation flashes on the TV screen: "Tell Russ Feingold: A bill without a public option is not change we can believe in."

The Senate passed its $871 billion health care reform bill Christmas Eve morning on a party-line vote. All Republicans opposed the measure, while all 58 Democrats -- including Feingold and Sen. Herb Kohl of Milwaukee -- as well as two Independents who caucus with the Senate majority, voted yes.

That bill must now be reconciled with a $1.2 trillion House package that does include the public insurance option, and liberal activists like the PCCC are pushing Democrats like Feingold to demand that the public option survive the final bill. Negotiations to meld the House and Senate bills are set to begin in January.

A statement released by PCCC spokesman Adam Green reads as follows:

"The congratulations that Democrats are giving themselves in Washington DC are not shared by voters across the country who overwhelmingly want a public option and oppose being required to buy insurance from companies that put profit ahead of people's health. Russ Feingold can be a hero at this historic moment by declaring that any final bill must have a public option to win his support. That would change the entire calculus in House-Senate negotiations and force President Obama to finally fight back against Joe Lieberman's threats -- something Russ Feingold himself has said the White House has failed to do."

Lieberman, an Independent senator from Connecticut, has vowed to filibuster any bill that includes a public insurance option of any kind.

-David M. Drucker


Thursday, December 24, 2009

 7:38 AM 

Feingold, Kohl support health care bill

The U.S. Senate early this morning approved sweeping health care reform legislation along party lines, with Democrats supporting and Republicans opposing an $871 billion package that cuts $462 billion from Medicare, mandates that all Americans purchase health insurance and extends coverage to about 25 million uninsured.

The rare holiday session featured the first Christmas Eve debates since 1963 and the first Christmas Eve votes since 1895. Members voted at 7 a.m. and immediately left town until late January.

Wisconsin's two senators, Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, and Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, voted in favor of the health care legislation, which has been high on President Barack Obama's list of domestic priorities.

The final vote was 60-39.

"The Senate health care reform bill includes some important victories for Wisconsin," Feingold said, in a statement released by his office.

Among those victories, according to Feingold, are:

*More Medicare funding by fixing the "unfair" reimbursement formula. Feingold said the new formula will reward "the high quality, low cost care practiced at places like Gundersen Lutheran and the Marshfield Clinic."

*Increased funding for Medicaid, the joint state-federal program that provides health care to the poor.

"I worked with my colleagues to make these changes because they are good for our state, and good policy overall. While there are a number of things in this bill I don't support, like the lack of a public option, I am pleased to support these important gains for Wisconsin," Feingold said.

The Senate bill must now be reconciled with the House legislation, which was approved back in November.

UPDATE: Kohl is also praising the bill, it contains several provisions that he championed.

They include the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which would require the disclosure of gifts and payments given to doctors from the pharmaceutical, biologic, and medical device industries. Another is the Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement Act, which would give consumers with more information about individual nursing homes and their track record of care, among other things.

"With this bill, we will begin the process of cutting health care costs, while maintaining quality and expanding coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans," Kohl said in a statement. "This is what we said we would do, and I hope we send a finalized bill to the President when we return in January."

-David M. Drucker


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

 2:41 PM 

Obey touts deal on EPA shipping standards

U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, announced an agreement Tuesday between the Environmental Protection Agency and a coalition of Great Lakes congressmen to revise emissions standards for shipping on the lakes.

Obey, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, secured exemptions from the EPA's propsed emissions standards for 13 vessels in October, saying the ships and the jobs they provided would have been threatened. Obey said in a statement that the agreement would move the new standards forward "without endangering an industry that is vital to the health and prosperity of the region."

"Whenever someone is trying to promote environmental cleanup, we have heard people say it will cost jobs," Obey said. "That was not true when those charges were being made in the 1970s over the Clean Water Act, and it is not true today. This agreement shows that we can move forward to promote jobs and economic growth at the same time that we are cleaning up out environment."


Monday, December 21, 2009

 12:30 PM 

Ribble to campaign full-time for 8th CD

Reid Ribble, a Kaukauna roofing contractor running in a crowded GOP primary field to take on U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, announced the sale of his business to his nephew Monday in order to concentrate on his campaign full-time.

"Neither my campaign nor my company was getting my best effort these past two months and so I'm excited about being able to focus on my campaign to put our nation back on the right track," Ribble said in a statement.

Ribble had run the company since 1980. Troy Ribble takes over The Ribble Group, including affiliated companies Security Roofing and Luebke Roofing.


 11:33 AM 

Liberal group wants Feingold to push for public option

U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl joined the rest of the Senate Democratic caucus in advancing the health care reform package by a 60-40 vote early Monday.

The procedural vote, which required all 60 votes to invoke cloture, clears the way for the bill to pass the upper house -- potentially as soon as the end of the week.

Feingold, a strong advocate of a public insurance option in any health care reform effort, called the bill "a bitter pill to swallow." He said he did not support the Senate amendments that removed the public option, and said the White House's lack of support for the provision made his effort "an uphill struggle."

"I will be urging members of the House and Senate who draft the final bill to make sure this essential provision is included," Feingold promised in a statement.

But a liberal group suspects that Feingold hasn't pushed hard enough for the public option to be included, and is asking its Wisconsin members whether they would support "pressuring him to be stronger."

"The House has a public option in their bill, but advocates for the Senate bill will have all the power in negotiations unless progressive senators like Russ Feingold stand up now and publicly threaten to block a final bill unless it has a public option," writes the Progressive Change Campaign Committee in an e-mail to supporters. "This is what Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson did. But unlike them, Russ Feingold would be advocating on behalf of the overwhelming majority of people."

Feingold said the bill headed for a Senate vote does provide "meaningful reform," and praised its effects on deficit reduction and the Medicaid funding formula

In addition, Feingold said, "The cost of inaction is simply too high."

UPDATE: U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janseville and one of the reform bill's most vocal critics in the House, said the late-night votes to pass the health care reform bills in both the House and Senate reflected "something deeply disturbing" about the legislation.

He also took a shot at Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, a pro-life Democrat who signed onto the package after full federal Medicaid funding for his home state was included.

"In exchange for his support of the bill, all of Nebraska's new Medicaid costs will be picked up by the federal government -- forever," Ryan said in a statement. "Wisconsinites not only face serious Medicaid shortfalls here at home, but we're now on the hook for untold billions more to bailout states like Nebraska."


Friday, December 18, 2009

 12:34 PM 

Wis. congressmen ask Obama administration to step up on Asian carp

Nine of the state's 10 members of Congress have signed onto a letter urging four Obama administration officials to step up their efforts to keep the invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

Fifty congressmen signed onto the letter, which asks the administration to consider implementing the recommendations of the Asian Carp Rapid Response Project, closing the Chicago Locks, continuing the use of piscicides and creating a "permanent hydrological separation between the Great Lakes and the (Chicago Sanitary and Shipping) Canal."

"I greatly appreciate the $13 million the administration will spend to prevent Asian Carp from using flood waters to bypass the electric barrier, but we need to quickly consider all our options and take action," said U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, in a statement. "The longer we delay, the greater the danger of this invasive species wreaking havoc on the health of the Great Lakes."

The letter, issued by the Northeast-Midwest Congressional Coalition's Great Lakes Task Force, was addressed to Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director Sam Hamilton, and U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen. U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, was the only member of the Wisconsin delegation not among the co-signers.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

 11:16 AM 

Judiciary signs off on Santelle nomination

The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved on a voice vote the nomination of James Santelle as the next U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

Santelle now needs to be confirmed by the full Senate to take the office.

See an update on the committee's actions.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

 1:58 PM 

Oshkosh delegation confident in military contract

Despite the U.S. Government Accountability Office's ruling that the Army must re-evaluate a $3 billion contract awarded to Oskosh Corp., the company's congressional represenatives expressed confidence that the contract would ultimately be upheld.

The decision -- sparked by complaints from two competitors who lost out on the Oshkosh contract for 23,000 military vehicles -- called for the Army to reconsider those other bids, but rejected complaints over the price quoted by Oshkosh Corp. to build the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles.

"I note that the GAO is not requiring a new competition and stated that it has rejected a number of the competitors' challenges, including the evaluation of Oshkosh's price, which is attractive to the Army," said U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, in a statement. "Given the company's years of experience and strong reputation, I look forward to the Army implementing the recommendation regarding the re-evaluation of current proposals and moving forward."

U.S. Sens. Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold issued a joint statement arguing, "Oshkosh Corporation continues to offer a strong, cost-effective proposal for the Army, has proven for decades to be a qualified producer of high-quality equipment for our armed forces, and would do so for the FMTV program."


Monday, December 14, 2009

 11:04 AM 

Feingold, Kohl split on omnibus spending bill

Wisconsin's senators split on the omnibus appropriations bill passed Sunday by a 57-35 vote.

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, was one of just three Democrats to vote against the bill, joining Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Evan Bayh of Indiana. The bill allotted $447 billion to fund cabinet agencies whose current funds were set to expire Friday; the bill now heads to the president's desk.

"The massive, unamendable spending bill before the Senate included three bills that the Senate never had a chance to consider, and was chock-full of earmarks," Feingold said in a statement. "At a time of record budget deficits, we should be showing our constituents that we are serious about fiscal responsibility. Instead of controlling spending, this bill represents business as usual in Congress."

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, however, issued a series of press releases following the vote touting new funding for autism education aid, state truancy reduction, Wisconsin transit upgrades, and new military construction at Fort McCoy and Mitchell Field included in the bill.

"Access to mass transit is needed throughout the state in order for many to have access to jobs, schools and groceries," Kohl, D-Milwaukee, said of the $3.4 million included for state transportation. "This funding will give transit agencies the ability to expand mass transit options throughout Wisconsin."


Friday, December 11, 2009

 1:58 PM 

House passes consumer protection bill

The House passed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act -- meant to prevent the financial conditions that led to last year's economic collapse -- by a 223-202 vote Friday.

The Wisconsin delegation split along party lines, with four Dems vote for the bill and three Republicans voting against. U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, missed the floor vote after coming down with the H1N1 flu.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, told reporters in a conference call shortly after the vote that the bill would not crack down on local lenders, instead targeting the firms with more than $10 billion in assets that "got us into trouble a year ago."

"This legislation ensures that these so-called institutions that were considered 'too big to fail' will now be allowed to fail," Kind said.

Kind said in the bill provides greater oversight of the derivate and hedge fund markets, prohibits the "predatory lending" that sparked the subprime mortgage crisis, and limits lenders so that taxpayers won't have to bail out another "bad bet."

Kind added the bill would empower shareholders to have greater input into executive compensation packages. He said the board that currently oversee executive compensation are typically "very cozy" with companies' CEO and executives.

"The tools that we needed over a year ago ... didn't exist," Kind said. "This legislation will ensure that those tools will be available to us in the future."

Kind said he expects the Senate to roll out comparable legislation early next year.


 10:55 AM 

Baldwin ill with H1N1 this week

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin missed floor votes Wednesday, Thursday and today because she was ill with the H1N1 virus, her office said.

On the advice of a physician, Baldwin stayed in her Washington, D.C. apartment to recover and avoid exposing others to the virus.

"Like many Americans, I'm feeling the effects of this nasty virus," Baldwin said in a statement. "I very much regret missing House business, including floor consideration of a bill I strongly support to overhaul our financial system and ensure that Wall St. and big banks can no longer abuse the public trust. Thankfully, I am already beginning to feel better and hope to be back to full strength very soon."


Thursday, December 10, 2009

 4:53 PM 

Senate Judiciary Committee recommends Conley as Western District judge

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today recommended the confirmation of Madison attorney William Conley as a district court judge for the Western District of Wisconsin.

If confirmed by the full Senate, Conley would replace Judge Barbara Crabb, who has indicated plans to take senior status.

Conley's nomination was one of seven the committee supported today by unanimous consent.

Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler, the nominee to fill the other opening on the Western District, didn't have such an easy go of it with the committee. His nomination passed out of committee 12-7 along party lines.

See today's action here.


 1:17 PM 

Kagen top House office spender

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen is the top spender in the House for money spent on their offices, employees and mailing constituents.

The Sunlight Foundation has put together a database compiling House records for how much each member of the House spent on staff salaries, mailing, office space, equipment and other operating costs associated with their congressional office.

Kagen, D-Appleton, spent $452,307 on his office during the third quarter of the year and almost $1.2 million over the first nine months of the year. Both were tops among all members of the House.

Here are the rest of the numbers for Wisconsin's delegation from the Sunlight Foundation:

Paul Ryan, R-Janesville.
$382,732.80 3Q
$951,903.71 year

Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison.
$311,636.87 3Q
$922,887.56 year

Ron Kind, D-LaCrosse.
$294,526.98 3Q
$931,578.24 year

Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee.
$268,777.62 3Q
$817,093.06 year

Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls.
$280,077.35 3Q
$898,976.09 year

Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac.
$324,509.19 3Q
$935,137.05 year

Dave Obey, D-Wausau.
$248,945.40 3Q
$686,795.88 year

See the totals for all House members here.

UPDATE: This post has been updated to correct that Kagen is the top spender in the House. The original numbers provided by the Sunlight Foundation lumped together the expenses for both U.S. reps named Mike Rogers. Once those numbers were properly broken down between the Michigan Republican and the Alabama Republican, Kagen is tops among members.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

 2:58 PM 

Lawmakers ask for Forest Products Lab funding

Six members of Wisconsin's congressional delegation have asked the U.S. Forestry Service to approve contstruction of a bioenergy facility in Madison.

U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl joined U.S. Reps. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, and Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, in signing the letter to USFS Chief Tom Tidwell. The letter asks for funding from the Department of Interior Appropriations bill to be allocated to contruct a Bioenergy Pilot Project at the USDA's Forest Products Lab.

"As the only federally funded wood utilization research laboratory in the United States, the FPL has decades of experience in researching the development of transportation fuels from biomass," the lawmakers write.

The Interior bill allows the department to "partner with businesses, universities and others to help develop new energy technologies and bring those technologies to the marketplace."


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

 10:35 PM 

Feingold, Kohl vote to table abortion amendment

U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl both voted today with the majority to table an amendment to tighten restrictions on the use of federal money for abortions.

The Senate voted 54-45 to reject the amendment, which was proposed by U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., to the health care overhaul the chamber is now debating.

Anti-abortion groups have been watching to see how Kohl, D-Milwaukee, would vote on the proposal since he said earlier this year that he would vote against providing government access to abortion in the health care bill. Appearing at an "On the Issues with Mike Gousha" forum at Marquette, Kohl said, "We should not be using health care reform to provide government access to abortion. ... I would hope that people from whatever party don't try to go down that road.

UPDATE: Kohl's office released the following statement about the vote: "The health care reform bill being debated in the Senate maintains the status quo on abortion coverage and ensures that no federal funds will be used for abortion coverage. Senator Kohl opposes the use of federal funds for abortion coverage. Health care reform is about increasing access to quality, affordable care, and should not be used to change the law on abortion."


 11:42 AM 

UW scientists ask delegation to support carbon caps

A coalition of 113 scientists, mostly from University of Wisconsin schools, has sent a letter to Wisconsin's congressional delegation urging them to support legislation that seriously curbs carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions.

"The science now convinces us that calls for immediate action are warranted to avoid the worst consequences of global warming on Wisconsin's economy and environment, including the Great Lakes," the letter reads. "While slowing the damaging effects of climate change poses challenges, we also believe such action presents Wisconsin with real opportunities to reinvigorate our economy and improve the quality of life for all Wisconsinites."

Citing a report from the Center for American Progress, the scientists say a move to "green" energy sources would result in job growth.

"If, as expected, there is an increase in demand for solar, wind, building retrofitting, cellulosic biofuels, more fuel efficient transportation or mass transit options, then it is not unreasonable to expect a 25% increase in the jobs in these areas. A 25% increase would represent an additional 112,500 jobs in Wisconsin, with half of these in the manufacturing area," reads the letter.

"Doing nothing is not a viable option for Wisconsin," the scientists write. "Our state faces serious economic, social, and ecological impacts from global warming. If climate change continues on its present course, not only will we miss out on the new economic opportunities outlined above, but some of Wisconsin's industries, agriculture and tourism, could suffer."


Monday, December 7, 2009

 12:36 PM 

NYT: Sensenbrenner, others take paid trips despite new congressional rules

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, is among a handul of lawmakers singled out by a story in Sunday's New York Times for taking corporate-backed trips despite attempts to crack down on the practice in Congress.

Sensenbrenner made the list for a $14,708 trip to Germany and Liechtenstein earlier this year. The trip was arranged to study Liechtenstein's banking system with fellow House Republican Tom Price of Georgia, but the Times reports Sensebrenner also "toured a prince's vineyard and castle in Liechtenstein and spent an afternoon at a ski resort in the Alps."

The trip was paid for by a non-profit organization, but the group is backed by European companies and is headed by a lobbyist. Sensenbrenner's office told the paper the trip was cleared with House ethics officials and came at no cost to taxpayers.

"Many organizations that are seeking to educate Congressional leaders on a range of topics receive money from a variety of sources to better enable them to do so, without any cost to taxpayers," said Sensenbrenner spokeswoman Wendy Riemann.


Friday, December 4, 2009

 1:31 PM 

Pelosi rules out war surtax

The Hill reports today that a proposal floated by U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, to pay for the escalating war in Afghanistan with an additional surtax has essentially been killed by House leadership.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told the paper she does not support the idea and that "(w)ith the highest regard for Mr. Obey, that is his idea. ... He is speaking for himself."

Obey, the House Appropriations chairman who has been critical of the president's move to increase troop levels in Afghanistan, proposed the tax with other House Dems last month.

"When the president makes a request, we will make a decision," Pelosi said of funding the war.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

 3:44 PM 

Senate Judiciary Committee approves Butler nomination

Former state Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler moved one step closer Thursday to becoming a federal judge f or the Western District of Wisconsin, as he easily won the confirmation of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

Butler, nominated to the district judgeship by President Obama, was approved by the committee 12-7 with all Republicans opposed and now proceeds to the floor for a full vote of the U.S. Senate.

Given the Democrats control the chamber by a filibuster-proof 60-40 margin, Butler's confirmation is unlikely to be blocked.

- David M. Drucker


 2:27 PM 

Feingold calls for 'Buy American' focus at White House jobs summit

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, wrote a letter to the White House today asking President Obama to press for requirements that the government purchase American goods whenever possible in any future jobs-related legislation moving through Congress.

Feingold and other lawmakers requested the "Buy American" provisions as Obama convened a White House jobs summit.

"We need to do all we can to promote fiscally responsible federal policies that support the creation of American jobs to help get the unemployed and underemployed back to work," Feingold wrote. "To maximize the benefit of such policies for American workers, we urge you to include strong and effective Buy American and domestic sourcing requirements in any legislative proposals developed by your administration in response to this jobs forum."

Feingold also asked that any new "Buy American" requirements have stronger thresholds for exemptions, citing problems with the current federal Buy American Act.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

 11:48 AM 

Kagen to propose Wall St. transfer fee

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen said this morning he will soon introduce a bill with fellow House Dems to impose a transfer fee on some Wall Street transactions.

"We rescued Wall Street and now it's time to return the favor," the Appleton Democrat said in a conference call with reporters. Kagen estimated the bill would add $100 billion to $150 billion in revenue, and would exempt smaller investments and 401(k) contributions.

Kagen belives the proposal would call on Wall Street to participate in the rebuilding of the economy.

"Wall Street shouldn't be a one-way street," Kagen said. "(It should) pay its fair share."

Kagen originally proposed the transaction fee plan as a way to pay for the health care reform bill in October, but will introduce it anyway after the House passed its version of a health care bill last month.

- By Edgar Cevilla


 10:46 AM 

Wisconsin delegation reacts to Afghanistan address

Reaction from the state's congressional members is mixed to President Obama's address last night in which he called for a surge of 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. Obama also pledged to begin withdrawing troops by July 2011.

"I am thankful the President has finally decided to send additional troops overseas, as requested by our military months ago, and it is my sincere hope that his strategy succeeds," U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, said in a statement.

But Sensenbrenner added Obama should "not be setting timelines to withdraw troops, as this only motivates the terrorists to wait out Washington."

U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, said Obama "inherited a god awful mess and has no good options available," in a statement released by the House Appropriations Committee, which Obey chairs.

Obey remains concerned about the fiscal impact of the war.

"If this endeavor is to be pursued, we must have a renewed sense of shared sacrifice -- because right now only military families are paying the cost of this war," Obey said. "A progressive war surtax is the fairest way to pay for it -- fairest to working class families and fairest to military families."

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, said while she voted to authorize the use of force to track down those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, Obama's strategy "bear[s] little resemblance to that original, narrowly-focused mission.

"I cannot endorse a military surge in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It's time for our troops to come home."

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, echoed the president's conditions that Afghanistan be a "legitimate partner" in the effort to elimiate safe havens for terrorism.

"Any plan should have measurable objectives so our troops have clear direction and so we know if we are succeeding," said Kind, who last month traveled with a congressional delegation to Pakistan.

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, told reporters this morning he'll ask three questions when evaluating the Afghanistan surge: will it work, can the country afford it, and is it the right thing to do?

"We must look at, what is now, common knowledge: there are 100 Al-Qaeda members present in Afghanistan and fourty percent of the resources that we send into Afghanistan are stolen," Kagen said. He said the constituents he's talked with say the U.S. can't afford to rebuild other nations while fixing the domestic economy.

Kagen added that he's glad a the president proposed a timetable, but has doubts about whether it will stick.

"It's easy to get into Afghanistan, but it's hard to get out," Kagen said.

See more reaction here.

See U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold's reaction from Tuesday here.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

 3:52 PM 

Feingold rips Afghanistan decision

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, fired a broadside at Barack Obama's Afghanistan policy, announcing forcefully Tuesday that he opposes the president's decision to send 30,000 additional troops to the embattled Middle Eastern country.

Feingold, flanked by four members of the House of Representatives who share his views, told reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill that he disagrees with Obama's policy -- set to officially be revealed to the nation this evening during a televised prime time address -- even though he knows the president is doing what he thinks is right.

"This is a mistake, to move in the direction of a huge troop build-up," Feingold said. Obama, the senator added, "is doing what he thinks is right. We just disagree."

Feingold said he would consider pushing for several measures to stop Obama from fully implementing his new Afghanistan strategy. However, he said the Senate should not delay other matters, including the health care reform bill, to focus on the war.

"As far as I'm concerned, everything would be on the table to prevent this error from occurring," he said.

Feingold was also an ardent opponent of the Iraq war and the surge strategy employed by form President George W. Bush that followed.

UPDATE: Feingold's re-election campaign has sent an e-mail to supporters reiterating his position against the Afghanistan surge, and asking that they sign onto a petition advocating a flexible timetable for the withdrawal of American forces.

- David M. Drucker


 11:19 AM 

Obama nominates Santelle for U.S. attorney

President Obama has nominated James Santelle to be the next U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

Santelle, 51, has been an assistant U.S. attorney in Milwaukee since 1985. His service includes a stint as the U.S. Department of Justice's attache and rule of law coordinator to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad from 2006 to 2008.

The nomination requires confirmation from the U.S. Senate.

U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, and Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, issued a joint statement hailing Santelle's nomination. Both Wisconsin senators serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will take up the nomination before heading to a confirmation vote.

"Jim Santelle is a dedicated public servant who will make a fine U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin," Kohl said. "Jim's 24 years of experience as a federal prosecutor will serve him well as he transitions to lead this important office."


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· March 2013: Riemann uses PR skills, 'lunch-pail work ethic' to boost state interests in D.C.
· Feb. 2013: Stocks seeks to remake NEA as 'more than a traditional labor union'
· Dec. 2012: As modest Kohl bids farewell to Senate, others do the bragging
· Dec. 2012: Wisconsin experience provides guideposts to Priebus at RNC

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