• WisPolitics

Friday, February 26, 2010

 10:04 AM 

National Journal ranks Moore among most liberal members

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore tied with eight others as most liberal member of the House, based on voting records scored by the National Journal.

Moore, D-Milwaukee, scored a 1 on the liberal scale based on roll-call votes on key economic, social and foreign-policy issues during 2009. Her conservative score was 423.

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, got the most conservative rating of the Wisconsin delegation, raking 58 on the conservative scale and 370 on the liberal scale. Wisconsin's delegation overall is ranked as centrist, with a score of 59.5 based on the average composite liberal score.

In the Senate, Middleton Democrat Russ Feingold ranked as the 55 on the liberal scale and a 44 on the conservative scale. U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, rated a 32 score on the liberal scale and 66 on the conservative scale.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

 10:41 AM 

Morris says Kagen a swing vote on health care

Conservative blogger Dick Morris identifies U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen as one of 31 "swing" votes on the health care reform bill.

"These members are all vulnerable and are frightened of the voter backlash their support for Obamacare has kindled," writes Morris, who urges readers to contact the congressmen.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

 3:38 PM 

Ryan to participate in health care summit

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan will be among 9 Republican House members to participate in Thursday's highly anticipated White House health care summit.

Ryan, nominated for the event by House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, said he hopes for a "sincere discussion," but advocates dropping the current health care reform plans and starting over.

"I share the concerns of many Americans that tomorrow's summit will be staged more about showmanship than true bipartisanship," Ryan said in a statement. "While the cameras roll at the health care summit, we're told the Majority continues to meet in secret, cutting deals behind closed doors to jam a government-takeover through Congress."

In addition to the nine forum participants, Boehner named 17 members of his caucus as to a 'Truth Squad' on health care. Boehner says the group will "fact-check misstatements from Washington Democrats and highlight Republicans' better solutions to lower health care costs."

UPDATE: See Ryan's remarks at the summit here.

 2:08 PM 

Feingold: Let small businesses compete for rail contracts

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold wants the impending contracts to construct high-speed rail lines in Wisconsin given to local firms, even if it means breaking up the $822 million projects into smaller pieces.

Feingold asked Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to "best fulfill the promise of job creation" by ensuring Wisconsin small business' ability to compete for the contracts during LaHood's testimony before the Senate Budget Committee Wednesday. Stimulus projects in the La Crosse area drew controversy earlier this month when the contracts were awarded entirely to out-of-state companies.

"With $822 million in stimulus funds behind it, the high speed rail project holds incredible potential for Wisconsin's economy and Wisconsin jobs," Feingold said in a statement. "I want to be sure this project is benefiting Wisconsin as much as possible, including making sure Wisconsin businesses can compete for the variety of construction jobs that go into expanding high speed rail."

LaHood responded that the grant agreements between the U.S. DOT and the state would allow small businesses to participate.

"We want to make sure that those that want to get in the high-speed rail manufacturing business have an opportunity to do that," LaHood said.

Feingold also sent a letter to Gov. Jim Doyle and White House Budget Director Peter Orszag on the issue of local competition for stimulus projects.

 11:05 AM 

Kagen calls Senate jobs bill 'anemic'

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen said the jobs bill the Senate approved this morning is "anemic" and may not have the impact his constituents need in northeastern Wisconsin.

"I think we have to again focus on allowing private enterprise to return once again and grow the jobs that we need to work our way through this," Kagen said during a conference call with reporters.

The $15 billion bill, approved 70-28, is well short of the $154 billion bill the House approved late last year. The Senate version included a range of tax credits and highways funds. But it lacks provisions like an extension of unemployment benefits that the House approved.

Kagen said he has proposed things like an immediate tax credit for anyone who expands a payroll to help create jobs, but believes a major hurdle that remains is a lack of access to capital. He said big banks don't seem willing to "play ball" on offering credit to employers and the government should consider a direct lending program if needed.

Kagen also said he's read an 11-page summary of the president's new health care bill, but was reserving judgment until he's seen the entire bill. He credited the president for bringing people together on the issue, but wondered why lawmakers have been unable to pass the "80 percent" of the House and Senate bills that he says everyone seems to agree on.

Kagen also said he's open to the Senate using reconciliation to approve a health care bill, a move that would allow that chamber to pass the legislation with a simple majority rather than getting the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.

"What that really means is majority rule, and that's how our Founding Fathers put us together," Kagen said.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

 5:53 PM 

GOP lashes out at Feingold over reconciliation

Republicans are jumping on U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold for indicating a willingness to consider the use of reconciliation to pass health care reform.

Feingold, D-Middleton, has previously criticized the use of reconciliation, which only requires a majority vote in the Senate rather than the 60 needed to break a filibuster, to pass bills unless they are primarily aimed at reducing the deficit.

Senate Dems are now considering that option since their majority has dropped to 59-41 with the election of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts. So long as they could get 50 votes to support the bill, Vice President Joe Biden could cast the tie breaking vote to push the legislation through.

"Reconciliation was intended to be used to reduce budget deficits," Feingold said in a statement. "It isn't appropriate to use it to move wide-ranging health care reform measures, such as the bills passed by the House and Senate. But I am open to using reconciliation to enact provisions that are targeted specifically at reducing budget deficits."

State GOP chair Reince Priebus accused Feingold of flip-flopping on the issue.

"After 17 years in office, Feingold's doublespeak is catching up to him. He can no longer maintain the maverick facade he's worked so hard to cultivate," Priebus said in a statement.

GOP challenger Terrence Wall accused Feingold of ignoring Wisconsin opposition to the bill.

"Instead of looking for ways to railroad unpopular legislation through Congress, he should be looking for ways to jumpstart our economy and create jobs," Wall said in a statement.

Monday, February 22, 2010

 4:59 PM 

Doyle seeks health insurance exchange at NGA

Gov. Jim Doyle lobbied President Obama today on the need for an "exchange" that allows small businesses employees access to affordable health insurance.

"In Wisconsin, it is really what we need to do to close the gap in insurance," Doyle said from Washington, D.C., where he was attending the National Governor's Association winter meeting and other events.

Doyle said the exchange is particularly crucial for middle class families who earn too much to apply for BadgerCare.

Doyle also met with EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to discuss the $775 million plan to improve the quality of the Great Lakes.

Doyle said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner didn't attend a meeting today because he had to attend a service for an IRS employee killed last week in Texas. But he said he met with top advisers to Geithner, talking about ways to facilitate the movement of credit to small businesses and manufacturers.

Doyle said he has heard from manufacturers in the state that access to credit remains tight. Doyle said pieces of a jobs creation bill currently in the U.S. Senate will help to get the proper credit mechanisms in place.

"Now that orders are picking up, they really need to have that financing to really spur this recovery," he said.

Doyle said he and other governors had a two-hour meeting this morning with Obama, including a session where the president took questions for more than an hour.

"It was pretty extraordinary ... in past years it's been usually pretty scripted," Doyle said.

Doyle defended Obama's handling of the stimulus.

"I think he's done great. I don't understand the criticisms," Doyle said.

Doyle said without the stimulus, the state of the economy in Wisconsin would be "twice as bad."

"People ask me, `Where are the stimulus jobs?' And I say go up and down your school and look at every 10th teacher in a classroom. That teacher wouldn't be there if it hadn't been for the Recovery Act," Doyle said.

 3:38 PM 

Feingold, Kohl react to White House health care plan

Wisconsin's U.S. senators both praised aspects of the health insurance reform package released by White House today.

The plan, which the Obama administration says would cover 31 million additional Americans, is set to be discussed Thursday at a bipartisan summit on health care at the Blair House in Washington.

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, praised the proposal's impact on the federal deficit and insurance company abuses.

"I am also pleased that the bipartisan health summit on Thursday will be televised and out in the open where it belongs," Feingold said in a statement. "After listening to the people of Wisconsin, it is clear that they want reform that creates competition and accountability for insurance companies and lowers costs for hardworking families and small businesses."

"The White House proposal contains many common-sense ideas that enjoy the support of both Democrats and Republicans," added U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, in a statement. "It's time for us to finish the job of fixing a health system that leaves millions of Americans without access to the care they need and our country on a path to unsustainable health care costs."

Friday, February 19, 2010

 3:12 PM 

Moore heads to Haiti

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, accompanied a five-member congressional delegation to Haiti today in order to assess humanitarian relief in the earthquake-ravaged Caribbean nation.

"This is an opportunity to see relief efforts firsthand and assess what else can be done," Moore said in a statement. "It will also help us determine how to provide the most effective aid to the Haitian people in their recovery."

Moore joined fellow U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott, D-Va., Michael Burgess, R-Tex., Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Michael Capuano, D-Mass., on the trip.

 10:02 AM 

Rasmussen poll: Feingold edging Wall, Westlake

A new poll from Rasmussen shows U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold leading his two GOP challengers among likely voters, though he doesn't exceed 50 percent against either Terrence Wall or David Westlake.

Feingold leads Wall 47 percent to 39 percent, with 7 percent undecided. His lead over Westlake was 47 percent to 37 percent, with 10 percent undecided.

Rasmussen also again paired Feingold against former Gov. Tommy Thompson. In a January poll, Rasmussen had Thompson up 47-43. In the latest poll, Thompson was leading 48-43 with 5 percent undecided.

Republicans have used the Rasmussen polls to call Feingold vulnerable, but Dems dispute the poll's findings.

See reaction from Wall's campaign here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

 5:04 PM 

Ad targets Kagen on health care

The conservative-leaning group 60 Plus is targeting U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen with a radio and TV ad that encourages Dems to start over on health care reform.

The spots follow similar themes, featuring seniors who complain that "Washington simply isn't listening," Congress and the president promised transparency but have instead "passed back room deals," and lawmakers included special deals like the "Cornhusker kickback" and the "Louisiana purchase" in the legislation.

"The American people call it corruption," one senior says in the radio and TV ad.

The radio version includes the follow up line, "Americans deserve better than that."

Both spots urge people to call Kagen and urge him to start over on the legislation.

A spokesman for 60 Plus, which bills itself as the conservative alternative to AARP, said the spots started today in the Green Bay market and will run for a week. The group is spending $500,000 to target 18 lawmakers. The spokesman didn't have numbers immediately available on how much of the effort was directed at Kagen.

Check out both spots in AdWatch

 3:04 PM 

Palin endorses Duffy

Sarah Palin is promoting 7th CD candidate Sean Duffy's money bomb today on her Facebook page.

In an entry that criticizes the federal stimulus package the president signed a year ago, Palin writes about the need to send "Commonsense Conservatives" to Washington, D.C., singling out Duffy as one of the many "daring Davids" who will "take on entrenched Goliaths."

"On this first anniversary of the stimulus, let's send a message to the big-spenders in Washington by helping Sean Duffy unseat the author of the stimulus," Palin wrote. "Let's put government back on our side and get to work revitalizing America!"

Duffy issued a statement saying he was "absolutely thrilled" to have Palin's support, and his campaign says he's the first House challenger to be endorsed by the former Alaska governor and vice-presidential nominee.

 2:01 PM 

Milwaukee gets stimulus funding on act's first anniversary

As Democrats and Republicans go back and forth on the impact of the federal stimulus act on its one-year anniversary, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore is lauding the awarding of stimulus funding for two bridge projects in her district.

The $21.5 million award, announced by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, would go toward two bridges over the downtown Milwaukee River. The Wisconsin Avenue bridge would be rehabilitated, while the Juneau Avenue bridge would be replaced entirely.

"Funding these necessary improvements will create good construction jobs and ensure that these bridges can help businesses move goods and link workers to their jobs for years to come," Moore said in a statement.

 9:53 AM 

Baldwin: Economic growth depends on exports

The U.S. economy has improved since a year ago when it was on the "brink of financial collapse, but it's still not on solid ground yet," U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, said Tuesday at a seminar on boosting exports from Wisconsin.

"Economic growth depends in part on increasing exports," she told operators of small and medium-sized businesses who attended the gathering at the UW-Madison School of Business.

Baldwin also lauded President Obama's recently announced National Export Initiative to add more federal funding and assistance, with the goal of doubling exports over the next five years to support 2 million jobs.

"The federal government wants to help you grow your businesses," she said.

Fred Hochberg, president of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, also spoke at the conference and told attendees that while this country cannot compete with low-cost producers, it can excel at selling aviation, construction, medical and other high-tech equipment abroad.

See more coverage from WisBusiness.com

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

 11:47 AM 

Rothenberg says Feingold remains safe

Stuart Rothenberg has Wisconsin's Senate race among his safe seats for incumbents, and he believes Terrence Wall has a long way to go before he can be considered a serious challenger to Russ Feingold.

Rothberg's latest rankings list four seats that lean takeover, all of which are now held by Dems, and eight seats that are toss ups, four held by Dems, four by Republicans.

Following yesterday's news that Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., is opting against a re-election bid, Rothenberg also took a look at the prospect of Republicans winning back control of the Senate, which Dems how hold 59-41.

He believes Republicans have the opportunity now to net eight seats, not enough to win control, but still "a huge number, especially considering that Democrats have 18 seats up this fall." Rothenberg believes Republicans have the advantage in four Dem-held seats -- North Dakota, Delaware, Arkansas and Nevada -- and are "no worse than even money" in four others -- Indiana, Illinois, Colorado and Pennsylvania.

Any chance of winning the 10 seats needed for GOP control would mean winning all those seats, holding the open GOP seats and picking off at least two of the following Senate races: Connecticut, California, Wisconsin and Washington.

Here's what Rothenberg writes about Wisconsin:

"In Wisconsin, some polling has shown Sen. Russ Feingold (D) having trouble in a race against former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R). The only problem is that Thompson isn't now running for the Senate, though he is considering it. And Feingold, who voted against the Troubled Asset Relief Program, is a savvy politician who has developed a reputation for independence.

"The main Republican contender currently is Terrence Wall, a prosperous real estate developer who put $300,000 into his campaign but hasn't paid state taxes in nine of the past 10 years. Democrats apparently have other tax ammunition to use against Wall.

"When I interviewed Wall recently, he refused to give his date of birth. He only offered the year of his birth (and his age), apparently because he is concerned about identity theft. Wall, in other words, has a long way to go before he is a serious threat to Feingold, even in a bad year for Democrats."

Friday, February 12, 2010

 12:41 PM 

Kind asks White House to reform bidding process for stimulus projects

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind sent a letter to President Obama and Vice President Biden today urging the federal government to accept bids from local firms on projects funded by the federal stimulus bill.

The issue came to light after recent reports that La Crosse-area contractors were shut out of bidding on $12.5 million in environmental projects on the Upper Mississippi River. The U.S. Geological Survey cited pressure to get projects funded as quickly as possible as the rationale for awarding the contracts to out-of-state companies.

"Any company that believes it can do a better job at a better price for the American taxpayer should be allowed to bid on Recovery Act projects, even if it entails a slight delay in awarding contracts," Kind said in a statement. "It is important to get these projects underway as quickly as possible but unless local contractors are provided an opportunity to compete for projects, the job creating impact in our local communities will be drastically and unacceptably limited."

The La Crosse Dem asked the president to issue an Executive Order to reform the stimulus project bidding process.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

 4:59 PM 

Becerra, Ryan trade 'Roadmap' barbs

Democrats continued to hammer U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's "Roadmap to America's Future 2.0" plan today, with U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra telling Wisconsin reporters it would finance the reckless spending of the Bush administration on the backs of seniors.

Becerra, D-Calif., a member of the House Budget Committee with Ryan, and Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, spoke this afternoon in a conference call organized by the state Democratic Party. Baker said he was disappointed the plan contained few new proposals and called the measure to adjust Social Security for workers entering retirement in the coming decades "absolutely bizarre."

"It's great for people to have money to put in the market," Baker said of the proposal to increase privatization of Social Security. "But the whole point of Social Security is that it's your core retirement income that's supposed to be there no matter what."

Baker also criticized Ryan's proposals for Medicare.

"This is something that people value. It basically works, and he wants to replace it with a voucher system," Baker charged. "Of course we could save lots of money, but we're not going to give people the Medicare they need."

Becerra praised Ryan as a "thoughtful guy, bright individual, dedicated person to his principles," but said the plan reflected a "purity in thought" rather than responsible budgeting.

"It's good to have a counterpoint. ... We have been talking about moving the country forward as Democrats," Becerra said. "Now we know how to compare the president's and Democrats' ideas to something, versus just 'no.'"

Ryan fired back in his own conference call that while the economic collapse of October 2008 "was not one we necessarily saw coming," the nature and timing of a looming crisis in entitlement programs is clearly defined.

"If your congressman knew this crisis was coming -- knew the nature of it, the timing of it and what would be necessary to prevent it, but chose not to do so because it just wasn't good politics, what would you want to do with that person?" Ryan asked. "You'd probably want to fire that congressperson."

"I just feel a responsibility to the people who elected me from southern Wisconsin that if I see a really big problem on the horizon it's my job to work to try to fix it," he said.

Ryan said his hope is that other Republicans and Democrats are inspired to do their own plans and sounded disappointed his attempt has become political cannon fodder. He said that shows him Dems aren't ready to have a serious discussion about addressing the problem.

"I was excited to begin with when the president elevated my plan in impromptu remarks in Baltimore the other day only to find out two days later that it was going to become the subject of very organized and concerted, partisan, demagogic attacks from the Democratic political machine," he said.

Ryan said his plan fulfills the mission of health and retirement security, pays off the national debt and makes the American economy more competitive.

Ryan said Medicare and Social Security are "going broke in just a handful of years."

He said his plan doesn't make changes to Social Security benefits for those above 55, but would make modifications to the benefits of higher-income individuals and gradually increase the retirement age to 70 by the end of the century.

It also provides an option for younger individuals to have a third of their payroll taxes go into a private account managed by Social Security, "just like I have as a congressman," Ryan said.

"Not privatized, meaning you go to a stockbroker and he picks some stock for you -- managed in safe and secure index funds by Social Security in a very conservative way so that you get a better rate of return," he said.

Ryan's plan has received some generally favorable reviews from the Congressional Budget Office.

Perhaps the bottom line of the 50-page CBO report came on page 5: "The Roadmap, in the form that CBO analyzed, would result in less federal spending ... On balance, those changes would reduce federal budget deficits and the federal debt."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

 9:12 AM 

Shelby holds lifted

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby has lifted his hold on some 70 presidential nominations.

The office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said yesterday the hold applied to all appointments pending on the executive calendar. That included the nominations of Louis Butler and William Conley to the federal bench in Madison and Winslow Sargeant to a post with the Small Business Administration.

But in a statement announcing Shelby, R-Ala., was lifting the hold, a spokesman insisted the move did not apply to the nominations of uniform military personnel, federal judges or Treasury nominees.

Shelby issued the hold Friday to put pressure on the Obama administration over two projects affecting his home state.

Monday, February 8, 2010

 4:46 PM 

Feds announce $80 million to combat Asian carp

Federal officials today announced a series of short- and long-term steps to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes -- including a plan to redirect nearly $80 million to the effort.

The announcements followed a White House summit on the invasive fish.

Following the meeting with Gov. Jim Doyle and other Great Lakes governors, a 46-page Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework was released by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the Council on Environmental Quality, said the draft plan represents "an unparalleled effort on the part of the federal government to control invasive species."

"We can and will stop the Asian carp from establishing themselves in the Great Lakes," Sutley said.

The plan presents 25 proposals to combat the invasive fish, from reducing the openings of the Chicago navigational locks to increasing the educational and enforcement tools regarding the transfer of carp. The framework features an initial allocation of $78.5 million, most of which is being redirected from the $475 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in the 2010 budget.

Doyle said he was most encouraged by the plan's major new efforts to net and shock fish in the Chicago channel, as well as the government's decision to expedite construction of a third river barrier to be completed by September.

Doyle lamented that federal officials declined to immediately close the Chicago locks -- the subject of a lawsuit backed by Wisconsin and Michigan -- but he said the locks weren't a cure-all for blocking the invasive fish.

"The locks were not built as fish barriers," Doyle said. "Closing them does not ensure that fish do not get through."

A report on the options regarding the locks will be presented to the Army Corps on Engineers in March. Doyle otherwise praised the Obama administration's response to the problem.

"This is the most attention we've ever had to (invasive species)," Doyle said.

See the plan at http://www.asiancarp.org/

 2:37 PM 

Shelby holds up Butler, Conley, Sargeant nominations

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby's hold on presidential nominees appears to have snagged three Wisconsin appointments.

The move holds up the nominations of Louis Butler and William Conley to the federal bench in Madison, as well as the appointment of Winslow Sargeant to be chief counsel for advocacy in the Small Business Administration.

Shelby, R-Ala., put the hold on the nominations Friday to pressure the administration on military projects that impact his home state.

The office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said today that hold applies to all appointments pending on the executive calendar, which includes the appointments of Butler, Conley and Sargeant.

The Senate could overturn the hold by cobbling together 60 votes, but that would require at least one GOP member breaking ranks to join Dems in removing the hold. The president could also pursue recess appointments with the Senate going on break next week.

See the executive calendar with the various appointments pending:

 9:49 AM 

Ryan: Nation headed for fiscal crisis

The nation is headed for a fiscal crisis, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan warned on Sunday's "Upfront with Mike Gousha," while the Janesville Republican decried an atmosphere in Washington he says discourages proposals to address the problem.

Ryan, who is the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, recently released his "Roadmap For America's Future 2.0" budget plan that would simplify the tax code and revamp Medicare and Social Security for those under 55.

Ryan said his plan has been met with "political demagoguery" and "mischaracterization."

"You know what message that sends to people in Congress?" Ryan said. "Don't propose anything."

See more coverage here.

Friday, February 5, 2010

 8:58 AM 

Ryan, Dems go back-and-forth on GOP budget proposal

One week ago, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan was one of the most visible Republicans in Congress, engaging in a series of back-and-forths with President Barack Obama and drawing compliments from the commander-in-chief during his visit to a GOP caucus meeting in Baltimore.

But this week, the Janesville Republican's allies see the Baltimore episodes as a set-up. House Democrats and the White House have slammed Ryan's proposed "Roadmap for America's Future 2.0" all week, and U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., told Politico the plan was obvious. He says the president highlighted Ryan's ideas last week so that his allies could tee off on them this week.

Ryan -- who engaged in heated exchanges with White House Budget Director Peter Orszag and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in House Budget Committee hearings this week -- drew Orszag's attention at a briefing Monday, in which the budget director said the Roadmap plan "provides a contrast."

"There are many aspects of that that are worthy of further discussion and debate, but it is a dramatically different approach in which much more risk is loaded onto individuals and in which the Medicare program in particular is dramatically changed from its current structure," Orszag said.

Politico reports House Dems hammered the plan in a Thursday conference call, with U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., calling it an "excise tax on steroids." And the article notes even Republican leadership treaded cautiously on the Roadmap plan. House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio reiterated the plan was Ryan's, and said many of his caucus members are "creatively looking at how (we) solve the nation's problems."

Thursday, February 4, 2010

 10:24 AM 

Butler nomination passes Senate Judiciary Committee -- again

Former state Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler has been confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee for a second time as President Obama's nominee to the federal bench in Madison.

Butler's nomination was approved on a 12-7 party line vote, the same margin as his confirmation vote in December. The nomination process had to restart because the nomination was sent back to the White House after the Senate failed to confirm him by the end of last year.

In an opening statement at the hearing, U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl described Butler's qualities of "intelligence, diligence, humility and integrity."

"We are confident that the people of Madison and all of Wisconsin will be enormously proud of him and that he will serve them well. I urge my colleagues to support his swift confirmation," Kohl, D-Milwaukee, said.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

 1:24 PM 

Limbaugh says latest bin Laden statement 'could easily be Russ Feingold'

The state Democratic Party is asking the GOP's two prospective U.S. Senate candidates -- Madison developer Terrence Wall and Watertown businessman David Westlake -- to indicate whether they agree with Rush Limbaugh after the conservative talk show host referenced U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold during his Friday broadcast.

Limbaugh, while going through the transcript of a recently-released tape from Osama bin Laden, paused during his reading of bin Laden's remarks about climate change to ask, "Does this not sound like an average Democrat? It sounds like this could easily be Russ Feingold, the Senator from Wisconsin."

"This isn't the first, and certainly won't be the last time Limbaugh has crossed the line," said DPW Executive Director Mike Tate in a statement. "Are Wall and Westlake going to follow him?"

Feingold's campaign sent out an email to supporters responding to Limbaugh's comparison, saying "(T)his is the sort of slash and burn politics that we are up against."

 12:09 PM 

Wisconsin Dems get 'A' from poverty group

The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law issued its "Poverty Scorecard 2009" today, grading every member of Congress based on their votes on 14 bills the center argues would help fight poverty in the country.

All Democrats in the Wisconsin delegation ended up with A's. Four of the state's Dem members of Congress -- U.S. Reps. Tammy Baldwin, Steve Kagen, Ron Kind and Dave Obey -- garnered A-pluses from the group.

Of the Republicans in the Wisconsin delegation, U.S. Reps. Paul Ryan and Jim Sensenbrenner received F's, and U.S. Rep. Tom Petri received a C.

See the Wisconsin grades here.

 10:36 AM 

Kagen: Small business tax credit should be based on payroll

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen touted a job creation tax credit proposal today, arguing that basing the credit on payroll increases would drive economic development better than a credit strictly based on job creation.

Kagen's proposal would allow qualifying small businesses to claim a tax credit through payroll increases, rather than awarding a $5,000 credit for job creation as President Obama outlined last week. Business owners could then access the tax credit through increases in wages or hours in addition to an increased workforce.

"Business owners are not interested in hiring people to get a check; they want customers coming through their doors," the Appleton Democrat said in a conference call with reporters.

Kagen also defended the president's $3.8 trillion budget, saying Americans must "never forget how we got into this mess."

"We can't pay off our house in one month or one year," Kagen said, estimating it would take as many as four years to restore order to the federal deficit. But he stressed he remains committed to getting government to "live within our means."

- By Eva PenzeyMoog

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

 5:22 PM 

Time mag dubs Duffy one of 10 possible Scott Browns this fall

Time magazine has dubbed 7th CD challenger Sean Duffy one of 10 Republican candidates for congress this fall who could be the next Scott Brown.

"In a normal year, Wisconsin Democrat David Obey, the powerful head of the House appropriations committee, would not have to worry. But normal years do not bring challengers like Sean Duffy, a successful district attorney who also happens to be a former star of MTV's The Real World (Boston), a champion lumberjack competitor, and an ESPN commentator," the magazine writes bout Duffy.

Others on the list include Florida U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio, Delaware U.S. Senate candidate Mike Castle and U.S. House candidate Richard Hanna of New York.

See Duffy's profile.

Monday, February 1, 2010

 1:13 PM 

Obey leads House delegation in 4th quarter fundraising

U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, raised nearly $300,000 for his congressional campaign during the last quarter of 2009, the most among the Wisconsin delegation according to reports due today to the Federal Election Commission.

Obey, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, reported $1.1 million on hand at the end of the year. The 7th CD is being targeted by Republicans who view the 40-year incumbent as potentially vulnerable in the current political climate, but Obey raised more than twice as much as his top GOP competitor over the quarter.

Ashland County DA Sean Duffy reported $146,602 raised in his race to oust Obey, and reported $220,462 on hand. His campaign says that represents a quarterly fundraising record for a challenger to Obey. Duffy's primary rival, 2008 GOP nominee and Rudolph farmer Dan Mielke, raised $25,185 raised -- mostly from his own pocket and through in-kind donations -- but had just $2,697 on hand.

Other incumbents disclosing their fundraising to the FEC include:

-- 8th CD: Steve Kagen, D-Appleton and the most vulnerable member of the Wisconsin delegation, raised $152,887 and reported $552,601 on hand. He has 7 Republicans lining up to challenge him, including state Rep. Roger Roth of Appleton ($53,082 raised, $38,521 on hand); Kaukauna roofing contractor Reid Ribble ($52,020 raised, $115,739 on hand); Green Bay physician Marc Trager ($46,125 raised, $41,877 on hand); former Appleton state Rep. Terri McCormick ($12,895 raised, $29,826 on hand); and Door Co. Supv. Marc Savard ($6,557 raised, $4,104 on hand). Campaign finance information for three other candidates -- Brown Co. Supv. Andy Williams, and conservative activist Kerry Thomas and independent candidate Joseph Stern -- was not immediately available.

-- 6th CD: U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, reported $911,050 on hand after raising $44,908 during the quarter. He has no declared opponents yet.

-- 5th CD: Longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, reports $62,921 raised and a war chest of $427,512. Democrat Todd Kolosso, a Menomonee Falls businessman, raised $5,001 and reported $25,481 in the bank.

-- 4th CD: In the state's most partisan district, Milwaukee Dem U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore raised $106,121 but reports $76,647 on hand. Republican Dan Sebring reported raising $1,685 over the period, but had just $707 on hand.

-- 3rd CD: U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, who passed on a run for governor to seek re-election to the House, reported raising $177,830 toward a war chest of $1.13 million. The La Crosse Dem will face state Sen. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse, who raised $66,407 and had $141,823 on hand.

-- 2nd CD: U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin raised $159,559 during the last quarter of 2009 and had a congressional war chest of $645,407. Republican Peter Theron, the Madison teacher looking to take on Baldwin again after losing to her in 2008, raised $1,130 with a cash on-hand total of $3,720. He faces a primary against Mt. Horeb businessman Chad Lee, who has not yet filed.

-- 1st CD: U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, reported raising $247,127 during the period. He has just under $1.6 million cash on hand, the largest war chest of the Wisconsin delegation. His 2008 Dem opponent, activist Paulette Garin, is his lone declared opponent. She reported just $500 raised and $546 on hand.

See more at fec.gov.

 1:01 PM 

Ryan rips White House budget proposal

President Obama's announcement of a $3.8 trillion budget proposal today -- including a projected $5.08 trillion in deficit spending over the next five years -- drew a rebuke from the House GOP's budget committee, headed by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Janesville.

"The President's FY 2011 budget doubles the debt in 5 years and triples it by FY 2019 from FY 2008 levels," according to an analysis from the committee. "It would push the debt to $9.3 trillion this year, or 63.6% of gross domestic product, the largest debt in history and the largest debt as a share of our economy in 59 years."

Republicans dubbed the spending, taxes and deficits "breathtaking," and said the administration is using fiscal schemes and "sleights of hand" to make the document more palatable.

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, said in a statement the budget "begins to tackle our deficit problem by freezing spending for many programs."

"More should be done to get deficits under control, and it should be done in a bi-partisan manner, and I look forward to being part of that effort."

See more reaction on the WisPolitics press release page.

 10:23 AM 

Ryan asks Obama for more spending limits, line-item veto support

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan was featured prominently in Friday's GOP House Issues Conference in Baltimore, in which Republican members asked policy questions of President Obama.

Ryan, of Janesville, was the second GOP member to ask a question of the president. After introducing his family, Ryan asked for additional, quicker spending constraints than the ones Obama proposed in his State of the Union address last week.

"The spending bills that you've signed into law, the domestic discretionary spending has been increased by 84 percent. You now want to freeze spending at this elevated beginning next year," Ryan said. "This means that total spending in your budget would grow at 3/100ths of 1 percent less than otherwise. I would simply submit that we could do more and start now."

Obama responded that most of those spending increases "were not as a consequence of policies that we initiated but instead were built in as a consequence of the automatic stabilizers that kick in because of this enormous recession." He added that implementing additional cuts before the next fiscal year could damage the still-vulnerable economy.

Ryan also asked the president to consider his proposal to implement a line-item veto for federal spending measures -- a bill co-authored by Dem U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold of Middleton. Obama responded, "I think there's not a President out there that wouldn't love to have it. And I think that this is an area where we can have a serious conversation."

Obama also referenced a Ryan proposal to reform Medicare to point out the "political vulnerability" of tinkering with entitlement programs.

"If the main question is going to be what do we do about Medicare costs, any proposal that Paul makes will be painted, factually, from the perspective of those who disagree with it, as cutting benefits over the long term," Obama said.

The president also used Ryan as an example of the deteriorating political discourse in Washington.

"We've got to be careful about what we say about each other sometimes, because it boxes us in in ways that makes it difficult for us to work together, because our constituents start believing us," Obama said. "So just a tone of civility instead of slash and burn would be helpful. The problem we have sometimes is a media that responds only to slash-and-burn-style politics. You don't get a lot of credit if I say, 'You know, I think Paul Ryan is a pretty sincere guy and has a beautiful family.' Nobody is going to run that in the newspapers."

"And by the way, in case he's going to get a Republican challenge, I didn't mean it," Obama quipped. "Don't want to hurt you, man."

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· 1st CD: Paul Ryan (R)
· 2nd CD: Mark Pocan (D)
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· 4th CD: Gwen Moore (D)
· 5th CD: F. James Sensenbrenner (R)
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