U.S. Sen. John McCain today praised departing Senate colleague Russ Feingold, saying the Middleton Democrat always "had the courage of his convictions."
"Without intending it as a commentary on his successor, I have to confess I think the Senate will be a much poorer place without Russ Feingold in it," the Arizona Republican said.
"I can’t do justice in these remarks to all of Russ’ many qualities or express completely how much I think this institution benefited from his service here and how much I benefited from knowing him. I lack the eloquence," McCain added. "I don’t think he is replaceable. We would all do well to keep his example in our minds as we serve our constituents and country and convictions. We couldn’t have a better role model."
McCain and Feingold most famously formed the namesake of their landmark campaign finance reform law that passed in 2004.
U.S. Rep. Tom Petri today called for an audit of the U.S. Postal Service's proposal to close its Oshkosh distribution center, saying in a letter to USPS officials that its decision process has "raised numerous questions."
The USPS has proposed consolidating its Oshkosh and Green Bay facilities into a single operation in Brown County, arguing the move would save $4.6 million. But Petri said the postal service hasn't fully analyzed all of the savings and costs associated with the move.
"I would like assurance that USPS has taken into consideration all the one-time costs associated with this potential consolidation, such as the costs of relocating and retraining staff, moving mail processing equipment, and redesigning the facility to accommodate the new equipment, increased truck traffic and increased mail volume," the Fond du Lac Republican wrote to Post Office Inspector General David Williams.
Petri also ripped the "lack of information provided to my office, postal employees, and the local community" from the USPS regarding the proposal.
Outside groups spent at least $11.8 million on Wisconsin's congressional races during the 2010 election cycle, according to one reckoning from a D.C. group.
The Center for Responsive Politics also estimated that Republican-backed spending beat Dem-backed spending among the outside funding. CRP noted that not all outside spending in Wisconsin could be broken down on such a partisan basis.
Groups spending either in favor of Republicans or against Dems spent nearly $5.3 million, while spending either in support of Dems or opposing GOP candidates exceeded $3.9 million.
The state's U.S. Senate race drew the most outside spending with more than $4.1 million reported to the FEC as of Nov. 3.
Three congressional races in the state also saw outside money, led by the open 7th CD with $3.7 million in outside spending. The 8th CD saw $2.7 million in outside spending, followed by the 3rd CD with $1.3 million. Republicans won the 7th and 8th, but lost in the 3rd.
Reid Ribble's first week in Washington, D.C. as a congressman-elect left him frustrated, exhilarated -- and amazed.
“I’ve experienced a full range of emotions,” the Kaukauna Republican told WisPolitics.com on Thursday. “From frustration, too much information coming at me too fast — it’s been a little bit too difficult to absorb — to exhilaration, to just a profound sense of responsibility.
“We went out on the House floor for the first time the other night,” Ribble continued. “It begins to weigh on you when you realize that, when you put that card in to vote, you’re speaking for 600,000 Americans, and that matters. … There was this profundity of the whole thing that kind of captured your emotions there and this whole sense, ‘Wow, I’m really here.’”
Ribble is eying committees that best suit the 8th Congressional District and provide him a chance to put his business skills to work. For the purposes of aiding the district, Ribble is interested in serving on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and on the Agriculture Committee. In terms of Ribble’s skill set, he would like to serve on the Energy and Commerce Committee and on the Financial Services Committee.
But all four of those committees are traditionally so in demand that it's difficult for freshman to get on them.
See more from Ribble's interview with WisPolitics here.
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind says the failure of national leaders from both parties to work together caused the volatility in the last two elections.
Kind, who voted last week against U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi's successful bid to lead House Democrats again, said top party leaders are treating politics as blood sport with the goal of destroying political opponents.
“The volatility we're going through in the recent elections might be something that will continue until the right leadership is in place that can address the concerns that people wake up and have to deal with each day in their lives,” the La Crosse Democrat said on Sunday’s “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” a statewide TV newsmagazine produced in conjunction with WisPolitics.com.
Some Dems suggested Kind make a run for the post, but Kind said he's not interested in the position as he would like to be able to focus on issues facing Wisconsin and because he has two young boys to raise.
Kind said Americans want people on both sides of the aisle to focus on jobs.
“I think they want us to get together, talk and listen to each other, find the common ground that's necessary to get this economy back on track creating good paying jobs,” Kind said.
U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, joined the ranking GOP member of the House Transportation Committee today to ask for a review of new pat down procedures for airline passengers enacted this month by the federal Transportation Safety Administration.
In a letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole, Petri and U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Florida, called the new procedures "overly instrusive," and suggested they should only be used to resolve initial concerns about passengers.
“Security has to be our number one concern, but there has to be a better way than the alternatives TSA has chosen,” said Petri, who serves as ranking member of the committee's Aviation Subcommittee, in a statement. “Really now, who thinks the public will put up with the kind of behavior that would get you arrested if you weren't working for the government? Do we really expect Grandma to go through this?”
The vote failed 258 to 154 yesterday, and Wisconsin's delegation split 5-3 along partisan lines.
U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, noted that 800,000 Americans will see their unemployment benefits expire this month, and the number will grow to 2 million by the end of the year.
“While I agree that we have to make tough choices to get our fiscal house in order, it shouldn’t come at the expense of those who have no other way to buy groceries, especially during these times when it isn’t easy to find a job to support your family,” she said.
U.S. Rep.-elect Sean Duffy says in a column he contributed to Politico that he will introduce a motion to ban earmarks for the 112th Congress, and he takes a swipe at his predecessor Dave Obey.
He said he is making the motion with the blessing of Speaker-designate John Boehner, R-Ohio, and incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
"Anyone who's been listening to the American people can tell you that banning earmarks is a no-brainer," Duffy, R-Ashland, writes. "Throughout the year, Americans clamored for Washington to stop spending and start focusing on creating jobs. But Americans weren’t being heard."
"In fact, it was wasteful and outrageous spending that convinced me that I needed to run for Congress," writes Duffy. "I watched as my representative, David Obey (D-Wis.), chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, led the effort to pass the “stimulus” and massive spending bills, which left us with record deficits — and my six children, and America’s children, with a massive bill."
Obey did not run for re-election after serving Wisconsin's 7th CD for 40 years.
UPDATE: The House GOP caucus has approved Duffy's motion, joining Senate Republicans in banning earmarks.
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, said he did not support Nancy Pelosi for minority leader in a vote today of the Dem caucus.
"It's time we have leaders in both parties who can come together, sit down and address the challenges our country is facing to get our country moving in the right direction again," Kind said in a statement to WisPolitics. "I just don't see that ability or intention in either party right now. And given the current economic situation, we need leaders who are willing to find common ground and focus on getting our economy back on track and creating good paying jobs."
Kind was targeted heavily by outside groups in his western Wisconsin district over his connections to Pelosi in TV ads that accused him of being beholden to her agenda.
According to national reports, Pelosi, D-Calif., beat North Carolina U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler 150-43 in the closed-door vote.
The office of Dem Rep. Gwen Moore said the Milwaukee lawmaker supported Pelosi. A spokeswoman for Rep. Tammy Baldwin said the Madison Dem voted for Pelosi and thinks she has been "a strong and effective leader."
Sen.-elect Ron Johnson is praising fellow Republicans for their vote to ban earmarks.
On a voice vote, the caucus yesterday approved a non-binding two-year moratorium on earmarks.
"This is an important signal to the American public that we are serious about restoring fiscal sanity to this nation," said Johnson, R-Oshkosh.
The GOP caucus also approved resolutions supporting a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget, canceling unspent stimulus funds, imposing a federal hiring freeze for non-security employees, cutting non-security discretionary spending to fiscal year 2008 levels and a establishing a moratorium on new unfunded mandates and entitlement programs.
GOP U.S. Reps. Tom Petri, Jim Sensenbrenner and Paul Ryan want to use any money Wisconsin and other states reject for high-speed rail to go toward reducing the nation’s debt and deficit.
The three said in a statement that Gov.-elect Scott Walker's call to use the money designated for a high-speed rail line between Madison and Milwaukee isn't allowed under the federal stimulus package. So they instead introduced legislation allowing unused rail money to go toward the federal debt and deficit.
"Governor-elect Walker is pleased that these three leaders understand that the train between Milwaukee and Madison is dead," said Walker transition spokesman Cullen Werwie.
The transition declined comment on the Republicans' suggestion that Walker's call to repurpose the rail money for Wisconsin’s highways and bridges is also going nowhere.
"Instead of being told by bureaucrats in Washington how to allocate their resources, states need to have the flexibility and authority to prioritize how tax dollars are being spent," the three said in a statement. "However, the Obama Administration's stimulus package does not allow these stimulus funds to be reprogrammed for other worthwhile transportation projects."
A moderate Democrat from Washington believes that U.S. Rep. Ron Kind of La Crosse would be the best candidate from the House Dem caucus to challenge outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the minority leader position.
U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, who has represented his state's southwestern corner in Congress since 1998, said that Kind or current Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland would make a good challenger to Pelosi, D-California.
"I think Ron Kind would be the single best choice I could make," Baird said during an appearance on MSNBC, according to The Hill. "That probably jinxes it with the speaker, but I think Ron Kind is that kind of person -- a very bright, very articulate centrist who listens to all sides, takes policy very seriously, and could speak to both sides."
A spokeswoman for Kind said he hasn't made up his mind on who he will support for minority leader and will meet with colleagues this week to discuss the leadership vote.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, sent a letter to House Democrats from the Congressional Women's Caucus she co-chairs in support of Pelosi.
"Throughout her tenure in leadership, Speaker Pelosi has worked nonstop on behalf of the entire Caucus, and she has also elevated both the prominence of issues important to women and the roles played by women members of the House. We have no doubt that as Democratic Leader she will continue to ensure that the issues most important to women will remain a focus of our Caucus' agenda," the letter reads.
"As the first women Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi has borne the brunt of unfair criticism and attacks, but her record of accomplishment speaks for itself - particularly to women."
As new members of the state's congressional delegation begin orientation and Congress begins a lame duck session, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute has started a detailed look inside Ron Johnson's campaign.
National Republicans have approached state GOP Chair Reince Priebus to challenge Michael Steele for head of the RNC, according to sources. But the state chair has expressed a reluctance to challenge the man he helped run for the chairmanship two years ago, the sources said.
Steele has been a lightning rod for the party during his almost two years on the job and faced criticism from various GOP corners about party fundraising and message.
Meanwhile, Priebus has seen the state GOP go from being wiped out in the back-to-back Dem waves of 2006 and 2008 to knocking off Dem U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold and taking full control of the state Capitol.
U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, said she spoke with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Tuesday, promising to "keep fighting to create jobs in Wisconsin -- not in New York, Florida or Illinois."
Moore said LaHood told her if the state stops the proposed high speed train set to run from Milwaukee to Madison, the feds will take the funding back. She also said LaHood is eager to meet with Gov.-elect Walker to tell him what's at risk and the most accurate numbers on the expected operating costs for the line.
"I will keep working to make sure that Wisconsin doesn't lose these jobs. We won't meet the goal of adding jobs when the first move is subtraction," Moore said in a statement.
Walker has said he'd meet with LaHood, but doesn't see anything that would change his mind about the rail line.
Climate change skeptic U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner wants the House to keep its Global Warming Panel and turn it into an EPA oversight body.
Sensenbrenner noted some of his GOP colleagues want to kill the committee because of its “relatively small cost.”
“Far from being a cost, I believe that by ensuring that environmental concerns are appropriately balanced against economic considerations, the Select Committee will save the country billions of dollars and countless jobs,” Sensenbrenner said. “With the threat of one-sided EPA regulations quelled, we could work with Democrats in Congress and with the White House to further technological developments in the energy sector and broaden our energy portfolio without risking economic ruin.”
U.S. Sen.-elect Ron Johnson says his aim in going to Washington is to help put the nation's fiscal house in order.
“I want to be effective; I want to be able to go to Washington and actually accomplish that goal of trying to bring fiscal sanity back to this nation,” Johnson said on Sunday's “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” a statewide TV newsmagazine produced in conjunction with WisPolitics.com.
Johnson said he's going to Washington with an open mind a willingness to work with anybody to build a growth agenda.
“We really do need a growth agenda,” Johnson said. “We're not going to be able to solve this fiscal issue just with spending cuts alone. We have to grow the economy so we get revenue growth through growth, not increasing taxes.”
The key to growth, Johnson said, is increasing the level of certainty in the economy through moves such as extending the Bush tax cuts and taking off the table cap and trade and so-called “card check” legislation.
U.S. Senator-elect Ron Johnson said Wednesday that he will work to pursue "a very hard spending cap" on the federal government, adding that he would support a constitutional amendment to accomplish it.
"Until we establish a hard spending cap, it's not realistic that members of Congress are going to step up and start cutting spending," Johnson told reporters at a 15-minute press conference at his campaign headquarters in his hometown of Oshkosh.
Voters across the nation sent Washington a strong message that the federal government needs to get its fiscal house in order, Johnson said. He said one idea to do that he could support would be to limit federal spending to 25 percent of GDP.
Johnson said, as he did throughout the campaign, that one of his top priorities will be the repeal of the federal health care reform bill. He also said that any unspent stimulus funds should be applied to the federal deficit instead of more government spending.
Despite saying he would attack two of President Obama's signature legislative accomplishments, Johnson said he is willing to work with the administration.
"I will work with anybody who understands this spending and debt is unsustainable," he said. "I certainly hope the Obama administration got the very clear signal the American people sent."
Johnson said he spoke with Wisconsin's other U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, and told him he is looking forward to working with him to improve the economy.
Asked if he would help Governor-elect Scott Walker in his plans to stop an $810 million federally funded high speed train project between Madison and Milwaukee, Johnson responded, "I would totally support him in those efforts."
Johnson said the next couple weeks will be spent on the transition to office and getting staff in place.
It was a big night for Wisconsin Republicans up and down the ticket Tuesday, with the GOP taking a big chunk of the state's Congressional delegation away from Democrats.
Ron Johnson, a political novice and owner of an Oshkosh plastics business, ousted three-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, while Sean Duffy and Reid Ribble won in the 7th and 8th Congressional Districts.
Duffy, who defeated Stevens Point state Sen. Julie Lassa, becomes the first Republican to serve the 7th CD since Mel Laird after the retirement of 41-year incumbent and House Appropriations Chairman Dave Obey, D-Wausau. Ribble replaces U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, who served two terms in the northeastern Wisconsin seat.
In addition, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, held off state Sen. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse, in the 3rd CD following a nasty campaign. The state's remaining incumbents -- Dems Tammy Baldwin and Gwen Moore and Republicans Tom Petri, Paul Ryan and Jim Sensenbrenner -- won by comfortable margins.
3rd CD Republican candidate Dan Kapanke has issued a new TV hitting Ron Kind over allegations that his staff solicited campaign contributions in exchange for a meeting with the congressman.
The ad, titled "Pay to Play," references reports in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel column that two Eau Claire doctors say they were told in 2007 that a meeting with Kind, D-La Crosse, required a contribution of $10,000. Kind has vehemently denied the allegations.
"Doctors revealed they were pressured and afraid," an announcer says in the ad. "Pay to play, pressure to give Ron Kind money for access and influence."
"Ron Kind's politics are what's wrong in Washington," the ad ends as the screen changes from the text of Kind's name to "Wrong Kind."