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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

 9:09 AM 

Johnson expresses concerns with START treaty

U.S. Sen.-elect Ron Johnson said he continues to have concerns over a nuclear missile treaty now before the Senate that he had hoped would be delayed for debate until he's sworn in.

Johnson told WisPolitics Tuesday he has the same concerns about the treaty that others are now expressing: that it ties the nation’s defense missile system to a reduction in nuclear arms.

The Senate voted 67-28 to advance the treaty.

“I’m concerned about anything in this lame-duck session that is just being rammed through without adequate debate, without proper hearings,” Johnson said.

While acknowledging the treaty has received a fair amount of hearings and debate, Johnson said he was concerned about other issues the Senate has taken up in the lame-duck session.

He declined to say whether he would have supported the extension of Bush era tax cuts that was coupled with an extension of unemployment benefits and other measures, contending he wasn't part of the process. But he pointed out he campaigned against increasing the deficit, something many believe the package will do.

“It’s a real shame that in the bargain, what you had to negotiate, the compromise not to raise taxes on the American people, we had to increase deficit spending,” Johnson said.

Johnson said with his background in accounting, he would like to serve on the Budget Committee.

He has also expressed an interest in a spot on the Appropriations Committee, “but not to spend money.” Instead, he said such a seat would allow him to get a feel for the entire federal budget as he searches for ways to rein in the national debt.

Repealing the federal health care overhaul remains his No. 1 priority, and he expressed hope that Republicans could derail funding for the plan in the next session, particularly after they thwarted a more than $1 trillion spending plan.

Johnson said the push from freshmen to swear off earmarks and other issues they’ve raised are already having an impact in Washington, D.C.

Dems criticized Johnson for hiring lobbyist Don Kent to be his chief of staff in Washington after he campaigned against the influences in D.C. But he brushed off that criticism and said Kent was the right choice for the job to help him navigate unfamiliar territory.

“I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not that familiar with Washington,” Johnson said. “In order to be effective, I needed to put people in the Senate office that were very familiar with Washington. That’s not going to corrupt me in any way, shape or form. I’m going to go there with my values and my principles. I just need people in DC that really under that city to help me develop those relationships so I can be effective.”

Listen to the full interview here.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

 3:06 PM 

Feingold, Kohl vote to move ahead with START treaty

The U.S. Senate has passed a cloture motion on the START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, paving the way for final approval of the long-stalled measure.

U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl voted for the proposal, which passed 67-28. That margin would exceed the two-thirds vote required for ratification.


 1:51 PM 

Wisconsin retains 8 House districts

As expected, Wisconsin will consist of eight House districts for the next decade after the apportionment results of the 2010 Census were announced today.

The state's population rose 6 percent since the 2000 Census, but that increase was dwarfed by increases in states such as Nevada (35.1 percent), Arizona (24.6 percent) and Utah (23.8 percent). Michigan was the only state to lose population, according to the report, dropping 0.6 percent.

Texas will gain four seats in the next Congressional elections, followed by Florida gaining two seats and Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington gaining one district. Those will come at the expense of New York and Ohio -- which will lose two seats each -- and one-seat losses in Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.


Monday, December 20, 2010

 9:02 AM 

Baldwin hails DADT repeal

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, one of the only openly gay members of Congress, praised the Senate for voting to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” calling it the end of a “sad chapter in American history.”

“Integrity is a hallmark of military service. Yet, for 17 years, we have had a statutory policy that requires some in our military to conceal, deceive, and lie. This is an inexcusable affront to all who wear the uniform,” she said.

U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, both Dems, both voted for the repeal Saturday.

Feingold and Kohl also both voted to end debate on the DREAM Act.

But the cloture motion failed 55-41, short of the 60 votes needed to close off debate and move to a vote.


Friday, December 17, 2010

 8:52 AM 

Wis. delegation votes party-line on tax cuts deal

Wisconsin's House delegation split along party lines last night in voting on the extension of Bush era tax cuts, which passed 277-148.

The deal was cut between President Obama and Republicans and includes an extension of unemployment benefits.

GOP U.S. Reps. Tom Petri, Jim Sensenbrenner and Paul Ryan voted for the bill, while Dem U.S. Reps. Dave Obey, Tammy Baldwin, Gwen Moore, Ron Kind and Steve Kagen voted against it.

Ryan said on the floor that the bill isn't a cure-all, but will keep the economy from worsening.

"This is not a bill that is going to turn it around," Ryan said. "Next year, let’s pass the policies that will turn our economy around."

Kagen said the bill ignored pay-as-you-go rules set up to establish fiscal responsibility.

"The legislation that was passed in Congress tonight is not only irresponsible; it’s un-American," Kagen said.


 8:22 AM 

PPP poll: Republicans prefer Ryan in 2012 matchup with Kohl

A Public Policy Polling survey found that U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan is by far the top choice of state Republicans to take on incumbent U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl in 2012.

Ryan, of Janesville, was favored by 52 percent of respondents, while former guv Tommy Thompson came in a distant second at 14 percent.

PPP polled 400 usual Wisconsin Republican primary voters from December 10 through Dec. 12. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percent.

Ryan has denied interest in running for the Senate.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

 3:29 PM 

New GOP members hire staff

Wisconsin's new congressional members have begun to fill out their staffs as they prepare to take office next month.

U.S. Sen.-elect Ron Johnson announced Mary Vought as his communications director. Vought previously served as press secretary under outgoing U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., in the House Republican Conference, along with stints as communications director for House Republicans Scott Garrett of New Jersey and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

Johnson also announced Robert Duncan as legislative director, Dan Soto as IT director, Kimberly Levernier as administrative director and Kelly Holdway as Johnson's scheduler and personal assistant.

On the House side, U.S. Rep.-elect Sean Duffy, R-Ashland, announced that transition director and former campaign manager Matt Seaholm will serve as his chief of staff. Seaholm formerly worked for Senate GOP leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau.

In addition, Dave Anderson, district director for U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, will serve in that capacity for Duffy. Anderson, a former Wausau resident, previously served as an aide to U.S. Sen. Bob Kasten and Gov. Tommy Thompson.

Petri, R-Fond du Lac, announced that field representative Tyler Vorpagel will replace Anderson as district director.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep.-elect Reid Ribble, R-Appleton, announced three staff hires. McKay Daniels, a former GOP official in California and Nevada, will serve as Ribble's Washington chief of staff.

Rick Sense, a VP at Appleton-based Community First Credit Union, will be Ribble's district chief of staff, while Brandon Moody, previously of D.C. consulting firm Marsh Copsey & Associates, will be his communications director.

Ribble also announced that he's been appointed to the House committees on Budget and Agriculture.

“Given the needs of our district and nation at this moment, I can’t think of two better committees on which to serve,” Ribble said in a statement.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

 5:21 PM 

Wis. delegation splits along party lines on DADT repeal

Wisconsin's House Democrats voted today to support the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays serving in the military.

U.S. Reps. Tammy Baldwin, Steve Kagen, Ron Kind, Gwen Moore and Dave Obey joined in the majority. The bill passed 250-175, and now heads back to the Senate.

GOP Reps. Tom Petri, Paul Ryan and Jim Sensenbrenner opposed the bill.

Baldwin, the only openly gay woman serving in the House, called the vote "an important step in the march to full equality for LGBT Americans."

"Make no mistake: the House made a bold and very strong statement today that we're ready to move forward and see this repeal through," the Madison Dem said in a statement. "The President is ready to move forward. The military is ready to move forward. The American people are ready to move forward. It now falls to the Senate to do the right thing!"


 3:06 PM 

Senate passes tax cut deal as Feingold, Kohl split votes

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold was one of 13 Democrats to vote against the compromise on extending tax cuts today as the measure passed the Senate.

Feingold, of Middleton, also voted against breaking a filibuster of the compromise earlier this week. U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, once again supported the deal, which passed 81-19.

The measure now heads to the House, where the Dem caucus has lined up in opposition to the deal struck between Republicans and the White House.

The Senate also cleared a procedural hurdle to begin consideration of an extension of a nuclear arms treaty with Russia. That measure passed 66-32; both Feingold and Kohl supported the motion.


 10:30 AM 

McCain rips Wisconsin earmarks

U.S. Sen. John McCain Tuesday highlighted a pair of Wisconsin provisions as examples of earmarking in the 2011 omnibus Appropriations bill introduced by the committee earlier in the day.

The Arizona Republican listed $277,000 outlined in the bill for "potato pest management in Wisconsin" as one of 14 earmarks in a "small sample" of the bill.

McCain also noted a $727,000 earmark to "compensate ranchers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan whenever endangered wolves eat their cattle."

"One thing is abundantly clear to me -– that the majority has not learned the lessons of last month’s election," McCain said in prepared remarks on the Senate floor. "The American people could not have been more clear. They are tired of wasteful spending. They are tired of big government."

See more on Wisconsin's earmark requests in last week's WisPolitics REPORT.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

 3:10 PM 

Poll: Kohl, Feingold lead hypothetical 2012 matchups

A new poll released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling shows both of Wisconsin's current U.S. senators leading a trio of potential GOP candidates in hypothetical 2012 Senate matchups.

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, who is up for re-election that year, leads U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, by a 48-42 margin. The Milwaukee Democrat also leads former Gov. Tommy Thompson 49-40, and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen 51-38.

Should Kohl decide against running, the PPP poll shows U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold -- defeated last month by Republican Ron Johnson -- leading Ryan 50-43, Thompson 49-40 and Van Hollen 51-42. The poll also shows Kohl and Feingold both have 50 percent approval ratings.

Raleigh, N.C.-based PPP surveyed 702 Wisconsin voters from Dec. 10-12. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.7 percent.


 9:22 AM 

Wis. senators split on tax cut compromise

U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl split over the compromise on extending the Bush-era tax cuts.

Feingold voted no as the Senate approved the $858 billion package of tax cuts and benefits by a margin of 83-15, a move that Kohl hailed as a "reasonable compromise."

“The legislation I supported today protects the middle-class from tax increases and preserves critical unemployment benefits,” Kohl said. “It is a reasonable compromise to get past the partisan bickering and support our struggling economy.”

On Monday, the Senate voted to to end a filibuster by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and bring the compromise agreed to by President Obama to the floor. Feingold voted against ending the filibuster, according to The Hill.


Monday, December 13, 2010

 10:09 AM 

Ohio congresswoman to serve as UW-Madison commencement speaker

UW-Madison has announced U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, as the speaker for the campus' Dec. 19 winter commencement ceremonies.

Kaptur, who last month won her 15th term to the state's 9th Congressional District -- which includes Toledo -- will be the senior woman in the upcoming congressional session. She graduated from UW-Madison in 1968.


Friday, December 10, 2010

 2:53 PM 

Duffy to serve on Financial Services Committee

U.S. Rep.-elect Sean Duffy, R-Ashland, today announced he's been appointed to the House Financial Services Committee.

"His strong work ethic and commitment to serving his state is why he was selected for the Committee," incoming chairman Spencer Bachus, R-Alabama, said in a statement. "Our Committee will be at the heart of the effort to get America's economy growing again and I know that is Congressman-elect Duffy's number one priority."

The committee oversees a broad array of housing and financial issues -- including banking, insurance, real estate, public and assisted housing and securities.

“Small businesses rely on access to capital and credit to grow their operations and create jobs,” Duffy said. “From a seat on this committee, I will be working to ensure that lenders are responsible and focused on what is best for the country, while working to reform the over-reaching and burdensome regulatory bill passed earlier this year that has hurt our community banks.”


Thursday, December 9, 2010

 11:52 AM 

Ryan backs tax cut compromise; House Dems vote to oppose deal

The incoming GOP chair of the House budget committee is giving a thumbs up to the deal on extending Bush tax cuts.

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan says that while he has concerns with some portions of the proposed compromise on extended tax cuts and unemployment benefits, "I support the proposed framework to avert further economic hardship and provide a first step to restore the foundations for sustained growth and job creation.

"President Obama has acted responsibly in reaching an agreement with Republicans to prevent across-the-board tax increases from hitting American families and job creators," the Janesville Republican said in a statement. "Sound economics appear to have trumped the politics of class warfare."

But some state Democrats are signaling they're wary of the deal. The House Democratic caucus voted today to oppose the tax deal in a non-binding resolution considered during a closed caucus meeting.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, "strongly supported" today's resolution, according to a statement from her office. Baldwin hopes to be able to support another compromise that "will grow the economy, create jobs, and assist those Wisconsinites who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own."

And U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore said in a statement that "the plight of the unemployed should be able to stand on its own.”

“Republicans have been operating under the mantra of ‘tax cuts for millionaires, or bust,’” said Moore, D-Milwaukee. “I find it hard to believe that if we extend these for two years that we won’t ultimately make them permanent. And if we make them permanent, we’re immediately in a position where we have cut programs that help the most vulnerable among us."


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

 10:53 AM 

Pundit sees Kohl on solid footing for 2012

The Cook Political Report places U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl in the "solid" ranking in its first prognostications for the 2012 election.

Cook senior editor Jennifer Duffy writes that candidates ranked in the solid column "are there because most of these won’t become competitive, either because of the strength of the incumbent or the incumbent’s party in that particular state.

"Of course, any of these races could move during the cycle, particularly if there is a retirement or if the incumbent draws an especially strong challenger."

Dem sources expect Kohl, D-Milwaukee, to run for another term. See more on Kohl's 2012 prospects in Friday's WisPolitics REPORT.

UPDATE: Cook has also put out some ratings on 2012 House races.

Only two Wisconsin races make the list.

GOP U.S. Rep.-elect Sean Duffy was one of 14 Republicans to make the "lean Republican" list, meaning the race is expected to be competitive, but the Republican has an advantage.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, is one of 28 Dems whose races were listed as "likely Dem," those that aren't currently competitive "but have the potential to become engaged."


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

 9:57 AM 

Sensenbrenner among members to try La. judge in Senate

The U.S. Senate will hear arguments today on an impeachment case supported by U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner against a federal judge.

The Menomonee Falls Republican this spring was named one of the five House managers to try the case against U.S. Judge Thomas Porteous of Louisiana. Porteous is accused of accepting cash gifts from attorneys who argued before him in court.

The full Senate is expected to vote Wednesday morning; it would require a two-thirds vote of the Senate to remove Porteous from office.

President Clinton appointed Porteous to the bench in 1994. It is only the 12th time the Senate has considered articles of impeachment against a federal official.

UPDATE: The Senate voted Wednesday morning to remove Porteous, the eight time such an action has been taken against a federal judge.

"No judge is above the laws they took an oath to uphold, and I am grateful that this man will no longer be able to tarnish the good reputation of all the hardworking individuals serving on the bench or collect a taxpayer-funded paycheck," Sensenbrenner said in a statement. "Mr. Porteous clearly violated the laws and I am glad we could work to restore the trust of the American people by removing him from his position."


Friday, December 3, 2010

 6:06 PM 

3rd CD campaign spending tops among Wis. House races

Wisconsin's 3rd Congressional District led the state's competitive House elections in campaign spending this fall, with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind spending a robust $2.5 million en route to hanging on to his seat in a difficult year for Democrats.

That total was well more than double his opponent's spending total in the 2010 election cycle. Republican state Sen. Dan Kapanke of La Crosse spent $947,354 during the cycle, according to post-general election campaign finance reports due Thursday to the Federal Election Commission.

For the post-general election period, ranging from Oct. 14 through Nov. 22, Kind, D-La Crosse, reported raising $283,242 and spending $497,788. He ended the cycle with $140,107 cash on hand.

Kapanke reported $129,028 raised, $97,117 spent and $5,409 in the bank at the end of the period.

The 8th CD lagged just behind the 3rd District race, with an incumbent Dem also holding a big spending edge. In that race, however, U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen's financial advantage was unable to overcome De Pere roofing contractor Reid Ribble.

For the full cycle, Kagen, D-Appleton, spent nearly $2.1 million to Ribble's nearly $1.2 million.

Kagen, D-Appleton, raised $160,476, spent $601,288 and banked $34,652. Ribble had a $25,911 warchest after raising $251,618 and spending $578,429 during the period.

And in the 7th CD, former Ashland Co. DA Sean Duffy outspent state Sen. Julie Lassa by more than half a million dollars over the full cycle, ultimately winning the race to replace retiring Dave Obey, D-Wausau.

Duffy, R-Ashland, spent more than $1.7 million in the race; Lassa, D-Stevens Point, spent $1.2 million after announcing her candidacy in May.

Duffy reported raising $349,996, spending $833,886 and a cash balance of $98,218 in the post-general period. Lassa raised $289,209, spent $433,758 and banked $6,183.


 9:39 AM 

Kagen seeks review of Renard Island Causeway bid

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, the Appleton Dem defeated in the fall election, has introduced a bill to halt construction of the Renard Island Causeway.

The proposed 850-foot offshore causeway sparked controversy in Green Bay earlier this year when two local contractors were bypassed in favor of a Milwaukee company that bid $1.7 million more for the work. The U.S. Army Army Corps of Engineers required that its contractor for the project be located in a Small Business Administration Hub Zone -- areas targeted for economic development by the SBA -- which Brown County doesn't have.

Kagen said he has questions about the cost of the Green Bay project, and wants the bids reviewed.

"Wisconsin taxpayers expect more for their money, and it is time Congress stops wasting our precious resources," Kagen said in a statement.


 9:36 AM 

Walker, govs.-elect meet with Obama

Gov.-elect Scott Walker said the meeting between President Obama and incoming guvs was "very cordial and very polite," but it was made clear that Walker and others want relief from federal health care reform.

"We talked about wanting to have some flexibility," Walker said on Fox News' "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren" last night.

"They said the right things but the bottom line is actions will speak louder than words and we need more action."

Obama assured the governors-elect that when his administration disagrees with them, "It’s not going to be based on ideology, It’s not going to be based on partisanship.”

The president also urged those in the room to call his administration for help.

“One thing I would urge is don’t wait until you’re really mad at something to call us,” Obama said, according to a pool report. “We prefer not to read about it in the press.”

See more here.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

 5:25 PM 

Moore votes against censure of Rangel

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, was the only member of Wisconsin's congressional delegation to vote against censuring U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel this afternoon.

Rangel, D-New York, was found to have violated House rules by the chamber's ethics committee. Moore's office said she and 145 colleagues voted to change Rangel's punishment to a reprimand, saying censure has historically been used for "much more extreme offenses."

The House voted 333 to 79 to censure Rangel.


 5:24 PM 

Wis. lawmakers split as House backs some Bush tax cuts

The House today approved a measure to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for couples making up to $250,000, with the Wisconsin delegation splitting 4-4 on the proposal.

Dems Dave Obey, Tammy Baldwin, Ron Kind and Steve Kagen voted for the bill; Gwen Moore of Milwaukee joined Republicans Jim Sensenbrenner, Paul Ryan and Tom Petri in voting against it. The measure passed by a 234-188 margin.

Moore, D-Milwaukee, said the country couldn't afford to extend the cuts with such a serious ongoing debt.

“We have to make tough spending cuts next year. If we start with $3 trillion in tax cuts out of the gate, those cuts will be even tougher," Moore said in a statement. "And they will disproportionately impact society’s most vulnerable. When we start talking about cutting help for seniors to heat their homes in winter, for kids to have a safe place to go after school, or even police and firefighters to protect our communities, we can’t talk out of both sides of our mouths.”

Kind, D-La Crosse, said in a release that maintaining tax breaks for "wealthy Wall Street bankers" without identifying spending cuts to pay for them isn't fiscally responsible.

“We just cannot afford to borrow $700 billion from China and saddle our children and grandchildren with this debt by extending the Bush tax cuts for millionaires. We must address the deficit and that means we need to stop enacting tax cuts for the richest two percent of taxpayers who need them the least,” Kind said.

“Today, I proudly voted for a permanent tax cut for Wisconsin’s middle class families; promise made -- promise delivered,” Kagen, D-Appleton, added in a release.


 3:39 PM 

Ryan to oppose deficit commission plan

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan today said he would vote against a proposed deficit reduction plan when it comes up for an expected Friday vote in the House.

Ryan offered praise for Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, the co-chairs of the White House fiscal commission that produced the plan, saying they have helped "put an end to the era of deficit denial."

But he said the commission's plan does not go far enough in addressing "the explosive growth of our health care entitlement programs."

"This plan not only lacks needed structural reforms, but would in fact take us in the wrong direction on health care by accelerating the adverse consequences of the President’s health care law," the Janesville Republican said in a statement. "It also relies too heavily on tax increases, which would stifle the very growth and prosperity that are the essential preconditions of a sustainable fiscal path."


 9:10 AM 

Walker in DC today

Gov.-elect Scott Walker’s trip to DC today will largely involve meetings with President Obama and briefings from select cabinet members on security issues.

Nearly two dozen governors-elect are expected to join the meetings.

Walker’s transition team said the Republican will also be briefed on housing issues by U.S. Department of House and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.

Walker, though, will have to reschedule for another time a meeting he had planned with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

 5:01 PM 

Johnson hires chief of staff

U.S. Sen.-elect Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, has hired his chief of staff.

Don Kent is a lobbyist with Capitol Hill staff experience who was an assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security.

Kent is the vice president of Navigators Global in Washington, D.C. He served as the Homeland Security assistant secretary for legislative affairs 2004 through 2009.

“Don’s depth of management experience in the Senate and at the Department of Homeland Security will prove to be a valuable asset in establishing my office and helping me become an effective Senator for the State of Wisconsin and America,” Johnson said.

A native of Alexandria, Va., Kent also served in several roles for U.S. Sen. Don Nickles between March 1997 and December 2003 and worked for U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma in 1996.


 4:41 PM 

Doyle meets with Obama, cabinet

Gov. Jim Doyle was in Washington, D.C., today to meet with President Obama and his cabinet.

Doyle's office said the guv will also meet with HHS Kathleen Sebelius, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“President Obama and his Administration have been important partners in helping move Wisconsin forward and our close relationship has been a great benefit to this state,” Doyle said. “There is still work to be done but today, in Wisconsin and across the country, businesses are starting to expand and make new investments, more working people have access to affordable health care, and we have protected education from major cuts that would have set our economic growth back for generations.”


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