• WisPolitics

Monday, January 31, 2011

 5:10 PM 

Van Hollen says health care decision reflects his concerns; Baldwin confident in law

GOP Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen says today's decision in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida that the law contained fatal constitutional flaws agrees with his conclusions.

"(The decision) has confirmed the conclusion I reached when this law was enacted. Congress is free to reform health care, but it must do so in a constitutional manner," Van Hollen said. "It simply does not have the authority to require people to either purchase health insurance or pay a fine."

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, said the health care reform suit is ultimately headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and she's confident the law will be found constitutional.

"Newly implemented health care reforms are closing the Medicare Part D donut hole, making prescription drugs for seniors more affordable, allowing parents to keep their children up to age 26 on the family health care plan, and preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions," Baldwin said. "These reforms are now in place, with more to come as the new law is fully implemented."

 9:13 AM 

Priebus focusing on RNC warchest, donor base

New Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus says he's focused on rebuilding the party's warchest and winning back the trust of supporters.

And that focus may mean he's likely to take a lower media profile than his predecessor.

Priebus said he'll be spending the bulk of his time meeting with donors and activists on the ground and will largely forgo media appearances unless he's advancing the GOP platform or helping get a candidate get elected.

“If I'm not doing those things, then probably running around on cable TV shows is not the best place for me to be,” Priebus said on Sunday's “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” a statewide TV newsmagazine produced in conjunction with WisPolitics.com.

With the party estimated to be some $20 million in debt, Priebus said he's been calling major donors for support, some of whom he said had not been contacted during the last election. Priebus said he convened a meeting with a number of past RNC finance chairs to develop a strategy to turn the party's finances around.

Priebus expressed confidence that Wisconsin would go red in 2012, denying President Obama a state he needs to win for re-election.

Although Priebus hasn't been in front of the cameras much, late-night comedy hosts have been poking fun at his name.

“Most of it is pretty hilarious,” he said. “I do have an odd name, but I am as normal as they get.”

Saturday, January 29, 2011

 5:00 AM 

Johnson challenges president to produce 'serious' plan to reduce spending

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson challenged President Obama to produce a "serious plan" to back up his pledge to reduce spending, saying he's confident Republicans would be willing to help him pass it.

Delivering the weekly Republican address, Johnson also said spending, deficits and the debt will be central in the pending debate over the 2011 spending bill and the need to raise the debt ceiling. The country could hit the debt ceiling by the end of March, and the Obama administration has warned of dire economic consequences if lawmakers do not raise the limit.

Johnson said any vote must be accompanied by "real reductions" in spending.

"This will be the moment of truth when talk and rhetoric must be turned into action and tangible results," said Johnson, R-Oshkosh.

The freshman Republican introduced himself by recounting his background as a manufacturer in Oshkosh, saying it helped him learn to attack the root cause of a problem, not the symptoms.

In that vein, he said deficits, slow economic activity, high unemployment and inadequate job creation are not the problem, but symptoms of the ever expanding "size, scope and cost of government."

"I hope the president and his allies in Congress accept a simple truth: big government is blocking job creation, not helping it," Johnson said. "The sooner Washington ends its dependence on more spending, the sooner our economy will see real growth."

Listen to the address.

Watch the address.

Friday, January 28, 2011

 4:35 PM 

Johnson to deliver GOP radio address

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson's office says the Oshkosh Republican has been chosen to deliver the GOP's weekly national radio address.

See DC Wrap tomorrow for details of Johnson's speech.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

 5:18 PM 

Johnson gets his wishes for committee assignments

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson has been appointed to the Appropriations and Budget committees, his top picks.

Johnson, R-Oshkosh, said in an interview with WisPolitics late last year that he was hoping to land a spot on the Budget Committee because of his background as an accountant and that he wanted to serve on Appropriations, “but not to spend money.”

Instead, he said the appointment would allow him to get a feel for the entire federal budget as he searches for ways to rein in the national debt.

Johnson also will serve on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, as well as Aging.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

 12:12 PM 

Smith says health care reform would put Wisconsin health care at risk

Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith told the House Budget Committee today that Wisconsin will see little of the benefits promised under the federal health care reform law despite costing taxpayers an estimated $560 million annually.

"Wisconsin already has achieved the coverage rates aspired to under PPACA," Smith said, according to his prepared remarks. "We have a strong, competitive health insurance market, which we want to preserve and protect. All of the gains Wisconsin has made should not be put at risk."

Smith, confirmed by the state Senate as the new head of DHS Tuesday, was invited to testify as part of a hearing on the fiscal impact of the health care law scheduled by committee chairman Paul Ryan, R-Janesville.

He acknowledged that the state would see some cost reductions as citizens moved from other programs to new federal health care credits. But he countered that "it matters little to taxpayers whether they are paying for the cost of PPACA through their federal income tax to finance new entitlement spending or higher debt, their state income tax, their local property tax, or higher premiums."

Smith also argued that many of the promised benefits of the law "appear to be fading."

"Individuals indeed will lose their current coverage. The cost of health care continues to go up, not down," Smith said. "And most important of all, the promised level of savings for American families will not materialize."

Ryan, in his opening statement at the hearing, said his warning of "two futures" for America is exemplified in health care more than any other area.

"Down one path lies the managed decline of a government-run system on the verge of bankruptcy," Ryan said. "There is an alternative path and it is a path that leads to true choice and competition in health care. It is modeled after the health care system we ourselves in Congress enjoy. It puts patients first -- with providers competing for our business."

"But before we can get there, we must reject the notion that a centrally planned, bureaucratically run health care system can produce more favorable outcomes than one managed by doctors and patients."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

 10:23 PM 

Ryan delivers stark warning to Americans, delegation responds to speech

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan warned Americans Tuesday night the nation is careening toward a day of financial reckoning, promising Republicans will chart a different course that returns the country to prosperity by embracing its founders' principles of limited government.

"Spending cuts must come first," he said at one point.

Ryan's warning came after President Obama, in his State of the Union address, touted new investments he said would help spur research and development and lead to the country’s next great economic breakthrough. Obama is due in Wisconsin on Wednesday to promote his State of the Union messages.

Delivering the Republicans' rebuttal, however, Ryan said the nation faces a crushing debt that will soon eclipse the entire economy. He said his three children, ages 6, 7, and 8, face the possibility of a government twice in size and a tax bill twice as large by the time they're raising their own kids.

"Our debt is out of control. What was a fiscal challenge is now a fiscal crisis," Ryan said. "We cannot deny it; instead we must, as Americans, confront it responsibly."

Ryan painted a stark picture, saying there was little time left to avoid such a harsh reality and contending America is now at a turning point where its best days slip behind it unless the growth of government is reined in.

Ryan, R-Janesville and chair of the Budget Committee, was dismissive of the president's talk of investments, calling them repackaged "stimulus" that has already failed the country. Despite billions spent, the economy continues to lag with unemployment hovering around 9 percent and the country's deficit and debts exploding, Ryan maintained.

To make matters worse, Ryan said, the president and Democrats pushed through a health care overhaul that hasn't stopped costs from going up and is instead accelerating the country’s sprint toward bankruptcy.

"Their actions show they want a federal government that controls too much, taxes too much, and spends too much in order to do too much," Ryan said.

Ryan said Republicans offer an alternative that returns the country to its founding principles of individual freedom through limited government. He said that means a government that limits itself to defending the nation, securing its borders, protecting "innocent life," upholding the nation's laws and constitutional rights, ensuring domestic tranquility and equal opportunity, and providing a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves.

The key, Ryan said, is for government to quit borrowing and spending and instead get out of the way.

"We believe the days of business as usual must come to an end," Ryan said. "We hold to a couple of simple convictions: Endless borrowing is not a strategy; spending cuts have to come first."

Ryan's fellow Republicans in the Wisconsin delegation embraced his call for reining in government spending.

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, now the longest-serving member of the delegation, praised Ryan's speech and welcomed Obama's call to work together even as he expressed skepticism over some of the president's proposals.

"I find substance is always more important than style or even seating arrangements, which is why I believe that regardless of whether it's called stimulus money or an 'investment,' we must stop our borrowing and cut our spending," Sensenbrenner said. "We can't continue down the path of fiscal irresponsibility and expect our nation to return to prosperity."

Wisconsin's Dem lawmakers embraced the president's call for fiscal discipline alongside his promise to continue investing in the country's future.

"We need to pursue policies that will keep our nation the most creative, competitive and innovative in the world," said U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse. "Staying on the cutting edge in science, medicine, technology and manufacturing discoveries and breakthroughs will allow us to do just that. But we must find a way to do it responsibly, investing in what works and cutting what doesn't."

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, said the president’s call for a five-year budget freeze would be painful, but was a necessary step to get the country’s fiscal house in order.

Still, she also knocked Republicans for their vote earlier Tuesday to go on record in seeking to return federal spending to 2008 levels without including any cuts in defense spending.

"The bottom line is that it's regrettable that the GOP wants to take us back. They want to undo the progress we've made," Moore said. "They want to give up on making America competitive in the 21st Century. And to add insult to injury, their plans aren't even fiscally sound. You just can't balance the budget on spending cuts especially at the same time as working to get rid of the capital gains tax and the estate tax."

See statements from:
Sen. Herb Kohl
Sen. Ron Johnson.
Rep. Tammy Baldwin
Rep. Ron Kind
Rep. Gwen Moore
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner
Rep. Tom Petri
Rep. Sean Duffy
Rep. Reid Ribble

Watch Ryan's remarks.

 6:09 PM 

Ryan releases more excerpts from speech

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's office has released more excerpts from his planned rebuttal to the president's State of the Union address.
Here are the excerpts from his office:

“President Obama just addressed a Congressional chamber filled with many new faces. One face we did not see tonight was that of our friend and colleague, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona. We all miss Gabby and her cheerful spirit; and we are praying for her return to the House Chamber.”


SPENDING: “In one of our first acts in the new majority, House Republicans voted to cut Congress’s own budget. And just today, the House voted to restore the spending discipline that Washington sorely needs. The reason is simple. A few years ago, reducing spending was important. Today, it’s imperative. Here’s why. We face a crushing burden of debt. The debt will soon eclipse our entire economy, and grow to catastrophic levels in the years ahead. On this current path, when my three children – who are now 6, 7, and 8 years old – are raising their own children, the federal government will double in size, and so will the taxes they pay. No economy can sustain such high levels of debt and taxation. The next generation will inherit a stagnant economy and a diminished country. Frankly, it’s one of my greatest concerns as a parent – and I know many of you feel the same way.”


BUDGET: “Americans are skeptical of both political parties, and that skepticism is justified – especially when it comes to spending. So hold all of us accountable. In this very room, the House will produce, debate, and advance a budget. Last year – in an unprecedented failure – Congress chose not to pass, or even propose a budget. The spending spree continued unchecked. We owe you a better choice and a different vision. Our forthcoming budget is our obligation to you – to show you how we intend to do things differently, how we will cut spending to get the debt down, help create jobs and prosperity, and reform government programs.”


“Our nation is approaching a tipping point. We are at a moment, where if government’s growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America’s best century will be considered our past century. This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency. Depending on bureaucracy to foster innovation, competitiveness, and wise consumer choices has never worked – and it won’t work now. We need to chart a new course.”


“STIMULUS”: “The facts are clear: Since taking office, President Obama has signed into law spending increases of nearly 25% for domestic government agencies – an 84% increase when you include the failed stimulus. All of this new government spending was sold as ‘investment.’ Yet after two years, the unemployment rate remains above 9% and government has added over $3 trillion to our debt.”


HEALTH CARE: “What we already know about the President’s health care law is this: Costs are going up, premiums are rising, and millions of people will lose the coverage they currently have. Job creation is being stifled by all of its taxes, penalties, mandates and fees. Businesses and unions from around the country are asking the Obama Administration for waivers from the mandates. Washington should not be in the business of picking winners and losers. The President mentioned the need for regulatory reform to ease the burden on American businesses. We agree – and we think his health care law would be a great place to start. Last week, House Republicans voted for a full repeal of this law, as we pledged to do, and we will work to replace it with fiscally responsible, patient-centered reforms that actually reduce costs and expand coverage.”


DEBT LIMIT: “Whether sold as ‘stimulus’ or repackaged as ‘investment,’ their actions show they want a federal government that controls too much; taxes too much; and spends too much in order to do too much. And during the last two years, that is exactly what we have gotten – along with record deficits and debt – to the point where the President is now urging Congress to increase the debt limit. We believe the days of business as usual must come to an end. We hold to a couple of simple convictions: Endless borrowing is not a strategy; spending cuts have to come first.”


“We believe government’s role is both vital and limited – to defend the nation from attack and provide for the common defense; to secure our borders; to protect innocent life; to uphold our laws and Constitutional rights; to ensure domestic tranquility and equal opportunity; and to help provide a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves. We believe that the government has an important role to create the conditions that promote entrepreneurship, upward mobility, and individual responsibility. We believe, as our founders did, that ‘the pursuit of happiness’ depends upon individual liberty; and individual liberty requires limited government. Limited government also means effective government. When government takes on too many tasks, it usually doesn’t do any of them very well. It’s no coincidence that trust in government is at an all-time low now that the size of government is at an all-time high.”


LIMITED GOVERNMENT: “We need to reclaim our American system of limited government, low taxes, reasonable regulations, and sound money, which has blessed us with unprecedented prosperity. And it has done more to help the poor than any other economic system ever designed. That’s the real secret to job creation – not borrowing and spending more money in Washington. Limited government and free enterprise have helped make America the greatest nation on earth.”

 4:52 PM 

Wis lawmakers pair up with those from other side for SOTU

In a nod to bipartisanship, some Wisconsin lawmakers will be watching the State of the Union with someone from the other side of the aisle.

Dem Sen. Herb Kohl will sit next to freshman GOP Sen. Ron Johnson, Kohl's office said.

And freshman GOP Rep. Reid Ribble will sit next to Dem Tammy Baldwin, according to their offices.

Rep. Tom Petri had originally planned to sit next to freshman GOP Rep. Sean Duffy after neither received an invitation for a "date," Petri's office said. But they'll both sit by Dem Jim McDermott of Washington after he called Petri.

Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, said she sat with Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyoming and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Women's Caucus.

 4:50 PM 

Ryan to ask Americans to hold both parties accountable on spending

In his response to the president's State of the Union address tonight, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan will ask Americans to hold both political parties accountable when it comes to government spending.

According to an excerpt of Ryan's rebuttal released by his office, the Janesville Republican pledges the GOP-run House will approve a reform budget. He notes last year's "unprecedented failure" on the budget front.

"The spending spree continued unchecked," Ryan will say. "We owe you a better choice and a different vision. Our forthcoming budget is our obligation to you – to show you how we intend to do things differently … how we will cut spending to get the debt down… help create jobs and prosperity … and reform government programs.”

Meanwhile, Ryan has sent a message through the right-wing site RedState.com inviting conservatives to join him in the fight against "runaway spending."

That's leading the liberal One Wisconsin Now to counter that Ryan backed eight straight budgets, which hiked federal spending by 50 percent.

 9:14 AM 

Priebus looks to rebuild RNC finances

New RNC Chair Reince Priebus has ambitious goals for the state and national GOP in next year's elections. But for now, he's primarily focused on making sure the party is in sufficient financial shape to make that happen.

"We're a piece of the puzzle," Priebus told WisPolitics.com of the RNC's role in electing conservative candidates. "But in order to do that, I need to be fully financed and functional."

Priebus, who won election as RNC chair earlier this month after serving as head of the Wisconsin GOP, made headlines following his election by firing the election liaison team created by predecessor Michael Steele to plan the 2012 convention in Florida. He said the move showed "that I meant what I said in the campaign that I would clean house in Tampa."

But Priebus said working with grassroots groups, in addition to regaining the trust of RNC donors, would play into the party's ongoing success. He said Wisconsin's GOP victories last year could be replicated across other states because "our model's pretty simple."

"You need the money, you need the great candidates ... and No. 3, we have to work with people," Priebus said.

Priebus said he's moved past the controversy surrounding his run again Steele, for whom he served as RNC chair campaign manager and, later, RNC legal counsel.

Following his defeat, Steele said in one interview that he now knows how Caesar felt, a swipe at Priebus for turning on him.

"We needed to go in a different direction," Priebus said. "My view on all that is just, we're moving on, we need to save our party and rebuild the RNC."

But he did say that he would differ from Steele in his approach to publicity, acknowledging that while he'll make his share of appearances on cable news shows, many in the RNC hoped to see "a little less of self" on those appearances.

"My view on media is basically that if I am not advancing an important Republican principle or cause, or I'm not assisting a candidate in getting elected, then I probably shouldn't be running around and doing all sorts of cable shows," Priebus said.

Priebus said his election to head of the national party should be a "net positive" for Wisconsin Republicans, but that the state would likely have been in the political crosshairs regardless.

He noted President Obama's scheduled stop Wednesday in Manitowoc following the State of the Union address, saying, "Barack Obama's map just doesn't add up without Wisconsin."

Priebus said winning the Badger State for the GOP presidential nominee next year is "mandatory," but that his other goal is to retain the party's legislative majorities to help Walker as he ends his first term.

"Now is our opportunity to solidify our state as being a red state," Priebus said.

Priebus also said he wants to flip the 3rd Congressional District, predicting that state Sen. Dan Kapanke would have ousted incumbent Ron Kind if the race had lasted another two weeks.

And he also predicted "there is going to be someone out there" to challenge for the state's U.S. Senate seat next year, either against incumbent Dem Herb Kohl or in an open seat. Kohl has said he expects to run.

Priebus said that Ron Johnson provided a blueprint for future candidates, from either the private sector or elected office, to focus on government spending and economic issues.

"People in Wisconsin will gravitate toward those candidates," Priebus said.

Monday, January 24, 2011

 8:59 AM 

Johnson says repeal has a chance in Senate

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson says there's a chance the Dem-run Senate would concur on a bill to repeal federal health care reform that the GOP House passed if it came up for a vote.

Johnson, R-Oshkosh, made the observation on Sunday's “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” a statewide TV news magazine produced in conjunction with WisPolitics.com.

The newly elected senator said the current law doesn't have a lot of popular support and there are 24 Democratic senators up for re-election in 2012.

“My guess if we actually held a vote is you might be surprised how many Democrats just might join Republicans and vote to repeal,” Johnson said.

Johnson called the law a “mess” and said the best course is to entirely repeal it and then tackle needed reforms individually.

With the federal government close to reaching its debt ceiling, Johnson also called for any bill to raise the limit to be accompanied with hard spending caps.

“It's good opportunity to finally start establishing fiscal discipline in Washington,” Johnson said.

To control spending, Johnson said he supports passage of a constitutional amendment that would limit spending to 20 percent of the gross domestic product.

Johnson, who returned last week from a trip to Afghanistan, said the visit left him with hope for a positive outcome. He stressed the importance of establishing a functioning state in Afghanistan and of maintaining one in Pakistan in order to deny al-Qaida, the Taliban and other similar groups the type of environment they need to operate.

 8:39 AM 

Obama to stop at Orion during Manitowoc visit

President Obama's post State of the Unon visit to Manitowoc later this week will include a stop at Orion Energy Systems.

According to the White House, Obama also plans other stops in Manitowoc during his visit the day after his State of the Union address.

He's expected to talk about the economy during his stop at Orion, which sells energy-saving lighting systems.

Friday, January 21, 2011

 10:36 AM 

Ryan to deliver GOP response to State of the Union

Republican congressional leaders announced today that U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan will deliver the GOP's response to President Obama's State of the Union address.

Ryan, of Janesville, will address the nation immediately following the president's address next Tuesday from the House Budget Committee hearing room, where he serves as chairman.

"Paul Ryan is uniquely qualified to address the state of our economy and the fiscal challenges that face our country,” Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. “We’re broke, and decisive action is needed to help our economy get back to creating jobs and end the spending binge in Washington that threatens our children’s future.

Ryan thanked GOP leadership for a "unique opportunity," said he will outline "a vision for a future that fulfills the uniquely American legacy of leaving the next generation with a stronger, more prosperous nation.”

Thursday, January 20, 2011

 11:47 AM 

Ryan committee to examine health care law

Fresh off his vote to repeal federal health care reform Wednesday evening, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan announced today he'll hold a committee hearing on the law's fiscal impact next week.

Ryan, R-Janesville, said part of the hearing will explore whether the law will drive up health costs even faster than their current rate. Wisconsin Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith will be among the witnesses at the hearing.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

 5:07 PM 

Wis. delegation splits along party lines in health care repeal vote

The Wisconsin House delegation split 5-3 along party lines this evening as the chamber passed a bill to repeal last year's health care reform legislation.

All five Republicans backed the repeal, while the three Dems opposed the measure.

The bill passed 245-189, but is unlikely to move past the Dem-controlled Senate.

 4:01 PM 

Kind: Repeal would impact health care quality

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind today cautioned that overturning federal health care reform would undermine aspects of the bill already impacting his constituents.

Kind, D-La Crosse, said the expected vote to repeal the bill later today was "political theater" since it wouldn't get past the Dem-controlled Senate or the president's veto pen. But he said Republican efforts to de-fund certain aspects of the bill could prove more successful.

"If we repeal it, it's going to be detrimental to the type of quality care we expect in western Wisconsin," Kind said in a conference call with reporters.

He urged Republicans to instead "take a deep breath" and recognize that a number of provisions -- including insurance exchanges and coverage for pre-existing conditions -- in the bill had previously received bipartisan support.

 2:46 PM 

Duffy says he'll vote to repeal health care law

With a vote expected later today on a proposal to repeal federal health care reform, U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy said he anticipates supporting the bill as long as Republicans provide alternative health care solutions later this year.

"I found it unacceptable that we could have a repeal vote without a willingness to put our ideas on the table for replacement," the Ashland Republican said in a conference call with reporters this afternoon.

"I can't support a straight repeal. I didn't run on that."

Duffy praised House GOP leadership for their expected directive to committees to take up health care reform. He said he anticipates their work will be completed in March or April, and that "I've been given assurances that we are going to move forward."

Duffy said he hopes to increase individuals' roles in the health insurance market, as well as increase competition for coverage across state lines.

Duffy also acknowledged he'd like to keep some aspects of the current legislation in place, including lifetime caps and a solution for Americans with pre-existing conditions. But he said those positive aspects that Democrats have been highlighting over the past few days likely only comprise a handful of pages out of the approximately 2,000 pages making up the legislation.

See Duffy's statement on the vote here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

 8:29 AM 

Johnson more hopeful after trip to Pakistan, Afghanistan

Sen. Ron Johnson finished up a visit to Pakistan and Afghanistan Monday, saying he came away more hopeful of American efforts there after meeting with U.S. and Afghani troops and leaders.

During last year’s campaign, Johnson, R-Oshkosh, argued against setting deadlines with withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and was critical of the president for saying he wanted to begin drawing down U.S. forces in Afghanistan in July.

Johnson said he could not say how long U.S. troops should remain there, saying setting timelines is “extremely harmful.” He said the president’s deadline possibly produced a short-term gain of getting the attention of Afghanis, but was harmful long-term because it undermined their trust that the U.S. government would be there for their protection.

He said a continued American presence is key to providing assurances to Afghanis that they will be safe from the Taliban. He said there may be a need for advisers there for “quite some time,” but said he didn’t expect an American presence there for decades after what he saw on the ground.

“There Afghanis in the villages have got to decide which side they’re going to be on, and they’ve got to know the U.S. is going to be there and is committed to being there so the Taliban doesn’t come back,” Johnson said.

Johnson landed in Pakistan on Friday as part of a contingent organized by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that included GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Marco Rubio of Florida and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

The party moved to Afghanistan Saturday, and Johnson was scheduled to fly to England later Monday before returning to the United States on Tuesday. Their meetings included Gen. David Petraeus, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir of Pakistan and Pakistani General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Johnson said he also met with Afghani recruits who were anxious to join the fight and toured a school.

“In all honestly, I’ve just come away far more hopeful,” he said. “I think we’ve made more progress than the people are aware of back in the States.”

By JR Ross

Friday, January 14, 2011

 3:44 PM 

Oshkosh Corp. to take part in federal trade mission to India

Oshkosh Corporation has been named one of 24 companies to join U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke on a trade mission to India next month.

The High Technology Business Development Mission, set to take place Feb. 6-11, will bring federal officials and business leaders to New Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai to examine the potential for exports in the civil-nuclear trade, defense and security, civil aviation, and information and communications sectors.

"This is a big opportunity for one of our great local businesses, and there was a lot of competition between the companies to be included," said U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, in a statement. "I congratulate the Oshkosh Corporation for succeeding."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

 4:52 PM 

Report: Wis. Senate race ranked 8th most expensive

Wisconsin's U.S. Senate race ranked among the top 10 for the most money spent on TV ads between Sept. 1 and Election Day, according to a new study.

The report from the Wesleyan Media Project found Senate candidates and outside groups spent $15.6 million on TV in the state over the period with 37,236 spots running. Wisconsin had the eighth most expensive Senate race in the country.

The California Senate race was the most expensive with almost $36.8 million spent on TV, while Nevada's Senate face featured the most spots with 40,871 over the time period.

 2:44 PM 

Analysis: Johnson funded more than half of his campaign

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson spent more than $14.8 million in his victorious Senate campaign. But more than half of his overall fundraising came from the millionaire Oshkosh businessman's own pockets.

Johnson, sworn in as the state's junior senator last week, took care of more than $8.7 million out of the total raised over the election cycle, according to federal campaign finance data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Individual contributions accounted for 37 percent of Johnson's fundraising, with 71 percent of that total coming from donations classified as "large individual contributions."

Individuals affiliated with Milwaukee-based Fiduciary Management Inc. contributed the most to Johnson's campaign, according to CRP database OpenSecrets.org, with $18,400 in total contributions. Other companies with top individual contributions to Johnson included: Sargento Foods with a total of $13,300; Pacur -- the Oshkosh plastics company owned by Johnson -- with $12,900; Bemis Co. -- the Neenah company with ties to Johnson's in-laws -- with $11,850; Milwaukee's Rite-Hite Holding Corp. ($11,800); and Northwestern Mutual ($10,850).

Blue Cross/Blue Shield was the top PAC donor to Johnson, with $15,000. Nine other PACs donated $10,000 to Johnson, including Alamo PAC, the American Bankers Association, the Bluegrass Committee, Defend America PAC, Koch Industries, the Next Century Fund, Utah U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch's OrrinPAC, Arizona U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl's Senate Majority Fund and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's Prosperity PAC. PAC contributions comprised 5 percent of Johnson's overall fundraising haul.

Retired donors topped the list of groups contributing to Johnson, with a total of $277,329, according to OpenSecrets. Leadership PACs contributed $137,500, with $95,350 attributed to Republican and conservative interests.

New U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble raised more than $1.2 million in defeating incumbent Dem Steve Kagen in the 8th CD race, while fellow freshman U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy raised nearly $2 million in beating Dem state Sen. Julie Lassa in the 7th CD to take over for longtime Dem U.S. Rep. Dave Obey.

See more in Friday's WisPolitics REPORT.

Monday, January 10, 2011

 10:44 AM 

Wisconsin lawmakers react to Arizona shooting

Wisconsin lawmakers offered their thoughts and prayers to the victims of this weekend’s shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that included congressional colleague U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

"I am shocked and saddened beyond words by the horrific shooting of my colleague ... members of her staff, and others at a supermarket in Arizona," said U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison. She noted that Giffords was meeting with constituents at the time, a practice she called "critical to the proper functioning of our democracy."

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Ashland, added, "Although I have only been a Member of Congress for a short time, I had the pleasure of meeting Congresswoman Giffords on the floor last week and found her to be kind, charming and a committed public servant."

U.S. Reps. Paul Ryan and Jim Sensenbrenner also offered statements on the shooting, while former U.S. Rep. Dave Obey called for "inflammatory loud mouths of all political persuasions on radio, on television, and in politics, to stop peddling their conspiracy theories, stop impugning other people’s patriotism and dedication to the constitution, and quit demonizing people who politically disagree with them, and to stop using the language of violence in urging other people to participate in the political arena.”

"Gabby Giffords is a wonderful friend of mine and a wonderful human being. My heart goes out to her family and the families of the other Tucson shooting victims," Obey said in a statement. "We are now reaping the whirlwind after years of wild anti-government, anti-politician, simplistic political vitriol. Over time, that vitriol can create a climate that makes it easier for unhinged and unbalanced individuals to go over the edge with tragic results for innocent victims and the nation."

The House has put off any roll calls this week in the wake of the shooting. That includes delaying a planned vote on repealing health care reform.

Friday, January 7, 2011

 4:39 PM 

Johnson says he should have been consulted on judicial nominees

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said today he's unhappy with the White House's resubmission of Louis Butler and Victoria Nourse as nominees for federal judicial positions.

"My understanding of the standard procedure in the judicial nomination process is that the Administration extends the courtesy of consulting the home state Senators before nominating an individual to the courts," Johnson, who took office on Wednesday, said in a statement. "It’s unfortunate in this case that the voters of Wisconsin who expressed their wishes on November 2nd were completely ignored."

The White House first nominated Butler, a former state Supreme Court justice, to the federal bench in the Western Wisconsin district in 2009 and is submitting his name to the Senate for the third time; Nourse, a UW Law School professor, is before the Senate for a second time as the nominee to replace retiring Seventh Circuit Judge Terence T. Evans.

Johnson, R-Oshkosh, said he's currently opposed to both nominations.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

 2:17 PM 

Ryan takes issue with CBO estimate of health care repeal

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan defended Republicans' efforts to repeal last year's federal health care reform law despite a new estimate showing the repeal would add $230 billion to the federal deficit by 2021.

The Congressional Budget Office released its analysis of the repeal today, saying the net increase in the deficit would largely mirror the deficit reductions projected for the original legislation.

"Misleading claims on its deficit impact exclude the $115 billion needed to implement the law and over $500 billion in double-counting Social Security payroll taxes, CLASS Act premiums, and Medicare reductions," Ryan said in a statement.

The Janesville Republican said he does not fault CBO staff for their report, which he said takes into account the "smoke and mirrors" included in the health care law.

"The Democrats stripped costly provisions that were included in initial score, and enacted them separately to add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit. Hiding spending does not reduce spending," he said.

Ryan also issued a statement on a report from House Republicans showing the bill would add $701 billion to the deficit in its first 10 years.

"Simply put, this bill kills jobs. Its burdensome penalties will make it harder for businesses to expand and add workers, and we have already seen how its costly mandates are driving up insurance premiums across the country," Ryan said.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

 5:16 PM 

Obama renominates Butler to federal bench

Four Wisconsin residents today were renominated for federal posts by President Obama.

The president has re-nominated former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler to the federal bench in Madison.

It is the third time Obama has sent Butler's nomination to the Senate. The body failed to act on it before the end of 2009 after the president nominated him for the post on Sept. 30 that year. It was then sent back a year ago, but again languished amid GOP complaints that Butler was too activist and liberal for the federal bench.

Obama also re-nominated UW Law School professor Victoria Nourse to the United States Circuit Judge for the Seventh Circuit, to replace retiring Judge Terence T. Evans. Nourse was originally nominated July 14.

Two more Wisconsin residents received presidential nods: Cora B. Marrett was nominated to be Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation, and Eric G. Potel to be Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development. Marrett was originally nominated on Aug. 15, and Postel on Nov. 15.

 2:13 PM 

Kind votes for Cooper for speaker

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind was one of 19 Democrats to oppose Nancy Pelosi as House Democratic leader in today's House leadership vote.

The La Crosse Dem was the only member to cast his vote for Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. Eleven Dems voted for North Carolina's Health Shuler, with other votes heading to John Lewis of Georgia, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Jim Costa of California and Marcy Kaptur of Ohio.

John Boehner of Ohio is the new House speaker, garnering the votes of all 241 Republicans. Pelosi, the outgoing speaker, will serve as minority leader after receiving 173 votes.

 10:11 AM 

Feingold headed to Marquette

Marquette University announced today that former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, will join the school as a visiting professor of law.

Feingold will teach an upper-level elective course dubbed "Current Legal Issues: The U.S. Senate." The announcement also notes that Feingold will begin work on a book while teaching at Marquette.

"As I looked at beginning to write the next chapter of my professional life, the opportunity to be in a Wisconsin classroom with engaged law students is one I found very appealing," Feingold said in a statement from Marquette. "Marquette Law School is a dynamic place, and I look forward to being part of it."

 9:37 AM 

Ryan: Health care reform repeal about jobs

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan said today that an upcoming House vote to repeal federal health care reform reflects the party's emphasis on economic issues, and is not simply an act of political revenge.

"This is related to jobs and the economy," Ryan said during an appearance on NBC's "Today Show." "The health care bill has massive tax increases on individuals and employers that will cost us jobs."

The Janesville added that GOP candidates pledged to work to repeal the health care law during their 2010 campaigns, and are now following through as they prepare to take office in the new House majority. Senate Democrats, who retained the majority in that chamber, have said they will block any effort to repeal the bill.

Ryan also said Republicans are maintaining their promise to move spending back to "pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels," but said the specific cuts will be ironed out in the appropriations process.

Ryan is set to take over the House Budget Committee after the 112th Congress convenes with three new Wisconsin additions. New U.S. Reps. Sean Duffy of Ashland, Reid Ribble of Appleton and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Oshkosh will be sworn in today.

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