Members of Wisconsin's congressional delegation reacted positively following the announcement from House and Senate leaders that a deal has been reached to extend the payroll tax holiday.
The tax holiday -- set to expire at the end of the year -- was extended for two months in a compromise in the Senate, but the House rejected that proposal this week, with Republicans instead advocating a year-long extension.
But under heavy pressure from the White House and senators of both parties, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, agreed to the Senate language Thursday along with a provision creating a conference to iron out details of a longer deal.
“While I still support a year-long extension, I am happy to hear that that Speaker Boehner and Senator Reid have come to an agreement on the payroll tax holiday,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls. “Both sides have given up something, but the winners are wage-earners, the long-term unemployed, and Medicare recipients. This agreement will ensure that they are not the victims of the flawed Senate bill.”
U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood, said, “This agreement was important step forward and I hope that we can work on a bipartisan agreement over the next two months to extend these items for a full year.”
U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, said Republicans had finally “come to their senses.”
“What a wonderful gift to give the American people some financial stability and peace of mind for the holidays,” Moore said.
Freshman Rep. Sean Duffy broke ranks today with House GOP leaders, calling on the chamber to “immediately” vote on the Senate’s two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday.
Earlier Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, pledged that he and House Republicans would not back down from their push for a one-year extension of the tax cut, which expires Dec. 31. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell today called on the House to pass the two-month extension the Senate approved 89-10 and work toward a deal for a yearlong cut.
Duffy, a top Dem target in next year’s elections, said he has been willing all along to support a two-month extension “if that was our only option.”
“The Senate's refusal to work with the House to hammer out the differences in our bills before Christmas has left us with few other options,” Duffy said. “Of course, I still believe middle class families would be better served by the certainty of a one-year payroll tax holiday, but this isn’t about proving a point. This is about preventing hardworking Wisconsin families from paying an extra $40 a week for the dysfunction in Washington DC.”
U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner's office has indicated the Menomonee Falls Republican intends to offer an apology to First Lady Michelle Obama for comments he made at a recent church event in Waukesha County.
Liberal blogs are abuzz about a conversation between Sensenbrenner and his office at Washington's Reagan National Airport in which he said the first lady "lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself."
That remark was reportedly in reference to comments he made at a Christmas event at St. Aiden’s Episcopal Church in Hartford, where he is alleged to have said, "And Michelle Obama, her project is obesity. And look at her big butt."
UPDATE: Sensenbrenner's office says he has sent a letter of apology to Michelle Obama, but declined to release it because it was a personal note.
His office also released a short statement that, “I regret my inappropriate comment and I have sent a personal note to the First Lady apologizing.”
Wisconsin's congressional delegation split along party lines today as the House passed a measure to reject a Senate deal to extend the payroll tax holiday.
The measure, passed 229-193 largely along party lines, also calls for a conference between the House and Senate to iron out differences between the chambers.
The House delayed last night’s planned vote on the Senate’s bill, which extended by 60 days the tax holiday and other provisions -- including unemployment benefits and Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors -- set to expire at the end of the year.
The state's GOP members each voted in favor of today's proposal calling for a conference, while Wisconsin's Dems opposed the measure.
“Job creators in my district told me they need certainty from Washington, and that means we have to do better than the Senate’s two-month punt,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls.
But U.S. Rep. Ron Kind responded that while the Senate bill isn't ideal, it's "the best the Senate can do now and the only way to ensure those who need assistance will find some relief."
“Too many Members in the House are again playing games that threaten the middle class and our economic recovery," said Kind, D-La Crosse.
U.S. Sens. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, and Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, split on an extension of the payroll tax cut.
Johnson joined nine other members of the Senate in opposing the extension, which passed 89-10 on Saturday.
The GOP House is set to vote today on the bill, with national reports indicating it is expected to fail.
Johnson knocked the payroll tax cut as bad policy for reducing funding to Social Security and saying the reduction hasn't helped boost economic growth. He wants to use the two months the bill extends the payroll tax holiday to craft an alternative relief package for middle and low-income workers.
“Without structural reform, we will bankrupt Social Security, and we will bankrupt our nation,” Johnson said. “It is long past time to act responsibly and begin to seriously address and reduce our debt and deficits.”
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., will jointly announce a new plan today to reform Medicare that would give seniors the choice of staying in the current program or moving into new private insurance programs.
Ryan, R-Janesville, earlier this year proposed overhauling Medicare to move seniors into private health insurance plans with government subsidies. Critics knocked it as a voucher system.
The new plan with Wyden will be released at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of today joined two fellow House Republicans in calling for the resignation of Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko.
Sensenbrenner, of Menomonee Falls, issued a joint statement with Paul Broun of Georgia and Andy Harris of Maryland condemning an "ongoing pattern of manipulation and contempt" by Jaczko at the NRC. The allegations followed testimony before a House Committee today by four NRC members.
“Our energy security is too important to be subjected to this kind of unprofessional conduct and irresponsible management," Sensenbrenner said in a statement. "The NRC needs new leadership that will carry out its mission rather than pander to certain political interests or interject personal disputes into policy-making decisions.”
Jaczko has rejected those accusations and said he has no plans to step down.
Wisconsin’s House delegation split along party lines over a GOP plan to extend the payroll tax holiday.
The bill also includes the extension of jobless benefits and a patch to the Medicare reimbursement rates for physicians, as well as the Keystone XL pipeline and changes to unemployment insurance and Medicare.
The White House has pledged to veto the bill and oppose any attempts to link the pipeline project to the payroll tax break.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, lost a race with fellow Senate Republican Roy Blunt of Missouri to be vice chair of the GOP caucus.
In a statement after today's secret ballot vote, Johnson wished Blunt well and promised to work with him. Blunt will now take over the No. 5 post in the Senate GOP caucus.
“I realize it’s relatively audacious for someone who’s been here for just eleven months to run for leadership, but Washington is bankrupting this nation," Johnson said. "We are mortgaging our children’s future – because of a lack of presidential leadership and a do-nothing Senate led by Harry Reid. Washington hasn’t listened. I thought that having an independent voice at the leadership table would help get that message across."
U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner was among the Republicans trading shots with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder during a House Judiciary Committee meeting Thursday.
The hearing, which focused largely on gun trafficking operation "Fast and Furious," included the Menomonee Falls Republican broaching the topic of impeachment for Justice Department officials if Congress doesn't receive answers about the controversy -- which resulted in hundreds of firearms heading to drug cartels in Mexico.
"Now, I've done more impeachments than anybody else in the history of the country. it is an expensive and messy affair and I don’t want to go this far," Sensenbrenner said. "But if we keep on getting pushed down the road and the can keeps on getting kicked, and we don’t get closure to this, what is Congress to do so that we don’t spend all of our time in court arguing privilege?"
Holder responded that the department had disclosed the facts of the case, including "things that a Justice Department has never, ever released before."
"Getting to the bottom of this is something that we all want to do," Holder said.
Former Veterans Affairs Secretary Ray Boland announced today he will run for the 3rd CD as a Republican.
Boland, who also served as the former commander at Ft. McCoy, said in his announcement that he has dedicated his life to serving the United States and is running out of respect for the legacy of selfless service from the nation’s veterans and a deep concern for the country’s future.
“Exactly 70 years ago an unexpected attack on Pearl Harbor plunged our nation into the worst war in history. Today a national economic and financial crisis threatens the very way of life so many have fought and died for from 1941 until the present to protect,” Boland said. “Time is running out to face up to the difficult work that must be done and we can no longer wait for a miracle.”
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., will challenge Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, for vice chair of the Senate GOP Conference, the No. 5 spot in caucus leadership.
“After receiving encouragement from a number of my colleagues, I’ve decided to run for Senate Republican Conference Vice Chairman," Blunt said today in a statement. "America is facing a critical moment when we’re going to decide who we’re going to be as a nation, and I believe this is a good way for me to continue to contribute to this historic debate.”
Blunt, a freshman senator, served as the House minority whip from 2007 to 2009.
Johnson, who announced his run in September, has been endorsed by Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida.
State Rep. Kelda Roys told Sunday's “UpFront with Mike Gousha" she would offer a bolder response to attacks on individual liberties than her fellow Dems seeking the party’s nomination for the 2nd CD.
Roys, D-Madison, said all four of the Dems running to replace U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, would likely take similar votes. But she cited her background in grassroots advocacy and organizing as one thing that sets her apart from state Rep. Mark Pocan, political newcomer Matt Silverman and Dane County Treasurer David Worzala.
“We really have to get back to people powered politics,” she said. “My job is to help engage people in a progressive movement to help change this country and make sure that our government and our economy work for everyone.”
Roys deplored what she said is a growing corporate influence in politics that she said helped put Walker in office. Roys pledged to refuse any corporate donations to her campaign.
She also said the current environment doesn't call for someone who’s willing to “go along to get along.”’
“It demands a bold, progressive response that has been totally missing in Wisconsin,” she said.
U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy has introduced legislation he says would increase the transparency of investments by lawmakers.
The bill, dubbed the RESTRICT Act, would require members of Congress and top staffers -- along with the president and cabinet members -- to either place their securities into a blind trust overseen by an independent manager or disclose all trades within three business days.
“It’s time for Congress to lead by example and enact this high standard of openness and accountability,” the Weston Republican said in a statement. “This act removes all doubt of insider trading and takes members out of the day-to-day decisions of their personal stock transactions without full public disclosure.”
Tommy Thompson endorsed mining in northern Wisconsin, more free trade and the repeal of "Obamacare" as he formally announced his U.S. Senate bid.
The former Republican governor and federal Health and Human Services secretary was surrounded by hundreds of cheering supporters and family at a Thursday evening event at a Waukesha machine shop.
Thompson, who turned 70 in November, made no secret of his status as a grandfather. His children and grandchildren were in attendance, along with his wife, Sue Ann. And he repeatedly invoking the phrase "for our children and grandchildren" as he promised to "restore our nation's pride, promise and prosperity."
If elected, Thompson said he would support free trade and the repeal of "job-killing" regulations. He said he would move to repeal "Obamacare" and replace it with market-driven alternatives. He'd push to approve the Keystone oil pipeline to Canada.
"It's time to open northern Wisconsin to mining," he said, adding, "I opened the last mine in Wisconsin and I proved we can protect the environment while creating good-paying jobs."
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and fellow Budget Committee member Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., are touting a new approach to the line-item veto for the president in what they’re calling a bipartisan attempt at budget reform.
Van Hollen said it’s different from line-item legislation lawmakers passed in the 1990s that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional. Under this version, anything the president line item vetoed would go back to Congress for an up or down vote.
Ryan said it would help end pork and 11th-hour projects stuffed into spending bills.