U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today visited a Waukesha company that received $12 million in tax credits through the federal stimulus bill to expand its operations in making energy efficient power transformers.
Waukesha Electric Systems, which builds transformers that are more than 99.5 percent efficient, is expanding its plant by 50 percent as a result of the funding. The company said it expects to add some 250 workers over the three years after the expansion is completed, which is expected early next year.
“Waukesha Electric Systems is not only a great Wisconsin manufacturer -- it is important to the whole country as we face one of the most important energy challenges: upgrading our electricity distribution network, much of which is many decades old,” Chu said in a statement. “To lead in the clean energy race, we must regain the lead in high-tech manufacturing, and the investments made in this facility will make Wisconsin a national leader in producing large scale and highly efficient power transformers.”
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind said today he looks "forward to playing an important part" in the discussion to find a candidate to replace U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, but that decision will have to wait until after the state Senate recall elections scheduled for August.
Kind, who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Senate next year or for guv if there is a recall election, said the campaign to elect Wisconsin's next senator "must not overshadow the important work confronting everyone who cares about the future of our state right now."
"It’s time to set aside political aspirations for 2012 and focus on the present," Kind said in a statement that referenced his time interning for former U.S. Sen. Bill Proxmire. "That is what Senator Proxmire would have done. It is what all of us who truly care about Wisconsin families and their priorities should do. There will be more than enough time for a healthy debate about the future after we win the present."
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson today lauded news that the Senate will return Tuesday after an abbreviated break for the Fourth of July.
Johnson, R-Oshkosh, vowed Wednesday to oppose any effort to recess while negotiations over raising the nation's debt limit remain ongoing.
“I’m happy to hear that Senator Reid and President Obama agree with the point that Senator Sessions and I made earlier in the week -- that it’s important for the Senate to stay in session over the Fourth of July recess to address our nation’s looming fiscal crisis," Johnson said in a statement. "It’s also important that we don’t waste this time -- that we stay and work to seriously address the root cause of this crisis -- Washington’s excess of spending."
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson threatened to bring Senate action to a halt unless majority Dems make some assurances they will begin to meet their budget responsibilities in an open process.
But Johnson, R-Oshkosh, later backed down from his threat late Tuesday afternoon and allowed Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to schedule votes for Wednesday.
Under Senate’s arcane rules, members often request unanimous consent to proceed with routine business to speed up the process. Granting the request is considered a common courtesy.
But Johnson demanded Dems produce a budget and chided ongoing negotiations in private meant to hammer out a compromise between the White House, House Republicans and Senate Dems.
“They should explain just how much of our children’s future they are willing to mortgage,” Johnson demanded. “The American people deserve to be told the truth. Unless that happens, I will begin to withhold my consent. Unless there is some assurance the Senate will take up its budget responsibilities in an open process, I will begin to object.”
After his remarks, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. and senior member of the Budget Committee, asked unanimous consent to speak. But Johnson objected in a rare breach of Senate protocol.
The League of Conservation Voters today announced a new TV ad highlighting reports that U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, stood to benefit from billions in proposed tax breaks to energy companies -- including those owned by his father-in-law.
The ad begins with footage of an April town hall meeting with Ryan in Waterford in which he agrees with a constituent that federal subsidies to oil companies have "gotta stop."
"But a week later, here’s Ryan voting for billions in handouts to big oil," an announcer says in the 30-second ad. "And now, a Newsweek investigation reveals Ryan, his wife and father-in-law made hundreds of thousands from oil companies that lease their land."
The group says the ad will run in the Milwaukee market this week.
“Despite the fact that no state matching funds are required, Governor Walker’s administration has indicated that it will not support such grant applications,” Moore wrote. “The residents of the City of Milwaukee, with its severe health disparities and high burden of chronic disease, would benefit greatly from such a program.”
Community Transformation Grants, authorized under the federal health care reform law, provide funding to local governments, organizations and tribes to support preventative health care activities.
Moore said that the lack of support from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services fits a pattern of the state “returning or jeopardizing federal funding” and urged the CDC not only to consider her district’s application, but to reconsider the requirement of demonstrated state support altogether.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin Thursday sent a fundraising plea to supporters telling them that her decision on whether to run for U.S. Senate will depend on the level of financial support she receives.
"[B]efore I can commit to a race for the U.S. Senate, I need to know that I’ll have enough financial backing… the kind of backing that will allow me to run a campaign equal to the enthusiasm and spirit of my supporters on the ground," Baldwin, D-Madison, wrote, noting the "extremely important June 30th filing deadline is only a week away."
Baldwin says in the email that when she first ran for Congress "pundits and old guard political insiders" told her she wouldn't succeed. But she says she proved the doubters wrong, and became the first female congressional representative from Wisconsin.
"Help me show the naysayers we have what it takes to make history again," Baldwin says.
A new national poll from Bloomberg News shows strong opposition to the U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's proposed changes to Medicare.
The poll showed 57 percent of respondents believed they would be worse off under the House GOP plan, authored by the Janesville Republican and Budget Committee chairman. Only 34 percent said they would be better off under the GOP changes.
In addition, Politico reports that Ryan's net unfavorability ratings were the third-highest among prominent Republicans listed in the poll, trailing only former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Just over half of respondents, however, did not register an opinion of Ryan.
President Barack Obama's troop withdrawal plan for Afghanistan is getting mixed reaction along partisan lines.
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, says he's concerned with the pace of the withdrawals.
"The President’s announcement puts in doubt whether the commanders on the ground will have the forces they need to accomplish America’s longstanding goals in Afghanistan, which are defeating al Qaeda and enabling the Afghan government to exercise effective control over its territory," Ryan said. "Success in Afghanistan remains as important to our national security today as it was when we liberated that country in 2001."
But U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, said it's time to bring the troops home.
"As the President said, it's vital that we end our combat mission in Afghanistan and shift the responsibility for their security to their own government," Kohl said.
Dem U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin said the business community should be enlisted in efforts to defeat proposals like GOP U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s to curb Medicaid benefits.
Baldwin participated in a conference call with Families USA as the group unveiled a report claiming cuts to Medicaid like those proposed by Ryan, R-Janesville, would not only result in cuts in federal aid to Wisconsin, but also stifle business activity and lead to job losses.
“These cuts at this time are the wrong prescription for Wisconsin,” Baldwin, D-Madison, said.
Baldwin said Medicaid advocates need to “enlist new allies” from the business community to fight against cuts.
“There are other places in our federal budget to make cuts that will have less effect on our job situation and our health status,” Baldwin said.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson told CSPAN's Washington Journal this morning he's not overly confident that a deal on raising the nation's debt ceiling will be reached soon despite an uptick in meetings by Vice President Joe Biden and congressional negotiators this week.
And the Oshkosh Republican placed the blame squarely on President Obama, saying the issue should have been taking up a great deal of his time and attention for the past six months, and questioning whether lawmakers will have to "try and rush to some cobbled-together deal behind closed doors with a month or two to go."
"I think an awful lot of people are starting to notice this president in particular just simply doesn't seem to want to lead, which is puzzling," Johnson said. "That's pretty much the primary job description of the president of the United States is leading on issues."
Johnson also said Dem leadership in the Senate has not been serious about negotiations and that GOP senators are hamstrung by their minority status. He credited Republicans for proposing alternative solutions despite the gridlock.
"We realize how urgent the situation is. Whether you like Paul Ryan's plan or not, at least it's a serious proposal," Johnson said. "We're stepping up to the plate, we want to solve the problem. But we need a willing partner on the other side."
Twenty-three state legislators this week asked Wisconsin's congressional delegation to "prioritize and maximize" the Byrne/JAG law enforcement grant program in the debate over criminal justice appropriations.
Speculating that Byrne/JAG funding would be pitted against two other law enforcement grant programs -- COPS and SCAAP -- in the budget debate, the lawmakers write that, "Wisconsin clearly enjoys and depends on the flexibility of the Byrne/JAG program to meet the needs of our state's criminal justice system."
"Wisconsin receives far more in Byrne/JAG monies than these two programs combined and also receives a greater benefit," the letter states.
Twenty-two Dems signed the letter; they were joined by GOP Rep. Garey Bies of Sister Bay, a former member of the Door County Sheriff's Department.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson followed through with his campaign pledge to sell his BP stock as he liquidated his investments following his election last fall, according to WisPolitics.com check of his financial disclosure statement.
The Oshkosh Republican also pledged during the campaign to put his investments into a blind trust. But he said he is still studying whether to do that. In the mean time, he sold off almost all of his publicly traded assets.
The only holdings he still listed on his latest financial disclosure statement, which was released publicly Wednesday, are several cash funds, some tax exempt bonds and stock in Bemis Co., the Neenah business with ties to Johnson's in-laws.
“It was all triggered by the fact that I won the Senate campaign and I was going to represent the people so I wanted to divest myself of anything that could be a conflict of interest,” Johnson told WisPolitics.com about his decision to sell the investments.
Johnson drew criticism in July when he disclosed he owned BP stock valued at between $116,003 and $315,000 after he defended the petroleum giant during a debate the month before.
During the debate, Johnson said he believed BP must be held accountable for the spill in the Gulf of Mexico that raged for weeks last summer. But he criticized the $20 billion fund set up to aid victims, saying the Obama administration should have gone through the normal legal process to extract the funds.
He pledged to sell his stock after his ownership became public when his disclosure statement was released.
Johnson, who put some $8.7 million of his own money into his successful 2010 campaign, also listed just more than $10 million in compensation from PACUR during 2010 and $75,000 in flow-through income.
That was a significant jump from the $650,000 in flow-through income he listed from PACUR on his disclosure report filed last summer during the campaign.
Johnson said he hadn’t paid himself a salary since buying the business in 1997 and the $10 million was a deferred compensation payout that he did after his November victory. He said the move was not related to his self-financing of his campaign.
Johnson said he now only owns 5 percent of the company with his wife.
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind joined a chorus of lawmakers on bothsides of the aisle advocating for the preservation of WiscNet, urging state legislators to preserve $37 million in federal funding for increased broadband access.
“Wisconsin currently ranks 43rd worst in the country for broadband access. That’s unacceptable," Kind said. "Our state was given $37 million -- with no strings attached -- to connect our communities and expand broadband reach and now that access is in jeopardy. How do we expect our students, our businesses, and our state to continue to innovate, create, and succeed in a 21st century economy if we deny them the resources to do so?"
The La Crosse Dem noted that the funding is projected to create 500 jobs, but argued that the funding is critical to "our economic development and future success as a state."
Former U.S. Russ Feingold greeted cheering crowds outside the Capitol's "Walkerville" tent city Sunday with words of encouragement and solidarity, while remaining ambiguous about future plans for public office.
"I'm not looking at any office in particular. I'm just trying to change policy," Feingold told reporters after the rally.
Feingold used his speech to reiterate his commitment to the Wisconsin protest movement, though the Walkerville crowd shouted "Feingold for governor!"
"I am here to stand with you," Feingold told the crowd. "If it takes one year, great. If it takes five years, we'll do it. ... The game is not over until we win it!"
Tommy Thompson said today he will not announce his intentions for 2012 until after this summer's state Senate recall elections are over.
Shortly after U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl announced he would not seek re-election, various sources close to Thompson indicated the former guv was preparing to make a bid for the seat in 2012. But in the weeks since, Thompson has been largely silent about a potential campaign other than a couple of radio interviews. That has sparked some question among insiders about whether Thompson, who has flirted with campaigns the last couple of years only to decide against a run, was truly committed to running in 2012.
"Once we are through this critical period of recall elections, it will be appropriate to talk about 2012, and I will make my intentions clear then -- but not sooner," Thompson said in a statement. "Getting ready for the campaign during a presidential election will take a great deal of time, planning and effort. And so, this must wait until we get through the immediate challenge of the recall elections, in which I am confident we will prevail."
In the statement, Thompson said the future of the nation is at stake in the 2012 election.
“I believe that in the U.S. Senate I could help get our economy moving again, put our fiscal house in order, and help address other pressing problems with the same kind of approach to innovative reforms that made Wisconsin a national leader in tax cuts, job growth, welfare reform, and education reform while I was governor,” Thompson said.
UPDATE: Thompson has retained GOP operative Darrin Schmitz and his firm Persuasion Partners Inc. to help with strategic planning as he works on a possible U.S. Senate bid, Schmitz said.
Schmitz is a former press secretary and campaign aide to Thompson who has more recently worked on the campaigns of U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and AG J.B. Van Hollen.
Republican Dan Sebring has filed declaration of candidacy papers to run against U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore in the heavily Dem 4th Congressional District.
Moore, D-Milwaukee, cruised to an easy 69 percent to 30 percent victory over Sebring in 2010.
"I know that we have a battle to fight and I know we have to save America. I'm running because I'm concerned about the future of the 4th District, the State of Wisconsin, and the country," Sebring said in a press release. "I'm running because I fundamentally disagree with the policies supported by our current representative in Congress."
Sebring, a Navy veteran and auto repair shop owner, also ran as a write-in in the district during the 2008 election; Moore won with nearly 88 percent of the vote.
U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl says he's "not a fan" of Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan, contending the key to saving Medicare is bringing down health care costs in general.
Kohl, D-Milwaukee, said the national health care plan Dems approved last session was a start, but was not perfect, adding the president has admitted as much. He said more needs to be done to bring down costs. But he said Wednesday the vouchers under Ryan's plan wouldn't come close to matching the current benefits retirees receive, while their out-of-pocket expenses would go up dramatically.
Kohl said one step the federal government needs to take is to begin negotiating with drug companies on prices, much like Wisconsin does with its SeniorCare program so the savings can be used to reduce costs.
He also said he doesn't believe Ryan's "plan is balanced and fair in terms of who we're going to arrive at the necessary cuts."
"It's not bipartisan; it's way too partisan," said Kohl, who was in Madison to talk about small business loans at Mandli Communications on Madison's southeast side.
Kohl also said he believes lawmakers need to strike a deal on raising the country's debt ceiling as part of a package that includes spending cuts. But he declined to lay out what he thought should be part of the package, saying he didn't think it was appropriate for individual members of Congress to detail their demands while negotiations are going on.
And on the topic of the race to succeed him in the Senate, Kohl said he hasn't talked with potential candidates and doesn't plan to get involved in a Dem primary, though he expects a crowded field.
"That's not my job," he said of weighing in during the primary.
U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, was the only member of the Wisconsin’s House delegation to support lifting the nation’s debt ceiling without any accompanying spending cuts.
The GOP proposal, rejected 318-97 yesterday, was designed to fail, and chief sponsor, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said it was meant to send a message that the nation’s debt must be reined in.