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Thursday, March 29, 2012

 4:47 PM 

Wis. House members split on Ryan budget

Wisconsin's congressional delegation split along party lines Thursday as the House passed the budget proposal authored by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan 228-191.

"Here, in this chamber, we are witnessing the growing momentum of a new approach -- one that maintains a critical role for government but ultimately puts the American people in charge where they belong," Ryan, R-Janesville, said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner added in a statement that he backed the proposal "to rein in our debt, reform the broken tax code and close unfair loopholes, and protect Medicare.”

"The bottom line is that our country is in serious need of fiscal reform: our debt is larger than our entire economy and will double in the next 10 years," the Menomonee Falls Republican said. "We can’t expect to grow our economy and create opportunity for future generations unless we address the true drivers of our debt."

But U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, said the budget "breaches the social contract we have with our citizens."

“A budget is a moral document that reflects the priorities in which a country will invest their resources," Moore said in a statement. "This budget reflects what Republicans have continually represented during this Congress: helping the wealthy and hurting everyone else."

The House budget is almost certain to fail in the Dem-controlled Senate.

See more reaction here.

Friday, March 23, 2012

 3:52 PM 

Obama campaign touts health care law's anniversary in Wisconsin

President Obama's campaign today marked the two-year anniversary of the federal health care reform law by touting the benefits that have already been put in place.

National campaign co-chair and former Dem U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold noted in a conference call with reporters that Medicare is stronger, women can get preventative services at no extra cost, and children are able to stay on their parent's coverage until they are 26.

"Millions of Americans and Wisconsinites have already experienced first hand the important benefits and economic security the law provides," Feingold said.

Wisconsin Nurses and Healthcare Professionals President Candice Owley said nurses are able to serve their patients better because of the law.

"The system right now is enormously expensive," Owley said. "The way to really save money is to make sure we're catching things at the front end."

Owley added that Republicans may find it tough to repeal popular portions of the law, such as the ability for children to stay on parent's insurance.

UW-Madison senior Steve Hughes is one of the 28,000 the campaign says will be able to take advantage of that provision.

Hughes said he had been a bit uneasy about graduating in spring, but that the law had put him at ease.

"Now I know that come graduation day, I can celebrate without hesitation," Hughes said.

Republicans, meanwhile, knocked the law on today's two-year anniversary, calling for its repeal.

"Despite the president's promises, ObamaCare has left Wisconsin undeniably worse off. Health care costs will continue to skyrocket into the foreseeable future, and Americans have less freedom to make their own health care decisions," said state GOP Chair Brad Courtney.

See more reaction to the two-year anniversary here.

- By Arthur Thomas
For WisPolitics.com

 6:48 AM 

Johnson seeks additional CBO estimates of health care law

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, and 39 of his Senate GOP colleagues Thursday requested that the Congressional Budget Office provide budget impact estimates for an increased number of Americans who could potentially lose employer-provided health coverage under federal health care reform.

The senators ask the CBO to determine the implications of 30 percent, 50 percent and 100 percent of citizens losing such coverage.

"Before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, the American people deserve to know the full range of its potential costs and consequences," the letter states.

Johnson wrote he doesn't agree with the CBO's recent analysis of the health care law's costs, which included estimates of 20 million employees losing their current coverage.

"Our goal should be to paint a complete and accurate picture of what our health care system, our federal budget, and our freedoms will look like under PPACA," Johnson said in a statement. "I do not believe it will be a pretty picture."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

 10:56 AM 

Ryan rolls out House GOP budget

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan today unveiled the House GOP's fiscal year 2013 budget, arguing the proposal once again offers "real solutions" to the country's fiscal issues.

"We've shared with Americans a specific plan of action that cuts spending, pays off the debt and gets our economy back on the path to prosperity," the Janesville Republican said in a web video rolling out the budget plan. "Real, specific reform is needed to strengthen the health and retirement security of seniors and the economic security of all Americans."

The proposal calls for greater spending limits than the deal struck last year in the debate over raising the federal debt ceiling, with Ryan projecting a balanced federal budget by 2040. The budget would also substantially alter Medicare by providing subsidies to seniors to purchase health coverage either on the private market or in a government insurance exchange starting in 2023.

Ryan argues in an op-ed in this morning's Wall Street Journal that the spending cuts would be achieved by "ending the epidemic of crony politics and government overreach that has weakened confidence in the nation's institutions and its economy."

Democrats, however, were quick to criticize the proposal, with the White House responding that the budget "once again fails the test of balance, fairness, and shared responsibility."

"The House economic plan draws on the same wrong-headed theory that led to the worst recession of our lifetimes and contributed to the erosion of middle-class security over the last decade," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement. "And the President believes we cannot return to a failed theory that didn’t lead to the growth of jobs, incomes, or the economy."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

 9:13 AM 

Wis. lawmakers praise St. Croix bridge bill signing

Lawmakers from both sides are praising the president’s signing of legislation to authorize construction of the St. Croix River Crossing Project.

Gov. Scott Walker called it a great day for Wisconsin.

“The St. Croix River Crossing is a great example of what happens when everyone puts their differences aside, focuses on the needed end result and works together to successfully get something done. And Wisconsin is better off for it,” he said. “We can now begin the process of constructing this bridge, a project that will bring thousands of jobs to our region and provide a safer route between Minnesota and Wisconsin.”

The project includes converting the Stillwater Lift Bridge over the river to a pedestrian and bicycle bridge. Construction of the new bridge is expected to begin in 2014 with a projected cost of between $571 million and $676 million.

The projected received bipartisan support in Congress over objections of those who said the projection was a waste of money and would harm the river.

“After decades of work and the dedication of local stakeholders, agencies, and private entities, we can finally get to work constructing the much needed St. Croix River Crossing Project,” said U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse. “Not only will the new bridge address local safety and transportation concerns but it will create thousands of jobs in the short-term and foster continued economic development in a very dynamic and fast growing region.”

Friday, March 2, 2012

 6:14 PM 

Ryan warns of "austerity mode" as result of health care reform

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan said today that President Obama’s health care plan would lead the U.S. to a “Greek-like austerity mode” in fewer than five years if it is left untouched.

The Janesville Republican, who also chairs the House Budget Committee, told a Milwaukee Press Club event today that if the nation went into “austerity management mode,” the sick and the poor would get hurt the most.

Ryan said Republicans winning the presidential election “and being magnanimous in reform and fixing problems” is the only solution to a “dire situation.”

Ryan also said price controls would lead to seniors being denied coverage.

Marquette University faculty member Susan Giaimo, another of the four health care experts who participated in the panel discussion, discussed her support for the Affordable Care Act and its regulations.

The ACA “makes it illegal to discriminate” against the sick and has all the necessary tools for improving health care such as better delivery and reimbursement methods, Giaimo said.

In contrast, Giaimo said Ryan’s Medicare reform plan with Democratic U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, “shifts costs to weakest market players -- seniors, states, the poor and the disabled.”

Other than Ryan and Giaimo, the panel consisted of Tim Bartholow, chief medical officer for the Wisconsin Medical Society, and John S. Toussaint, CEO emeritus of ThedaCare.

Bartholow addressed the existence of so-called “death panels” that some critics have said would be involved in medical decisions under the reform law.

”That was never the case,” Bartholow said, adding that instead doctors would discuss with patients how best to handle end-of-life care and issues such as how to tell family members.

The program was part of the Milwaukee Press Club’s Behind the Headlines series, sponsored by Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare and Foley & Lardner LLP. See more about the event.

-- By Maggie Schleicher
For WisPolitics.com

Thursday, March 1, 2012

 5:49 PM 

Wis. delegation backs St. Croix bridge bill; measure headed to president

The Wisconsin House delegation today unanimously backed legislation that would enable the long-sought reconstruction of a St. Croix River bridge at Stillwater, Minn.

The House passed the St. Croix River Crossing Project Authorization Act by a 339-80 margin. The bill -- which now heads to the president's desk -- exempts the $700 million bridge project from the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

"There is much that divides us, but on this issue it was incredibly refreshing to work with Democrats and Republicans alike toward a common goal for both our region and our local economy," said U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Weston. "It’s unfortunate that this bridge required congressional action in the first place, but I’m thrilled to see that decades of work has not gone to waste."

"This bridge not only addresses the critical safety concerns of the region but also maintains the scenic and recreational value of the St. Croix Riverway," added U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse. "I’m proud to have supported the project for the last 16 years and am thrilled that we will be able to build the bridge that the citizens and communities need and deserve.”

See more reaction here.

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