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Thursday, February 28, 2013

 5:13 PM 

Sensenbrenner calls for suspending E15 use

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner has introduced legislation that would prohibit the use of gasoline with a 15 percent ethanol content until the Environmental Protection Agency undertakes an "independent scientific analysis."

The Menomonee Falls Republican charged that the EPA has ignored "several tests and warnings highlighting E15’s harmful effects on engines and their components," and said the agency's waiver allowing use of the fuel should be suspended until those concerns are addressed.

"We have a responsibility to ensure that Americans using gas-powered machinery -- whether it be cars and boats or chainsaws and lawnmowers -- are not put at risk due to faulty fuel that has not been adequately vetted," Sensenbrenner said in a statement.

 12:20 PM 

Ryan, Duffy join state Dems in backing Violence Against Women Act

GOP U.S. Reps. Paul Ryan of Janesville and Sean Duffy of Weston today joined with the state's Dem members in supporting the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

The measure passed by a 286-138 margin and now heads to the president's desk for signature.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, lauded passage of the bill, particularly its protections for same-sex couples, Native Americans, immigrants and college students.

"Thankfully, common sense has prevailed and we have passed a comprehensive, expanded VAWA that refuses to choose which victims of domestic violence deserve our support," Pocan said in a statement.

Fellow Wisconsin Republicans Reid Ribble of Sherwood, Tom Petri of Fond du Lac and Jim Sensenbrenner of Menomonee Falls opposed the bill.

Wisconsin's U.S. senators split on the bill earlier this month.

 10:04 AM 

S.C. senator, Milwaukee police chief spar over gun background checks

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn had a testy exchange with U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham during a Capitol hearing on new gun regulations.

Graham, R-S.C., questioned the effectiveness of background checks already on the books and complained many laws aren't enforced.

Graham then pressed Flynn, “How many cases have you made? How many cases have you made?”

“It doesn’t matter, it’s a paper thing. I want to stop 76,000 people from getting guns illegally. That’s what a background check does,” Flynn shot back. “If you think we’re going to do paperwork prosecutions, you’re wrong.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

 2:08 PM 

Pocan, in debut House speech, calls for focus on economic growth

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan today said Congress needs to focus on economic growth and job creation instead of spending cuts, criticizing the impending sequester for its austerity in his debut speech on the floor of the House.

Pocan, D-Madison, said supporting education, infrastructure, research and new industries such as green energy will promote job growth and help fix the nation’s fiscal problems. He called the sequester “irresponsible,” and said it could cost Wisconsin 36,000 jobs.

“It’s like taking a meat cleaver to the budget instead of a scalpel,” Pocan said.

Pocan added he supports a balanced approach that promotes economic growth as well as responsible deficit reductions.

“The time has come to stop talking about harmful spending cuts, and start talking about getting the people of Wisconsin, and America back to work,” Pocan said. “We need less austerity, and more prosperity. We don’t have time to waste.”

- By Sarah Olson
For WisPolitics.com

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

 4:24 PM 

Baldwin, Johnson split on Hagel nomination

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson split on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be Defense secretary.

Johnson, R-Oshkosh, voted against ending the GOP filibuster of the nomination and against confirmation of the former Nebraska senator.

Baldwin, D-Madison supported the cloture motion, which passed 71-27, and the vote on the nomination, which was approved 58-41.

 9:27 AM 

Ribble bill seeks to avoid 'across-the-board' sequester cuts

With the sequester looming at the end of the week, U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble today introduced legislation that would allow federal agency heads more flexibility to implement the automatic spending cuts.

The Sherwood Republican said the bill, which he has titled the Sequestration Flexibility Act, will allow department officials to spare essential programs from deep cuts while trimming other programs deemed less essential.

He said in a statement, "We are never going to trim the fat with an across-the-board cut."

“While sequestration is far from ideal, it’s also inevitable, and I want to make sure that the cuts are done in the most responsible and thoughtful way possible,” Ribble said. “Hyperbole about the devastating effects of the sequester won’t change the fact that it is the law of the land, and since both parties can't agree on a complete substitute we need to ensure that it is implemented effectively."

Friday, February 22, 2013

 8:15 AM 

Baldwin: Walker Medicaid decision 'driven by politics'

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is asking Gov. Scott Walker to reconsider his decision to reject federal funding to expand Medicaid in the state, charging the move was "driven by politics instead of progress for our state."

In a letter sent yesterday, Baldwin, D-Madison, said the decision turns down a "significant federal investment" that would have bolstered Wisconsin's health care access and economy.

And she argues that in addition to forcing many low-income Wisconsinites out of their current coverage, efforts to expand coverage under the governor's proposal would "shortchange these individuals because they will not gain access to the robust coverage available to them under the (Affordable Care Act).

"I am committed to providing economic security for hardworking Wisconsin families and businesses who deserve quality health insurance coverage," Baldwin writes.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

 6:19 PM 

Kind to co-chair Mississippi River Caucus

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind will serve as one of two House Dem co-chairs of the congressional Mississippi River Caucus, his office announced today.

The La Crosse Dem will join U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., as well as House GOP co-chairs Stephen Fincher of Tennessee and Rick Crawford of Arkansas and Senate co-chairs Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.

"I’m proud to have worked hard on behalf of the river and the farms, businesses, and communities it impacts and look forward to the bipartisan progress we will be able to make as a caucus," Kind said in a statement. "Ensuring the protection of the river is vital to the long-term sustainability of the entire Mississippi River Basin."

 3:09 PM 

Johnson among GOP sens. seeking withdrawal of Hagel nomination

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Oshkosh today joined 14 of his Senate GOP colleagues in requesting that President Obama withdraw the nomination of Chuck Hagel as Defense secretary.

In a letter to the president issued by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the lawmakers cited a lack of consensus among senators about the nomination and criticized the former Nebraska GOP senator's "deeply concerning" testimony at his confirmation hearings.

The senators write that they have "serious doubts about his basic competence to meet the substantial demands of the office."

"It would be unprecedented for a Secretary of Defense to take office without the broad base of bipartisan support and confidence needed to serve effectively in this critical position," the letter reads.

 10:58 AM 

Pocan seeks 'thoughtful approach' on sequester

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan today called for urgency and a "thoughtful approach" from congressional leaders just over a week before devastating cuts would hit the state as the result of the spending cuts in the sequester.

Pocan, D-Madison, called the sequester a "budget tornado" during a Capitol press conference with Citizen Action of Wisconsin -- and that its effects on jobs, education and health care aren't being discussed nearly enough as the deadline to avoid it looms on March 1.

"We've already seen some of the impacts, because you have to plan," Pocan said. "You just can't keep punting and not deal with it."

Pocan said Democrats understand the need for budget cuts to address the nation's deficit, and that he believes House leadership, including Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, want to address the sequester more responsibly.

But he charged that many of the "Tea Party" members of the majority caucus are "driving the train on the sequester."

"It's like taking a meat ax to the budget instead of a scalpel, and its effect are very real," Pocan said.

Monday, February 18, 2013

 9:46 AM 

Ryan: White House immigration plan counterproductive

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan called the president’s plan for immigration reform counterproductive and said it makes efforts by a bipartisan group in Congress much more difficult.

A report over the weekend said the White House is preparing an immigration plan in case lawmakers fail to devise one of their own. Among other things, it would allow undocumented immigrants to become legal residents within eight years.

Ryan, R-Janesville, had earlier praised the president on the issue. But appearing on yesterday’s “This Week” on ABC, the leaking of the president’s plan takes things in the wrong direction.

“Look, the question that we always have to ask ourselves, particularly with this White House, is the president looking for a partisan advantage or is he looking for a bipartisan law?” Ryan said, adding the leak makes it look like the president is aiming for the former.

Ryan was also asked again about running for president in 2016. While he said he hasn’t made up his mind, he dismissed a report that suggested he was less likely to run.

“I literally do not know the answer to these questions about what is the best role for me to play to fix these problems for our country in the future,” Ryan said. “The point is I don't know the answer because I'm just not putting a great deal of thought into it. I'm not foreclosing any opportunity. I may or I may not.”

Friday, February 15, 2013

 2:13 PM 

Ribble, Duffy announce more committee posts

GOP U.S. Reps. Reid Ribble and Sean Duffy today announced additional committee positions for the 113th Congress.

Ribble, of Sherwood, will serve as vice chairman of the House Transportation Committee's Highways and Transit Subcommittee.

"A strong national infrastructure is the foundation of a strong economy and I will continue to work on policies that support its upkeep and reliability," Ribble said in a statement.

Duffy, meanwhile, will sit on the House Budget Committee, chaired by fellow Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan.

“I appreciate this opportunity and look forward to working closely with Chairman Ryan and the rest of my colleagues on the committee on proposals to pay down our debt and pass balanced budgets,” the Weston Republican said in a statement.

Ryan, of Janesville, said Duffy would " bring a fresh perspective to the critical issues facing the country."

Thursday, February 14, 2013

 7:56 AM 

Johnson will vote against Hagel nomination

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, will vote against the nomination of Chuck Hagel as Defense secretary.

Johnson said the “leadership and decisions of the secretary of Defense have crucial implications and consequences for our nation.”

“I was hopeful that President Obama’s nominee would bring considerable hands-on experience with defining the military mission and fulfillment of that mission, as well as extensive knowledge of foreign affairs,” Johnson said. “The bar that must be met by defense leadership is necessarily high, and Senator Hagel’s responses at his hearing leave too much doubt in my mind that he is an appropriate nominee for Secretary of Defense.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a Friday vote to cut off debate on the nomination. If 60 members vote to end the debate, Hagel’s nomination would then go to a floor vote.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

 1:15 PM 

Baldwin to support Hagel for Defense secretary

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, said today she will vote to confirm Chuck Hagel as the president’s Defense secretary.

Baldwin’s statement of support comes as Republicans consider a filibuster to hold up the nomination.

Baldwin said she had questions on a number of issues with Hagel, but the former GOP senator met with her and “showed refreshing sincerity and candor. In addition, he presented a quality that is not seen enough of in Washington and will serve our country well in the role of Secretary of Defense, the humility to admit mistakes and learn from them.”

“I have no doubt that he will serve as secretary of Defense with the same integrity that he served our country as a war hero who earned two Purple Hearts,” Baldwin said. “As a decorated war veteran, he has the military experience necessary to understand the needs of our troops and be an advocate for the men and women in our military. Senator Hagel has the national security qualifications and commitment to lead our service men and women that the people of Wisconsin and America want and deserve in their secretary of Defense.”

 11:58 AM 

Stocks seeks to remake NEA as 'more than a traditional labor union'

In February 2011, six months before John C. Stocks took over the top administrative position at the country's largest labor union, he joined a pitched battle in Madison. The state's new Republican governor, Scott Walker, had proposed stripping public sector unions of collective bargaining powers and limiting their ability to collect dues.

Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, asked Stocks to lead the opposition. An estimated 100,000 protesters rallied to oppose the governor's proposals for days on end, at one point occupying the state Capitol building. Firefighters, police officers, grocery store workers, Teamsters, Democratic donors and others turned out -- without turning to violence. The strategic acumen and organizational ability of Stocks was the glue, Henry says.

"He is wise as a serpent and tender as a dove," she said recently, paraphrasing the gospel of St. Matthew to make a point about Stocks' leadership style. "He pulled a diverse set of people together."

Stocks will need that wisdom and tenderness like never before. He's in the fight of his life. The executive director of the National Education Association suggests that the Wisconsin showdown was but one battle in a larger struggle for the country's soul. The way Stocks sees it, political and corporate interests, abetted by a misguided Supreme Court (see Citizens United v. FEC), are undermining the country's democratic principles and institutions.

During a January interview at NEA's headquarters near the White House, Stocks said three factors are fueling the assault: Republican governors and Republican-controlled state legislatures that seek to "systematically restrict the size and makeup of the American electorate; a huge infusion of undisclosed corporate money into the American political system; and [a systematic effort] to decimate the existence of public employee unions across the country."

"Public sector unions are the backbone of the labor movement in America," declares the 56-year-old New Orleans native, a former Idaho state senator and top official at the NEA affiliate in Wisconsin, where he still maintains a home in McFarland.

See more from the interview here.

 11:15 AM 

Johnson says he voted against VAWA because it's unconstitutional

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson says he voted against renewing the Violence Against Women Act because the latest version is unconstitutional and accused Dems of making it a "divisive and highly partisan bill."

Johnson, R-Oshkosh, said the bill was “fatally flawed” because of a provision that would allow tribal courts to prosecute non-Native American men accused of abusing Native American women on tribal lands. Tribal courts do not currently have the ability to do that.
He also accused Dems of introducing the bill before the Congressional Budget Office could estimate its cost, making it impossible to support a bill “covering an issue I would like to address.”

“I voted for an alternative that did not have these serious flaws,” Johnson said in a statement from his office. That alternative would help deter and prosecute violence against women – without the inclusion of unconstitutional provisions."

The Senate voted 78-22 yesterday to approve renewing the law. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, voted for the renewal.

State Dem Party executive director Maggie Brickerman noted the legislation had broad support in the Senate, including all Republican women in the chamber, and accused the senator of opposing common-sense protections for women.
"Ron Johnson's vote (Tuesday) was a shameful display of how his blind extremism is directly at odds with the well-being and dignity of Wisconsin women,” she said.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

 10:18 PM 

Wis. delegation reactions to president's SOTU address

Reaction President Obama's State of the Union address largely broke along party lines for Wisconsin's congressional delegation.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, praised the president for putting "progress ahead of partisan politics."

"President Obama made clear the path we must take to build broad based economic growth and reduce our deficit without shortchanging our future," she said.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, said Obama paid "lip service" to job creation.

"Once again, his proposed solution was a demand for increased spending – he called it investment," Johnson said. "He proposed paying for it by increasing taxes or just simply putting it on the national credit card.  You know, the one that already has a balance of $16.4 trillion."

U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood, said Obama once again proved he is a great orator, but he will try to focus on areas both parties can find agreement.

"There's no sense in focusing on disagreement or attacking people because it just prolongs the bickering and cheap talk that is so common in Washington D.C.," he said.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, praised the president for his pledge to prevent and reduce gun violence.

“While some may dismiss the President’s message as simple fodder for liberals, I believe that the message he gave this evening was -- as the young people say -- ‘real talk,’" she said. "We are facing tough times, and the only way that our country will thrive is with bold new ideas."

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, said the parties need to work together to balance the budget or they will trigger a debt crisis.

"I’m concerned the President doesn’t fully appreciate the challenge of our national debt -- and its threat to our economy," he said. "Tonight, he outlined many new programs in detail. But when it came to spending restraint, he was remarkably brief. He overstated his administration’s success on this front. And he downplayed the task before us."  

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, said the government needs to make sure the economy is built to last, but has to do it in a fiscally responsible way.

"And that means eliminating wasteful spending and finding ways to raise revenue at the same time," he said.
U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, said the address renewed the president's "vision for an America where government expands while freedom contracts.” He particularly criticized the speech's focus on climate change, charging that Obama "was very clear that he will instruct his Administration to achieve his goals via regulation and administrative fiat."

"Whether by 'cap and tax' scheme or EPA regulation, these policies will ravage our economy and hike energy prices," Sensenbrenner said.

 5:29 PM 

Oak Creek officer, New Glarus Brewing co-founder to attend State of the Union address

The White House today officially announced the list of guests -- including two Wisconsinites -- who will sit in the First Lady's box during tonight's State of the Union address.

Among the 24 guests are Oak Creek Police Lt. Brian Murphy, who was wounded while responding to the August shooting at the city's Sikh temple, and Deb Carey, co-found of New Glarus Brewing Company.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

 4:40 PM 

Kind to chair rural health caucus

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind will chair the House's Rural Health Care Coalition in this session of Congress, his office announced Tuesday.

The caucus counts more than 100 members, including lawmakers in both parties, among its ranks.

“We have some of the best rural health care providers in the country right in our own backyard,” Kind, D-La Crosse, said in a statement. “I am proud to have worked hard on their behalf during my time in office and look forward to the bipartisan progress we will be able to make as a coalition."

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· Tammy Baldwin (D)
· Ron Johnson (R)

· 1st CD: Paul Ryan (R)
· 2nd CD: Mark Pocan (D)
· 3rd CD: Ron Kind (D)
· 4th CD: Gwen Moore (D)
· 5th CD: F. James Sensenbrenner (R)
· 6th CD: Glenn Grothman (R)
· 7th CD: Sean Duffy (R)
· 8th CD: Reid Ribble (R)



· July 2013: Wood's 2001 DC inauguration trip turned into new career
· May 2013: Hard work propels Berens from Doyle to Pelosi to DGA
· March 2013: Riemann uses PR skills, 'lunch-pail work ethic' to boost state interests in D.C.
· Feb. 2013: Stocks seeks to remake NEA as 'more than a traditional labor union'
· Dec. 2012: As modest Kohl bids farewell to Senate, others do the bragging
· Dec. 2012: Wisconsin experience provides guideposts to Priebus at RNC


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