• WisPolitics

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

 4:02 PM 

Riemann uses PR skills, 'lunch-pail work ethic' to boost state interests in D.C.

Saving whooping cranes, “connecting the capitals” and fixing a dilapidated bridge spanning two states is all in a day’s work for Sheboygan native Wendy Riemann. Well, not quite a day, but in nearly two years on the job, the 33-year-old has already racked up these accomplishments as Wisconsin’s director of federal relations.

“I’ve got the best job in D.C.,” the effusive 2002 University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate declares from her modest but comfortable office in the Hall of States near the U.S. Capitol.

As GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s representative in Washington, Riemann advocates for his policies and the state’s priorities. She's also responsible for informing Wisconsin’s 10-person congressional delegation about what’s happening in Madison and vice versa.

"Wendy is a valuable member of the governor’s team," said Eric Schutt, Walker's chief of staff. "Her extensive experience on the Hill and in D.C. coupled with her Wisconsin roots makes her a great fit for her current position. Her updates and input on federal issues have not only been helpful for the governor’s team, but also for many of our state agencies."

Riemann describes herself as a “middleman.” To that end, last summer she invited all the delegation’s chiefs of staff and legislative directors to Madison to “connect the capitals.” Throughout the day, each of the state’s cabinet secretaries came to the governor’s conference room to give presentations about their departments. It was a “get to know you and the state” event, Riemann explained.

“I educate, advocate and unite in this job,” she said.

See more from the interview here.

 1:58 PM 

Baldwin, Pocan express hope Supreme Court will embrace marriage equality

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan expressed hope today the U.S. Supreme court’s decisions in two pending cases will reflect the country’s move toward embracing marriage equality.
The Madison Dems, both of whom are openly gay, issued statements today as the court heard arguments on California’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage. The Supreme Court will hear arguments tomorrow on the Defense of Marriage Act, and Baldwin said she will have the chance to attend the proceedings.

“This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will listen to arguments in cases that will decide whether our country becomes more equal, not less,” Baldwin said. “The court will decide whether gay American citizens can continue to be discriminated against simply because of who they love. “

Pocan, a co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, noted in his statement he was one of 17 lead signatories on an amicus brief from 212 members of Congress urging the court to overturn DOMA.

“The Supreme Court has an unparalleled opportunity in the coming days and weeks to move our country closer to our founding ideals of equality for all,” Pocan said.

“It has become increasingly evident that supporters of marriage equality have the country and the Constitution on our side.”

Thursday, March 21, 2013

 10:54 AM 

House delegation splits along party lines over Ryan budget

Wisconsin's House delegation split along party lines on the budget written by Budget Chair Paul Ryan, R-Janesville.

GOP Reps. Sean Duffy, Tom Petri, Reid Ribble and Jim Sensenbrenner joined Ryan in voting for the budget.

Dems Ron Kind, Gwen Moore and Mark Pocan opposed the plan, which passed largely along party lines 221-207.

Pocan was the only member of the delegation to oppose a spending plan to avoid a government shutdown. The bill was approved 318-109 and now goes to the White House.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

 5:11 PM 

Ryan fifth, Walker sixth in CPAC straw poll

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan was fifth in the CPAC straw poll, while Gov. Scott Walker finished sixth.

U.S. Sen. Ran Paul, R-Ky., won the straw poll with 25 percent of the vote, edging Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who had 23 percent.

Ryan, R-Janesville, had 6 percent of the vote, while Walker captured 5 percent.

See the final results.

 11:29 AM 

Walker calls for conservatives to have optimism, relevance, courage in their message

Gov. Scott Walker told activists Saturday conservatives win when they rely on an optimistic, relevant and courageous message that underscores their belief in the American people and not the government.

Speaking to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, Walker used his own experience in Wisconsin to illustrate his point.

He said people in Washington, D.C., often talk about things like the sequester and fiscal cliff. But the voters he knows worry about whether their neighbor out of work for six months will find a new job and if their child’s school performs well.

Walker said he took on big government employee unions and won because voters realized he was on the side of hard-working taxpayers. Likewise, conservatives need to show they’re not on the side of big government special interests or even big business.

“We’re standing with the hard-working taxpayers, and that can resonate all across this country,” he said.

Walker said he’s delivered an optimistic message by reforming education to allow schools the hire and fire based on performance rather than seniority and to bid out their health insurance to save money.

“We’re the ones who care about education. We’re the ones who want our children to go forward,” he said.

Walker also pointed to his calls for entitlement reform in Wisconsin as a sign of courage, saying he wants to move people from government dependence to "true independence." Walker said he’s called for those on food stamps to get work or be in job training to qualify for the benefits. He also couched his decision to reject an expansion of Medicaid under the federal healthcare law as one he made to move people off government rolls and into the market.

“It’s about empowering people through the dignity of wok to control their own destiny through the benefit of jobs in the private sector that brings true freedom and prosperity,” Walker said.

Watch the speech.

Friday, March 15, 2013

 12:02 PM 

Ryan: GOP budget would bolster 'communities'

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan said today that his latest proposed budget would bolster the nation's communities -- "that vast middle ground between the government and the individual."

"We need to remember that people don’t find happiness in grim isolation or by government fiat," Ryan, R-Janesville, said in his address to CPAC 2013 in Washington. "They find it through friendship -- through free, vibrant exchange with people around them."

"Our budget makes room for these communities to grow, so that the people in them have room to thrive."

The House Budget chairman also criticized the plan offered by Senate Democrats, but said Dems can "no longer hide behind inaction." He described the economy as in "critical care" instead of a recovery, projecting that "farther down the road, things will get worse."

"At some point, lenders will lose confidence in us. They will demand higher interest rates ... Pressed for cash, the government will take the easy way out," Ryan said. "It would crank up the printing presses. The dollar would sink. Our finances would collapse."

Ryan also said his plan has already changed the conversation and "offers an end to the brinkmanship" in Washington.

"We trim the government back to its proper size; we balance the budget," Ryan said. "We give our communities the space that they need to thrive, and we do it all out in the open -- just as our founders envisioned."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

 1:34 PM 

Johnson spars over deficit reduction with Budget Committee staffer

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson declared the estimated deficit reduction in the Senate's budget proposal "totally false" following a contentious exchange with a staff member during a hearing today.

The Oshkosh Republican took issue with several aspects of the Senate plan during a markup of the proposal, telling the staffer he wanted to compare it "apples to apples" with the baseline from the Congressional Budget Office.

"The chairman's mark spends $500 million more and it taxes a trillion dollars more," Johnson said, saying the actual deficit reduction was actually about a half-trillion dollars instead of the $1.85 trillion projected by Democrats.

"I don't agree with that, sir," the staffer responded, saying those figures are "not the current policy baseline that the chairman's using."

"You are totally confusing the situation," Johnson said. "It's far easier than that. The $1.85 trillion is totally false."

Committee chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., then interjected, saying she doesn't want the hearing to "erupt into a political debate."

"We're going to have a lot of time to do that on the floor," Murray said.

See video of the exchange here.

 10:51 AM 

Wisconsinites to lead manufacturing advisory panel

The 2013 Manufacturing Council, a 30-member national board that advises the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, will be led by two executives from Wisconsin.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank -- a finalist to serve as the next chancellor of UW-Madison -- announced the appointments of 26 members to the council today.

Michael Laszkiewicz, vice president and general manager of Rockwell Automation in Milwaukee, will chair the council, while Mary Isbister, president of Mequon-based GenMet, will serve as vice chair. Both served on the council last year as well.

"I am pleased to chair this important committee," Laszkiewicz said in a statement. "I look forward to working with the Department of Commerce and presenting the U.S. government with new suggestions to strengthen American manufacturing and global competitiveness."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

 9:06 AM 

Duffy, Pocan weigh in on federal budget turmoil

Two members of the Wisconsin House delegation portrayed a dysfunctional congressional budget process as a big part of the reason for federal programs -- good and bad -- facing $85 billion in across-the-board cuts.

U.S. Reps. Sean Duffy and Mark Pocan appeared at a WisPolitics.com luncheon last week in DC at Bullfeathers, a popular bar-restaurant on the Hill. Duffy, who represents the sprawling northern 7th CD, is a Republican in his second term. Pocan, who represents the Madison-area's 2nd CD, is a freshman Democrat who used to co-chair the state Legislature's budget-writing Joint Finance Committee.

The discussion with some 50 attendees with ties to Wisconsin was dominated by the sequester.

"The way the cuts are going forward is not the best way; it's going to be somewhat painful," Duffy said. "However, we can find a better way to do it. We're trying to give the president flexibility."

Pocan, admitting he was brand new, said the Washington way of illogical budget planning has been going on long before he and Duffy came to Congress.

"This is a lot of dysfunction," he said, bemoaning an across-the-board approach that could furlough meat inspectors who help foster a lot of jobs in Wisconsin.

"I think we all agree there's better ways it can get done," he said. "If they don't have a meat inspector, (many businesses) can't open. ... To me that's a real ripple effect."

Joked Pocan: "I think if you would let the Wisconsin delegation do this, we would do a much better job."

See more from the event here.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

 11:44 AM 

Ryan officially releases budget plan

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, released his 2014 House Budget proposal, which aims to cut spending by $4.6 trillion over the next decade, repeal the Affordable Care Act, restructure Medicare and balance the budget by fiscal year 2023.

A copy of the budget proposal can be found here.

In addition to the Medicare and ACA changes, Ryan's budget would also turn Medicaid into a block grant program with fewer federal restrictions, gradually turn the food stamp program into a block grant program with work requirements and time limits, lower the top tax rates for individuals and corporations at 25 percent and repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Update: Reaction to Ryan's budget has split predictably along party lines, with Republicans praising it for its fiscal responsibility and Democrats hammering it for provisions that cut back on Medicare.

The Republican Party of Wisconsin said Ryan's budget put the country on track to "putting our fiscal house in order" and pointed out that Democrats had not passed a budget in 1,400 days.

"The plan balances the budget, holds the line on taxes, and controls spending while investing in our priorities," said RPW Executive Director Joe Fadness in a statement. "I applaud Ryan for his leadership and willingness to guide America toward a path of renewal."

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, who also sits on the House Budget Committee, chastised Ryan for  his budget, calling it a "reckless and irresponsible choice" to target benefits for seniors and working families.

“Rep. Ryan and I share Rock County between our two districts, and Rock County has one of the highest unemployment rates in our state," Pocan said in a statement. "Families in Rock County and across Wisconsin are not strengthened by a budget that locks the irresponsible sequester cuts in place, turns Medicare into a voucher program, and preserves tax cuts for oil companies and corporations that outsource jobs. What they deserve are substantive actions from Congress that can lead to economic growth and long-term job creation."

You can find more reaction to Ryan's budget in the press releases.

 9:16 AM 

Kind blames House GOP for sequestration

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind slammed House Republicans Friday for their role in federal sequestration, saying they are abdicating lawmakers' responsibility for making tough decisions with a move to give the White House more flexibility on spending cuts.

"I think it's the biggest political cop-out there is, and very disingenuous, for the Republicans to be fighting hard for these indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts and then lay it all at the lap of the president," the La Crosse Dem said at a WisPolitics luncheon in Madison.

Kind alleged that Republicans would seek to blame President Obama for problems with the sequester by forcing him to "make the tough decisions, from agency to agency." And he also alleged that some GOP members who had fought hard for the sequester cuts were already asking federal agencies to spare entities affected in their districts, such as regional airports.

"There's a smart and there's a dumb way of doing it," Kind said of the sequester cuts, adding that lawmakers would need to address health care costs to truly get ahold of the nation's finances -- and that any other discussion "is playing at the margins."

To that end, Kind also knocked Wisconsin's two most prominent Republicans for their recent positions on health care reform.

He charged that the budget offered by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, essentially privatizes Medicare by shifting the risk of rising costs onto seniors.

"I've taken a holistic approach to health care reform," Kind said regarding entitlement reforms proposed by Republicans. "For them, it's just a numbers game. ... It's just cuts for cuts' sake, regardless of who it impacts."

See more from the luncheon here.

 9:06 AM 

Johnson moving toward re-election bid

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said Monday he’s going through the necessary steps to seek re-election in 2016.

WisPolitics.com reported in January that Johnson had met with campaign leaders to begin the process of raising money for a 2016 re-election campaign. The Hill reported over the weekend that the Oshkosh Republican met with a small group of Republican strategists last week to discuss his future.

Appearing on WTMJ-AM radio with conservative host Jeff Wagner, Johnson hinted he may have walked away after one term had the Supreme Court overturned the Affordable Care Act and Mitt Romney won the presidency.

He also said it’s unrealistic to think he’ll have the opportunity during President Obama’s second term to overturn the ACA and said he went to Washington, D.C. to take the tough votes to address the country’s finances.

“I’m a little more realistic thinking it may take beyond 2016, beyond his second term to get somebody who’s going to seriously look at really long-term solutions to those problems,” Johnson said. “I think my vote may be needed then.”

Monday, March 11, 2013

 2:12 PM 

Wisconsin second to California in House Budget Committee spots

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's position as chairman isn't the only reason the House Budget Committee has a Wisconsin tilt.

Five members of the Badger State's House delegation sit on the budget committee, second only to the six members from California. And while California's six members are part of that state's 53-member delegation, more than half of Wisconsin's delegation sits on the panel.

Ryan, R-Janesville, received a waiver to continue as chairman of the committee in the new session despite normal term limits. He's been joined on the GOP side by second-term Reps. Sean Duffy of Weston and Reid Ribble of Sherwood.

On the Dem side, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore of Milwaukee returned to the committee this session, while freshman U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan of Madison joined the committee.

Indiana has three members on the committee; no other state has more than two.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, and Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, each sit on the Senate's budget committee, making Wisconsin the lone state with members of each party on the panel. Both senators from Oregon and Virginia -- all Dems -- also sit on the Budget Committee.

 1:25 PM 

Baldwin to attend Franken fundraiser in Chicago

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is set to attend a St. Patrick's Day fundraiser for fellow Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., according to a report from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Prices for the event, to be held at the home of Brad Lippitz and Yoni Pizer on Chicago's north side, begin at $500 per person and range up to $5,200. The report says Lippitz and Pizer hosted a fundraiser for Baldwin, D-Madison, last summer during her Senate campaign.

 11:57 AM 

Johnson says he'll give president 'benefit of the doubt'

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said his group dinner with Obama last week was an “honest, frank discussion” and a good first step in working toward a “grand bargain.”

Appearing on ABC's "This Week," Johnson, R-Oshkosh, said he was hopeful the dinner, which included a dozen GOP senators, would lead to negotiations. He said he got a follow-up phone call from the president’s chief of staff over the weekend about how to develop the process.

“I’ll certainly give the president the benefit of the doubt,” Johnson said. “The other side is not going to go away. If we’re going to solve these problems, it’s going to have to be done in a bipartisan basis, and I think most Republicans are more than willing to work with the president.”

Johnson said one of his messages to Obama was that the two sides have to first “agree on the facts and figures” to frame the debate. Later in a panel discussion, his contention that there are $1 trillion in middle-class tax hikes under Obamacare prompted a sharp response from Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., and his assertions on Social Security were challenged by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.

 9:25 AM 

Ryan says budget would slow spending growth to 3.4 percent

House Budget Chair Paul Ryan says his newest budget proposal would slow the growth of federal spending by $5 trillion over the next decade and repeal of Obamacare.

The Janesville Republican said on “Fox News Sunday” the growth in spending would be 3.4 percent a year, instead of the current 4.9 percent.

“The president has us on a path toward a debt crisis that hurts everybody, that brings us to a recession, that gives us a European kind of experience which we want to avoid,” Ryan said. “We want people going back to work. We want higher wages, more jobs, a growing economy. We get that by balancing the budget.

Ryan acknowledged the president’s policies made it easier to balance the budget this time, including things like the tax increases that came out of the fiscal cliff debate. But he also said the budget would “end the raid of Medicare from Obamacare.”

Other provisions in his proposal include extending spending caps under the Budget Control Act another two years and asking federal employees to “have their pension contributions like those in the private sector.” He didn’t discuss specifics on the latter provision.

Ryan said the “the temperament and the posture that the president and all of us take over the next few weeks” will determine if a grand bargain can be struck on the nation’s finances.

He also said his lunch with the president last week was the first time he’s had a conversation with him that lasted more than two minutes. Ryan called it a “frank exchange” and said he’ll be watching the prez in the coming weeks and months.

“Will he resume the campaign mode?” Ryan asked. “Will he resume attacking Republicans and impugning our motives? Will he resume what is long believed to be a plan to win the 2014 elections? Or will he sincerely change and try and find common ground, try and work with Republicans to get something done? That's what we hope happens.”

Read a transcript of Ryan’s appearance here.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

 2:13 PM 

Ryan says discussion with Obama 'frank'

House Budget Chair Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, thanked the president for the "frank discussion" they had over lunch today about the country's budget challenges.

"Everyone needs to be a part of this conversation," Ryan said. "We need an open debate about how best to balance the budget and expand opportunity. I look forward to having that debate next week with specific budget proposals from House Republicans and Senate Democrats.”

 9:12 AM 

Ryan to have lunch with president today

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan will have lunch with Barack Obama today as the president continues to reach out to GOP lawmakers in the hopes of restarting talks of a "grand bargain" for the nation's finances.

“I appreciate the president’s invitation, and I look forward to our conversation," Ryan said in a statement this morning. "I hope this is the beginning of a serious discussion of the challenges we face.”


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

 5:16 PM 

Johnson invited to dinner with Obama

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is one of the GOP senators who have been invited to dinner with the president tonight, the lawmaker’s office confirmed.

According to national reports, Obama has been reaching out to Senate Republicans in an attempt to break the gridlock over some of his priorities.

"I have always said that I am willing to work with anyone who is serious about confronting our debt and deficit and who will take genuine steps to limit our out-of-control spending,” Johnson, R-Oshkosh, said through his office. “Hopefully this is a good faith attempt by the president to begin to work on a bipartisan plan that saves Social Security and Medicare and puts us on a path to a balanced budget."

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

 9:21 AM 

Ribble portrays sequester as awkward first step toward better fiscal situation

Republican U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble disagrees with the way the sequester has unfolded, but not the sequester itself.

The sophomore U.S. representative from northeastern Wisconsin’s 8th CD said while he wants to give government agencies the flexibility to better manage the $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts, the permanency of the sequester might be the measure needed to end the series of fiscal crises in Washington D.C.

“When this actually happens, and it gets triggered, it’ll finally happen and we’ll get into a more regular appropriations cycle,” Ribble said in a WisPolitics.com interview. “The American people want us to get our fiscal house in order, and this is a first step in that direction."

Ribble, R-Sherwood, introduced a bill that would give federal agencies flexibility to allocate the sequester cuts. Ribble’s measure is one of several different GOP approaches to handle the sequester.

Ribble said all sides must take the blame for the turmoil surrounding the sequester. While Ribble says he doesn’t agree with GOP Speaker John Boehner that increases in revenue can’t be on the table, he criticizes Obama’s plan, saying that it puts too much of the burden on “one or two percent” of earners and doesn’t tackle entitlement spending.

“I’ve never been the guy who’s said we can do this all without revenue,“ Ribble said. “But I believe how you go about getting revenue is pretty important. Because you can change revenue by just changing weights, but historically that hasn’t worked to bring in much more revenue. You have to do revenue in some way that you can get some type of economic growth as a part of it.”

See more from the interview here.

Monday, March 4, 2013

 9:09 AM 

Ryan criticizes Obama over sequester

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said on Sunday's “UpFront with Mike Gousha” that Congress will pass a measure to minimize damage from the sequester by giving President Obama flexibility in applying the budget cuts.

Ryan said the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts represent just 2 percent of federal spending, and even with the cuts, federal spending will have increased 18 percent since 2008. The problem, he said, is with how the cuts are to be applied.

“So what we're not talking about are deep cuts,” the Janesville Republican said on the program, produced with WisPolitics.com. “What's wrong about the sequester is its indiscriminate nature, its across-the-board nature.”

He said the measure he'll advance will allow the president flexibility to apply the cuts instead to “low-priority and more wasteful” programs.

Ryan was critical of the president in his approach to the attempting to avert the sequester.

“I see the president doing all these press conferences around the country bringing attention to the sequester now in the last minute, in the final hours,” Ryan said. “Let's not forget he's the one who proposed the sequester, he's the one who designed the sequester in the first place.

“We approved it because it was the president who insisted on doing it this way to allow the debt limit to increase before the election.”

He said Obama isn't serious about achieving a “grand bargain” on deficit reduction, claiming the president has repeatedly moved the goal posts in discussions.

“That tells me you're not as serious about legislating,” Ryan said.

See more here.

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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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