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Monday, July 29, 2013

 9:16 AM 

Johnson: Federal government can't afford to bail out Detroit

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said on Sunday's “UpFront with Mike Gousha” the amendment he's offered to bar the federal government from bailing out Detroit from bankruptcy is needed in order to avoid setting a precedent.

Johnson said the federal government faces a debt nearly 1,000 times that of Detroit and can’t afford to bail out the city. Although neither the Detroit nor the federal government have publicly talked about a bailout, Johnson feared other cities would seek the same if they faced insolvency and it would lead to other cities failing to address their fiscal problems.

He also put much of the blame for Detroit’s fiscal problems on public sector unions. While Johnson acknowledged other causes, he noted retiree benefits account for $9 billion to $10 billion of Detroit's $18 billion debt and argued that unions have worked to elect the same officials that approved those benefits.

“The unions are pouring dues into elect those very same politicians that sat across them at the bargaining table,” Johnson said on the show, which is produced in conjunction with WisPolitics.com. “Where's the taxpayer in that equation?"

Johnson also blamed unions at the city’s auto makers for the decline of that industry when asked if federal government policies, such as free trade agreements, had a role in Detroit's problems.

“The problem is, and it's unfortunate, the labor unions sometimes get outsized power, they end up bargaining for wages that are not competitive and they end up bankrupting the company they're working for or the city they're working for,” Johnson said.

See more from the show here.


Friday, July 26, 2013

 10:15 AM 

Pocan, Rangel bill would restore military records for gay veterans

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan unveiled a bill Thursday that would restore the service record of U.S. military personnel who were discharged because they were gay.

The bill, co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., update service records for those veterans given dishonorable or general discharges because of their violation of the now-defunct "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

During a conference call, Pocan said the bill -- which has 102 co-sponsors -- would help thousands of veterans who have experienced problems finding a job and receiving certain benefits because of the mark on their military record. Pocan said the bill would streamline updates to their records and remove references to their sexuality.

"While we never can give these brave veterans the time or service they were denied to provide to the country, we can take steps to restore that they deserve," said Pocan, D-Madison, who is openly gay.

Pocan also said Dem U.S. Reps. Ron Kind and Gwen Moore have signed on to the bill. Pocan's office has also reached out to GOP Rep. Reid Ribble on the measure.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

 2:00 PM 

Johnson to address AFP event

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson will be a featured speaker and panelist at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation's Defending the American Dream Summit, the conservative group announced today.

The Oshkosh Republican joins fellow U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and Govs. Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal among those set to address the Labor Day weekend event.

AFP Foundation President Tim Phillips said in a statement that Johnson will host a panel discussions "addressing the nature of government waste, its causes and potential solutions."

"Senator Johnson is definitely one of the good guys fighting for economic freedom each day on Capitol Hill," Phillips said. "Prior to being a Senator he was simply a concerned citizen worried about how the government was going to affect his business. He’s an exemplary model for how citizens can get engaged and truly make a difference."


 10:02 AM 

Most of Wis. House delegation backs limits on NSA collection

U.S. Reps. Ron Kind and Paul Ryan were the only members of the Wisconsin House delegation to oppose an amendment designed to limit the National Security Agency’s ability to collect information on phone calls.

The amendment failed 205-217 on a vote that cut across party lines. Of those supporting it, 94 were Republicans and 111 were Democrats.

Former House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, urged passage, saying on the floor, “The time has come to stop and the way we do (that) is to approve this amendment.”


 8:36 AM 

Baldwin, Johnson split as Senate passes student loan bill

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson split on legislation to roll back interest rates on college loans Wednesday.

The bill, which would tie the rate for loans to the government’s cost of borrowing and reverse the July 1 doubling of rates on subsidized loans, was approved 81-18.

Baldwin, D-Madison, opposed the bill and said ahead of yesterday's vote she backed another plan that would restore the student loan interest rate at 3.4 percent and impose a cap for any future increases of 6.8 percent. The bill the Senate approved includes a cap of 8.25 percent.

"I reject sacrificing the progress of the next generation because we are unwilling to do the hard work and make the hard choices now," Baldwin said in a floor speech. "I reject short-changing the next generation of young Americans by making college more expensive, and then using the profits from their high interest rates to pay down the deficit—particularly when we ask the wealthiest to contribute nothing."


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

 3:12 PM 

Johnson seeks to prevent Detroit 'bailout'

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson today announced he'll offer an amendment to the Senate's Transportation appropriations bill that will "make sure taxpayers across America are not put on the hook for a bailout of Detroit."

The proposal, offered with fellow GOP Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and David Vitter of Louisiana, would prohibit Transportation or Housing and Urban Development funding from being used to prevent local governments from going into receivership or to help local governments exit receivership. It would also ban that money from being used to keep states from defaulting.

The move follows Detroit's filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection last week, the largest such filing by a municipality in U.S. history.

"Detroit’s debt is a national poster-child of what can result when politicians enter into an unholy alliance with powerful unions at the expense of the local economy and the people who live there. Federal Bankruptcy Court is the proper venue for settling debts that taxpayers cannot afford," Johnson, R-Oshkosh, said in a statement. "What must not happen is a federal bailout that spares Detroit from making the needed reforms that the bankruptcy process may require. Any federal bailout means other municipalities and states who have a similar history will expect a federal rescue as well."


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

 9:40 AM 

House backs weight limits on Highway 41

The House has approved via voice vote a resolution grandfathering weight limits on U.S. 41 when it's converted to an interstate.

In a joint statement, U.S. Reps. Reid Ribble and Tom Petri -- the authors of the measure -- praised the vote, as well as the cooperation among the Wisconsin delegation.

"I’m pleased we were able to move this important legislation along so that trucks currently using the road can continue to use it once it becomes a part of the Interstate system," said Petri, R-Fond du Lac. "And I’m glad that we have the bipartisan cooperation of the Wisconsin delegation and our two senators."

"Highway 41 is an important thoroughfare for the entire state, and this legislation will not only keep the highway safe and secure for all its users, it will also ensure local manufacturers and businesses will not see any disruption in their shipping routes, providing much-needed certainty to the local economy," added Ribble, R-Sherwood.

Gov. Scott Walker urged the Senate to approve the legislation, saying the highway is key for many businesses to move goods to and from market.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

 6:19 PM 

Kind offers bill to curb federal agency events

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, today announced the introduction of a bill requiring federal agencies to provide reports on upcoming conferences, arguing it would discourage events that serve "no needed civic purpose."

The TRACE Act -- Transparency Requirements for Agency Conferences and Events -- would require agencies to disclose information on conferences 30 days prior to their start date, including costs, itinerary, keynote speakers, conference attendees and "a summary of the purposes and goals of the event."

“Like all taxpayers, I’ve been shocked to hear reports about some of the waste and abuse being perpetrated within certain federal agencies, especially coming at a time when so many Americans are being hurt by sequester cuts,” Kind said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., is the bill's co-author.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

 1:31 PM 

U.S. DOJ to Sensenbrenner: NSA surveillance satisfies Patriot Act

The U.S. Department of Justice's principal deputy assistant attorney general for legislative affairs writes in a letter to U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner that the National Security Agency's controversial surveillance of phone records satisfies the provisions of the Patriot Act.

Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls and the author of the 2001 law, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder in the aftermath of media reports on the NSA policy last month, arguing that the phone record surveillance was not "consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act."

Peter J. Kadzik disputed that claim in a letter dated Tuesday, writing that the program meets all necessary requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and of the constitution.

"As noted above, by order of the FISC, the Government is prohibited from indiscriminately sifting through the telephony metadata it acquires," Kadzik writes. "Instead, all information that is acquired is subject to strict, court-imposed restrictions on review and handling that provide significant and reasonable safeguards for U.S. persons."

Sensenbrenner disclosed the Justice Department's response today at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Obama administration's authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

 9:39 AM 

Senators seek to maintain weight limits on Wis. highway

Wisconsin's U.S. senators have introduced a Senate version of legislation to continue the current weight limits on U.S. Highway 41.

The highway is set to become part of the Interstate highway system next year, creating an 80,000-pound limit on trucks on the road. The measure from U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, and Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, would grandfather in the road's current 97,000-pound limit.

GOP U.S. Reps. Ribble of Sherwood and Tom Petri of Fond du Lac offered the bill in the House last month.

"It is crucial Congress approve this effort by the end of this year, before the highway becomes part of the federal Interstate Highway System in 2014," Baldwin said in a statement. "In order to grow our ‘Made in Wisconsin’ economy, we must provide businesses with the quality transportation system they need to move their goods to market."


Monday, July 15, 2013

 3:46 PM 

Profile: Wood's 2001 DC inauguration trip turned into new career

Wood
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Some parties are so amazing that the guests never want leave. But eventually everyone must go home -- unless you're Bob Wood.

Wood came to Washington, D.C., for President George W. Bush's inauguration with his boss, then-Gov. Tommy Thompson, in 2001. Bush and Thompson are long gone from the capital city, but Wood is still here, mingling with the DC's elite.

On that inauguration weekend, Thompson already knew he would be replacing former University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Donna Shalala as Health and Human Services secretary. And Wood was planning to continue serving as Thompson's chief of staff. But what neither man knew was that come Monday morning, they would already be expected to run the second-largest federal agency.

"Bob had only packed for the weekend," Thompson recalled. "He looked at me and said 'You're not going to ask me to stay, are you?' And I said 'Yes I am.' I told him you're either going to resign (as his gubernatorial chief of staff and immediately get hired as HHS chief of staff) or you're going to get fired," Thompson laughed.

"He didn't have a chance to come home and resign and get a farewell party or anything," Thompson said. "He had to go out and buy clothes. Not many people would do it that way."

The 46-year-old UW-Madison alum Wood remains, working the Hill and maintaining his ties to old friends in Wisconsin. After running Thompson's winning 1998 campaign for governor, he advised Tommy during his ill-fated bid for the U.S. Senate in 2012. He also led George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign in Wisconsin.

He left government and campaign work almost 10 years ago to join one of the capital's most prestigious lobbying firms, Barbour, Griffith & Rogers. Founded by Haley Barbour before his stints as Republican National Committee chairman and Mississippi governor, Wood has spent seven years as president of the now-bipartisan firm that goes by the name BGR Group.

Since Wood became president of BGR, the firm has taken on Democratic associates, a necessity in Washington's hyper-partisan atmosphere, Wood says.

"Our clients are looking for results and they can't be held hostage by the political winds," Wood said.

And Wood knows those winds sometimes blow from your own party.

"Running a federal agency is very hard," Wood says. "I didn't expect to be yelled at by Republican senators."

But that was minor compared to three things that rocked the capital city -- the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the anthrax scare and the D.C. sniper.

Each made the job -- and living in Washington -- more dangerous, more difficult and profoundly different, said Wood, who lives in suburban D.C. with his wife Carrie and three children.

"We went in assuming we'd work on Medicare and welfare reform but 9/11 defined all the agency heads' times in office," he said. "It completely changed the job and the agency. It made it hard but also very rewarding."

Read the full profile for more on Wood: http://www.wispolitics.com/index.iml?Article=301130


 9:04 AM 

Moore: Opponents working to make Obamacare implementation more difficult

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore said on Sunday's "UpFront with Mike Gousha" that implementing the federal health care law was always going to be difficult, but opponents have worked to make it even more so.

“It's a brand-new, huge program, and it's been more difficult with the relentless efforts of Republicans to frustrate it,” Moore, D-Milwaukee, said.

Moore said getting the health insurance exchanges online by October will be a “huge problem,” particularly in Milwaukee because Gov. Scott Walker refused to expand Medicaid.

“I'm expecting a very bumpy road,” Moore said.

On immigration reform, Moore criticized approaches focused mostly on border security without making provisions for a path to citizenship.

She said getting immigration reform passed is going to be “very difficult” unless Republicans who are in safe districts and have “extreme” positions begin to work across the aisle.

Moore also explained her previous comments that Walker wouldn't be elected president.

She said that while Walker is a “darling of Tea Party folk,” America is center-left, and women would reject him for his views on abortion. She also said mayors of both parties across the country would do so for him restricting local governments' ability to raise revenue.

“While he is very handsome, well spoken, a good politician, I don't even think he'd be able to get out of the primary,” Moore said. “And he'd certainly be rejected in Wisconsin.”


Thursday, July 11, 2013

 9:41 AM 

Baldwin unveils first Senate bill

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin today announced the introduction of the Small Business Innovation Act of 2013, her first bill authored as a member of the Senate.

The measure would expand the Small Business Administration’s authority to provide leverage to Small Business Investment Companies, as well as authorize a separate SBIC fund to provide equity financing to support early stage firms within targeted growth industries.

The bill also includes preference for startups that have previously shown promise by receiving grants from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, or Small Business Innovation Research program.

The legislation would include biotechnology and life sciences, which were excluded in the state venture capital bill lawmakers approved this summer.

In a statement, Baldwin says the measure will help fuel small business job creation by increasing access to venture capital.

"When our startup small businesses grow, Wisconsin families get ahead and the economic security of the middle class is strengthened," said Baldwin, D-Madison. "In order to build long-term economic growth, we need to make a strong commitment to supporting investments in advanced manufacturing, innovation, science, research and technology."


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

 1:28 PM 

Baldwin, Johnson split on student loan bill

Wisconsin's U.S. senators today split on a bill to reduce interest rates on student loans for the year.

The largely party-line vote finished at a 51-49 margin, falling short of the 60 votes needed to advance the bill.

The measure backed by most Dems would have dropped the interest rates back to 3.4 percent for another year after rates doubled at the beginning of this month.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, tweeted that she supported the bill "to cap intrst rates & keep higher edu affordable for #WI students & their families."

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Oshkosh, along with all other GOP members, voted against the measure as Republicans continue to push for a long-term alternative proposal.


 11:35 AM 

Johnson to address Milwaukee nonprofit this week

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, will launch the new legislative speaker series hosted by Esperanza Unida on Friday, the Milwaukee-based nonprofit announced today.

Johnson will address the group in a roundtable format with "invited grassroots community individuals," according to a statement from Esperanza Unida. Manny Perez, the group's general manager and a former Workforce Development secretary under Gov. Scott Walker, will moderate.

"The issue of immigration is a complex topic that deals with economic development in Latin America, domestic security, domestic labor, and U.S. industry," Perez said, adding that the meeting will "provide the opportunity for attendees to present specific, implementable ideas to Senator Johnson and the other leaders that will participate in the legislative speaker series."

Perez said the series, which will be held quarterly, "is part of our initiative to support civic discussion in the community and its leaders."


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

 10:59 AM 

Baldwin calls on Congress to keep student loan rates low for another year

U.S Sen. Tammy Baldwin called Wednesday for Congress to cap student loan interest rates at 3.4 percent for one more year.

On Monday, the interest rates for government-backed student loans doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent after Congress failed to agree on a measure to cap the rates in the short or long term. Congress is expected to vote on a Senate Dem proposal that would retroactively lower the rate to 3.4 percent for another year.

Baldwin, who was preceded by Wisconsin students talking about their struggle to pay student loans, said the vote was only the "first step" toward making college more affordable for students across the country. Baldwin said the country also needs to look at other avenues for student debt relief and a separate measure that would properly inform students about the cost and terms of private student loans.

"We have got to constantly ask ourselves how college can be made affordable and accessible to all," Baldwin said on the UW-Madison campus. "How we can make it a pathway to the middle class, not a pathway to indebtedness?"

Baldwin said that attempts to reach a compromise with congressional Republicans have not been fruitful and said the GOP version of the bill was making the situation worse because it could allow those interest rates to soar above the current 6.8 percent rate. She also said lack of agreement on the caps within Democratic ranks was mainly the result of the looming deadline they had to work out a short-term fix.

Baldwin also addressed a recent directive from the Obama administration to hold off on a part of the Affordable Care Act that mandating businesses with more than 50 workers must provide health care insurance for their employees. Baldwin said the move came as a surprise to many and she is going to be briefed on the administration's plans "imminently." She expressed some frustration that the process has become "the most partisan exercises I've ever seen," but acknowledged there will be "some bumps along the way."

"We haven't gotten much cooperation [from Republicans] in the implementation phase, but I think we need to have confidence. ... I have to say that I expect that was the motivation, is that we need to have the confidence and we have to make sure we have the time to work on it," she said.


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