• WisPolitics


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

 2:06 PM 

Wis. conference committee members kick off budget discussions

The 29-member budget conference committee charged with hammering out a long-term budget compromise kicked off this morning, with more members from Wisconsin -- three -- than any other state.

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson each serve on the Senate Budget Committee, which is represented in its entirety on the committee, while U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan will lead the GOP efforts as chair of the House Budget Committee.

No other state has more than two members serving on the committee.

Ryan, R-Janesville, issued an opening statement arguing that both Republicans and Democrats share the blame for the country's fiscal woes.

"Everybody was part of the problem, so everybody has to be part of the solution," Ryan said. "But you’ve got to make an accurate diagnosis before you can fill out a prescription. We’ve got to recognize what we’re dealing with."

Ryan said rising costs continue to drive up the nation's debt, and that "taking more from hardworking families just isn’t the answer."

"If this conference becomes an argument about taxes, we’re not going to get anywhere," Ryan said. "The way to raise revenue is to grow the economy. We need to write a tax code that encourages economic growth -- not stifles it."

Johnson, R-Oshkosh, echoed those sentiments during his opening statement, saying, "we're not dealing with a 10-year budget problem here."

"We're really dealing with a 30-year demographic, baby boom generation retiring problem," Johndon said. "Because if we just deal with the 10-year problem we are dramatically understating the size of the problem."

Baldwin, however, used her opening statement to reject the refrain that "Republicans won’t yield on any revenue and Democrats won’t yield on any changes to programs like Medicare and Medicaid."

"To be clear, the Senate Democratic budget includes revenue from cutting tax expenditures and closing tax loopholes, smart and targeted spending cuts, and $275 billion in entitlement savings -- which don’t include cutting senior’s benefits," said Baldwin, D-Madison. "The House Republican budget has significant cuts to benefits that provide economic security to millions of middle class families and zero dollars in revenue that could be used to invest in the essential pillars of economic growth."

Baldwin added that while "a grand bargain may be asking too much with this conference," she hopes to produce "a fair bargain for the American people."


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

 5:40 PM 

Pocan joins House Education Committee

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan today announced his appointment to the House Education and the Workforce Committee, saying he will "advocate for the vital interests of our working families and students in south central Wisconsin."

"The key to our nation’s economic prosperity lies in our robust support for education and our workforce, and I am honored to fight for these pressing priorities as a member of the Education & the Workforce Committee," Pocan, D-Madison, said in a statement.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called Pocan a "proven problem-solver with a staunch commitment to working families," while U.S. Rep. George Miller of California, the committee's ranking Dem, said Pocan would have "unique insight into the struggles of workers who are fighting for a piece of the American Dream" as a union member and business owner.

A Pocan spokesman said the congressman will remain on the House Budget Committee but has left the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, also serves on the Education and the Workforce Committee.


Monday, October 28, 2013

 2:06 PM 

Ryan to address Kemp Foundation dinner

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan will be at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington tonight to address the Jack Kemp Foundation's third annual Kemp Leadership Award Dinner.

Ryan, R-Janesville, was the recipient of the inaugural award in 2011 and provided the keynote address last year. Before running for Congress, Ryan worked as a speechwriter for Empower America, the think tank founded by the late congressman from western New York.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will receive the foundation's 2013 award. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., are also set to attend.


 9:25 AM 

Baldwin: Focus on making Obamacare work

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin says it's important to focus on making Obamacare work despite problems that have plagued the healthcare insurance exchange.

Baldwin said states running their own exchanges are experiencing fewer problems with enrollment. She described the disagreement over a state-run exchange in Wisconsin as settled, and said legislators and contractors should focus on making the enrollment system work.

"The success or failure of this program in the end ... will be about how many people who are currently uninsured get coverage," Baldwin, D-Madison, told Sunday's "UpFront with Mike Gousha," produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com. "I only regret that Wisconsin chose not to have a state-run exchange."

Although she said the issues with online enrollment requires an immediate solution, Baldwin added that the exchanges are still accessible by phone, through paper applications or by working with a healthcare navigator.

Baldwin also expressed frustration with the recent shutdown of the federal government, but said the disagreement made Americans begin a dialogue on matters of congressional gridlock and economic turmoil.

"I think people learned some very important lessons," said Baldwin.

See more from the interview here.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

 11:42 AM 

Wis. senators named to budget conference

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson will serve on the conference committee charged with presenting a budget compromise to Congress by Dec. 13.

Baldwin, D-Madison, and Johnson, R-Oshkosh -- both members of the Senate Budget Committee -- were listed among the conference members announced by Senate leaders Thursday as a deal to reopen the federal government and raise the nation's debt ceiling moved through Congress.

Johnson said he appreciated his spot on the committee in a statement, saying he "ran for office to do everything I can to help prevent the bankrupting of America."

"My previous discussions with the White House on the debt and deficit have laid the groundwork, I hope, for a successful conference agreement," Johnson said.

On the House side, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan -- chairman of the Budget Committee -- will lead the conference. Ryan, R-Janesville, joined the three other conference leaders -- U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. -- for a breakfast meeting to kick off the panel this morning.

"We recognize the many differences between the House and Senate budget resolutions and the challenges we face in reaching an agreement," Ryan and Murray said in a joint statement. "But we want to find common ground and work toward a bipartisan deal. We intend to focus on what we can achieve."


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

 10:26 PM 

Ribble only Wisconsin Republican to support deal on budget, debt ceiling

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and all but one of Wisconsin’s House Republicans voted against the deal to reopen the federal government and lift the debt ceiling.

U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood, joined U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, and Dem U.S. Reps. Ron Kind of La Crosse, Gwen Moore of Milwaukee and Mark Pocan of Madison in support of the deal. It passed the House 285-144 with all no votes coming from Republicans.

Ribble said he had reservations about the legislation, but decided to support it to give Congress 90 days to work out a path forward on the country’s long-term budget to “end the nonsense of continuing resolutions.”

“The debate over the last few weeks was the result of a non-functioning budget and appropriations process,” Ribble said after the vote. “The bill tonight is intended to fix that. It calls for a conference on the budget and provides for a normal appropriations process. This is something I wholeheartedly support. In my three years in Congress this will be the first time this has happened.”

The Senate approved it 81-18. Johnson called the deal “fiscally irresponsible,” while U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, called it a missed opportunity because it does not help reduce the debt.

“In my judgment, this isn’t a breakthrough. We’re just kicking the can down the road,” said Ryan, chair of the House Budget Committee.

But Kind said the deal ensures “America will not become a deadbeat nation.”

“We just can’t afford to allow any more damage to our economic growth and job creation because of congressional dysfunction,” he said.


Monday, October 14, 2013

 9:26 AM 

Johnson: Re-opening government up to president, Senate

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said on Sunday's "UpFront with Mike Gousha" that re-opening the federal government is in the hands of the president and the Senate majority leader.

The freshman Republican said he didn't support the conservative strategy to demand a one-year delay in the individual mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act as part of a continuing resolution to fund the federal government, but that he does support the effort to fight the health insurance reform law.

"The power of opening back up the government really rests in president Obama's hands," said Johnson. "The House has backed way off that defund effort, even a one-year delay."

Johnson said Americans should put political pressure on President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He accused Obama and Reid of holding up appropriations bills that would return funding to many parts of the government.

"I think it's done long-term damage to the reputation of everybody in town and to the federal government," said Johnson. "That's not necessarily a bad thing."

The federal government is intrinsically flawed, according to Johnson, and he implored voters to avoid supporting further growth or expansion of federal powers.

"This place, this alternate universe, is broken. It's dysfunctional, it's going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to fix. The best solution is let's not grow it anymore," said Johnson.

The United States faces a $107 trillion deficit over the next 30 years, warned Johnson, citing his own calculations.

He stood behind a comment he made in a radio interview that the nation is "going down the tubes."

"Right now we are going down the tubes, and nobody in a serious fashion is working together to try and solve those problems," said Johnson.


 8:19 AM 

Wis. senators split on debt ceiling vote

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, and Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, split over the weekend on a Dem bill to raise the debt ceiling.

The cloture motion fell short of the 60 votes needed, 53-45.

Johnson said afterward the bill "offered nothing to solve America's enormous financial challenges."

"Anytime an American president demands the authority to increase the debt burden on our children and grandchildren, that request should be accompanied by a plan to address the serious problem of unsustainable spending," Johnson said.

Baldwin said House Republicans' political games threaten the county's economic recovery. She also expressed disappointment that Senate Republicans didn't join Dems on their bill to prevent a default.

"We should be doing everything we can to provide certainty for our economy and strengthen the middle class families and small business that are working so hard to move it forward," Baldwin said. "People deserve to have Congress govern responsibly instead of drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next."


Thursday, October 10, 2013

 11:24 AM 

Liberal group targets Duffy with TV ad over shutdown

Liberal group Americans United for Change includes U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy among 10 House Republicans it's targeting with new TV ads over the federal government shutdown.

The 30-second spot alleges that Duffy, R-Weston, "joined Tea Party Republicans in Congress and shut down our government," jeopardizing thousands of jobs, Head Start funding, benefits for seniors, children's cancer treatments and food inspections.

The spot ends with the announcer urging viewers to "tell him to do his job -- end the Tea Party shutdown of our government."

Other Republicans targeted by the ads include: Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania, Andy Barr of Kentucky, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Jeff Denham of California, Richard Hanna of New York, Bill Johnson of Ohio, Tom Latham of Iowa, and Tim Walberg and Dan Benishek of Michigan.

An Americans United for Change spokesman said the spot will run through Monday in the Wausau market on broadcast TV and on cable news in the Twin Cities through Monday.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

 3:33 PM 

Ryan among House GOP delegation set to meet with Obama

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Janesville is among a group of 18 House Republicans scheduled to meet with President Obama at the White House tomorrow, according to national reports.

The office of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, released the list of top caucus leaders and select committee chairs ahead of the meeting on the ongoing federal government shutdown. That met with criticism from the White House, which indicated that the president had invited the entire GOP caucus.

In addition to Boehner, Ryan and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, expected attendees include: Dave Camp and Fred Upton of Michigan, Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, Jeb Hensarling and Pete Sessions of Texas, Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Kevin McCarthy and Buck McKeon of California, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, Steve Southerland of Florida, Hal Rogers of Kentucky, Peter Roskam of Illinois, Ann Wagner of Missouri and Greg Walden of Oregon.


Monday, October 7, 2013

 9:57 AM 

Baldwin to receive 'golden gavel'

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, will receive the first "golden gavel" of the session during the Senate Democrats' caucus tomorrow.

The award is given to a senator who presides over the chamber for 100 hours during a session of Congress, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced the award while on the floor Friday. With Baldwin presiding over the floor, Reid said none of the senators from Wisconsin with whom he's served will "outshine the distinguished presiding officer."

"We have not had a harder-working senator the past nine months than the presiding officer," Reid said. "You've worked so hard, doing so many different things, not the least of which is presiding over the Senate."


Sunday, October 6, 2013

 9:50 PM 

Ribble: Time for a grand budget bargain

U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble believes there’s only one way to stop lurching from crisis to crisis -- go big.

The Sherwood Republican says he believes the confluence of the government shutdown and the looming debt ceiling provides the opportunity for lawmakers to strike a grand bargain to resolve their budget issues and address entitlements like Social Security and Medicare.

Still, the second-term lawmaker from northeastern Wisconsin’s 8th CD acknowledged it won’t be easy and notes he was predicting a week ago that Congress wouldn’t allow the government to shut down.

“There is a lack of trust around this place,” Ribble said in a WisPolitics.com interview. “Republicans don’t trust Democrats, the House doesn’t trust the Senate, the president doesn’t trust Congress, the Congress doesn’t trust the president. The American people doesn’t trust the government. There’s this massive breakdown in trust in this society.”

To reach a grand bargain, Ribble said he would be open to passing a “clean” continuing budget resolution to reopen government during the negotiations, but only if there were some ironclad agreements in the bill that lawmakers would tackle entitlements.

“I don’t want to go from crisis to crisis, and I don’t think the American people deserve that to be honest with you,” Ribble said. “I think they deserve a functioning government.”

See more from the interview with Ribble here.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

 10:48 AM 

Duffy accosted by 'random individual'

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy was accosted by a "random individual" and reported it in compliance with House security procedures, but has requested no further action, a spokeswoman says.

Roll Call's gossip blog originally reported Thursday morning that Duffy, R-Weston, had been assaulted.

But spokeswoman Cassie Smedlie described it as a minor incident as the congressman was walking to the Capitol for final votes.

"A random individual, unknown to the congressman, began screaming at him and grabbed his arm," she said in a statement. "Mr. Duffy was unharmed. He reported the incident in compliance with House security procedures. Congressman Duffy has requested no further action be taken and there will be no further comment on the matter at this time."


 9:41 AM 

Baldwin, Johnson limit office operations during shutdown

The offices of the state's two U.S. senators have limited operations due to the partial government shutdown.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin's offices are operating at a "limited capacity" but remain open, a spokesman said today.

Baldwin, D-Madison, posted a message on her official Senate website Tuesday that the office was closed due to the shutdown. Those who clicked on the contact link for her site saw a message stating her offices are closed and the phones would not be answered, emails and letters would not receive a response until after the shutdown was over, and "My staff will be unable to assist you during the shutdown."

Those messages have since been updated to state her website and Senate offices have been "shut down and operate at limited capacity" and that "we are doing our best to answer phone calls."

A spokesman said the office actually began operating with a skeleton staff yesterday and is now "making that clear."

While Senate staffers have been furloughed, Baldwin still has a "bare bones staff" to work through the shutdown at her offices in Madison, Milwaukee and Washington, D.C., her office said today. Constituents can still call or email the senator, and requests for assistance are being monitored for "emergency needs." Other inquiries will be addressed once the shutdown ends.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson's offices have also been operating with limited staff during the shutdown. His office released a statement Wednesday that he will have one staff member in each of his Milwaukee and Oshkosh offices, and a few staff in Washington.

"Members of Congress are allowed to delegate a number of their staff as essential to work during the shutdown - Senator Johnson chose to make sure his staff is available to attend to his constitutional duties and respond to his constituents during this time," his office said.


 9:39 AM 

Wis. delegation splits on more partial funding votes

The GOP-run House of Representatives continues to pump out roll call votes on the shutdown.

The House voted yesterday evening to fund the National Institutes of Health and the National Park Service. Similar efforts failed Tuesday when GOP leaders needed a two-thirds vote to suspend the rules and approve the resolutions. They only needed a simple majority yesterday.

On both resolutions, the state delegation split along party lines.

U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood, tweeted afterward, "I voted tonight to reopen national parks and fund life-saving cancer research. Still, Harry Reid needs to come to the table."

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, also took to Twitter yesterday, calling for a vote on a clean continuing budget resolution. He tweeted, "Speaker Boehner--you are not the Speaker of the Tea Party or of Sen. Ted Cruz -- you are Speaker of the House. And we demand a vote."


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

 9:18 AM 

Party-line votes continue among Wis. House delegation

Wisconsin's House delegation split along party lines on three separate resolutions to fund veterans benefits, the District of Columbia government and the National Park Service as the partial government shutdown continues.

House GOP leaders pushed the individual measures as part of the impasse with the Senate over a continuing resolution. They needed a two-thirds vote to suspend the rules and pass, but all three fell short of that mark.


 9:14 AM 

Johnson, Kind say they're open to short-term budget fix

GOP U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and Dem U.S. Rep. Ron Kind said Tuesday they're open to a short-term continuing resolution to give lawmakers time to strike a deal on government spending and re-open functions of the federal government that have been closed due to the standoff.

But they also expressed reservations about the positions taken by the other side.

Johnson, of Oshkosh, said he couldn't understand why Senate Dems refused to accept any of the Obamacare provisions House Republicans attached to the continuing resolutions sent to the Senate over the last few days.

He also expressed concern that Senate Dems under the direction of Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., rejected a House call for a conference committee. The request was shot down 54-46 along party lines.

"If he maintains his position of not even being willing to talk or go into a negotiating room with House Republicans, that's not a very encouraging sign," Johnson said.

Kind, of La Crosse, said Republicans have spent the past six months rejecting calls to go to a conference committee to resolve differences between the House and Senate budgets. He also noted simply going to conference committee wouldn't re-open the federal government and urged House Republicans to take up a clean resolution to do that and provide time for talks to continue.

One of the House GOP resolutions included a provision to repeal the tax on medical device manufacturers. Kind said he continues to support a repeal of that tax, but said that has to be paired with an offset to pay for eliminating the tax.

He said he continues to speak with moderate Republicans to see if there's a path forward.

"It is a lousy way to run a government, given the uncertainty that it creates and the potential economic hardship," Kind said.

Johnson and other Senate Republicans have met with the White House on spending issues this year. He said the last meeting on the debt and deficit was during the August recess, though that meeting also turned to the situation in Syria at the time.

"We didn't solve any problems, but certainly took some important first steps in working toward a solution," Johnson said.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

 9:29 AM 

Government shuts down as Wis. delegation maintains party positions

Members of Wisconsin's congressional delegation stuck to their party positions in the final votes ahead of a partial government shutdown.

Still, Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Shorewood, indicated a desire to move past the attempts to tie the Affordable Care Act to funding the government. He said shutting down government is not "the correct strategy to address this flawed law."

"Whether two days, two weeks or two months from now it is irrational to assume the President is going to sign a law eliminating his hallmark legislative achievement," Ribble said, urging leaders from both sides to reach a deal. "The only outcome this yields is additional acrimony, risk to our economy, and escalating but appropriate distrust of government to actually get its work done."

Today is the beginning of the federal fiscal year and the beginning of the Obamacare marketplaces.

The House approved a new continued resolution yesterday evening that included amendments to delay the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act and cancel health insurance subsidies for members of Congress, their staff and the White House. Nine Dems voted with majority Republicans and 12 GOP members voted with the minority on the 228-201 roll call. But Wisconsin's delegation split along party lines.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, called it a "sad day."

"Instead of working together to fulfill our most basic duty -- to keep the government running -- the extreme Tea Party wing has taken Congress hostage all the way to a government shutdown," Pocan said. "Instead of being the world's greatest example of representative government, we seem to have become the nation's largest kindergarten--only with control of the nation's checkbook and nuclear arsenal."

Following House action, the Senate voted 54-46 to strip out the Obamacare amendments. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, voted with the majority, while Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, opposed the move.


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