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Friday, February 28, 2014

 8:04 AM 

Wis. Republicans, Dems split on consumer bureau overhaul

Wisconsin's House delegation split along party lines on legislation to overhaul the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The delegation's five Republicans joined the majority in a largely party-line 232-182 vote, while Wisconsin's three Dems were opposed to the bill. The bill would alter the bureau’s leadership structure and fund it through congressional appropriations.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, called the bill "a blatant attempt to undermine the CFPB, opening the door to another financial crisis where Main Street loses jobs thanks to Wall Street recklessness."

But U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Weston and a sponsor, said the measure would "reform the CFPB and actually make it work."

"When we don't fund agencies through this institution, we lose authority, we lose oversight," Duffy said. "Let's take that power and control back into Congress, and let's actually put the power back in the hands of the people."

The bill is considered unlikely to move through the Dem-controlled Senate.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

 6:44 PM 

Wis. DOT secretary addresses House panel

Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb was in Washington this morning to testify on highway freight issues before a House subcommittee.

Gottlieb, speaking on behalf of the the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, told the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit that the nation must decide whether or not to "make the investment to meet the freight transportation demand projected for the future."

"If sufficient investment is made, economic growth can be supported while insufficient investment will stifle economic productivity, growth and economic competitiveness," Gottlieb said according to prepared testimony.

The secretary pointed to Wisconsin as an example, arguing freight intensive industries account for nearly half the state's GDP. He also pointed to increasing demands on highways, pointing to the rapid growth of the frac sand mining industry in the western and central parts of the state.

U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac and the subcommittee chairman, opened the hearing by saying that the "safe, efficient, and reliable movement of goods" will be the priority for lawmakers as they prepare to craft the successor to the federal highway funding bill set to expire in September.

"Not every community is located adjacent to a railroad, airport, waterway, or port, but consumer goods are almost invariably transported along the Nation’s four million miles of highways and roads for at least part of the journey," Petri said in prepared remarks.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

 3:30 PM 

Feingold joins Affleck for Senate testimony on DRC

Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold was in Washington today to testify with actor Ben Affleck before a Senate panel about ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Feingold, who was named last summer as the State Department's special envoy to Africa's Great Lakes region, said prior to his appearance in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that "we are making some progress" in the country, which has been embroiled in violence since the outbreak of war in 1997.

He also thanked Secretary of State John Kerry for his involvement with the DRC during a brief appearance with Affleck and the secretary, saying that "it makes a huge difference when the secretary, obviously, calls people."

"Your willingness to be involved with this every step of the way has made a huge difference," Feingold said. "Each time you’ve given me an additional thing to get done with good guidance and always willing to make the calls that need to be made."

Affleck, who founded the Eastern Congo Initiative in 2010 in an effort to advocate for and bolster community funding in the DRC, thanked Kerry for the department's focus on the country and for the appointment of Feingold, who he called "an extraordinary man of great influence."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

 8:18 AM 

Ribble: Pentagon cuts to combat ship program 'far from settled'

U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble says the future of the littoral combat ship “is far from settled” after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called for paring back the program.

In previewing the Defense budget for 2015, Hagel said the government wants to limit its purchase of the LCS to 32 ships instead of the planned 52.

“I am concerned that the Navy is relying too heavily on the LCS to achieve its long-term goals for ship numbers,” Hagel said at a news conference yesterday.

He pointed out the planned 52 ships would be one-sixth of the Navy’s goal for 306 ships. Hagel also said the Pentagon must look at whether the ship “has the protection and firepower to survive against a more advanced military adversary and emerging new technologies, especially in the Asia-Pacific.”

Production of the ship is split between Alabama and Marinette Marine in northern Wisconsin. Ribble, R-Sherwood, said he would work “aggressively” to preserve national security during an era of limited defense budgets.

"It’s critically important that our military meet our nation’s security needs and the Navy continues to require an efficient, effective vessel to defend against the ever-changing challenges we face today as well as in the future,” he said. “The future of the LCS, or its next iteration, is far from settled and there are numerous debates and discussions that will be occurring in the days and weeks ahead.”

Monday, February 24, 2014

 9:54 AM 

While Congress limps along, Pocan suggests hope for more compromise down the road

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan says although the Wisconsin delegation has found ways to work together, Congress as a whole is striking out when it comes to the big issues.

"The safe bet is, you name a bill, I'm going to tell you it's probably not going to pass," Pocan told a WisPolitics.com luncheon in Madison on Thursday.

But the freshman Dem from Madison also said he expects things to improve in coming years.

"They realize the problem of the tea party, too," Pocan said of GOP majority members in the House, recalling that one member predicted things would move more smoothly "in three or four years."

"We're still kind of held hostage until more of those folks are gone," Pocan said.

And although lawmakers managed to pass a budget compromise late last year, Pocan decried the process of crafting that bill and said it lacked "big thinking." Pocan voted against the compromise.

The congressman also predicted the return of the earmark, which was banished because of criticism over budget "pork."

"When you took away earmarks, you gave no reason for people who only like to say 'no' to ever say, 'yes,'" Pocan said, suggesting earmarks could return in this decade.

"Sometimes you have to say 'yes' in government."

See more from the luncheon here.

Monday, February 17, 2014

 11:30 AM 

Petri requests review of Oshkosh Corp. holdings

U.S. Rep. Tom Petri today requested that the House Ethics Committee review his ownership of stock in Oshkosh Corp. in light of recent reports about his advocacy on behalf of the Fox Valley vehicle manufacturer.

In a letter to Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and ranking committee member Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., the Fond du Lac Republican wrote that it is "my honor and duty to advocate on behalf of those who live and work in my area," and that he is "distressed by the innuendo in the articles."

Petri notes his investments are disclosed annually, his advocacy has been open and made with occasional guidance from the Ethics Committee, and that his actions "as a stockholder are no different than any other stockholder based solely on public information."

"It is regrettable, but not surprising, that many are confused by the articles," Petri writes. "To end any questions, I am requesting that the Committee formally review the matter and report back.

Friday, February 14, 2014

 3:08 PM 

Senators recommend federal court candidates

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson today recommended three candidates to the White House for the vacancy on the federal bench in Milwaukee.

The recommendations include Beth Kushner, a partner at von Briesen & Roper, where she handles complex litigation and construction law; Pamela Pepper, the chief judge for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Eastern District of Wisconsin; and William Pocan, a circuit court judge in Milwaukee who presides over the felony division. Pocan is also the brother of U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

 5:30 PM 

Baldwin, Johnson split on debt ceiling votes

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson split on today’s votes to lift the debt ceiling.

Baldwin, D-Madison, voted to cut off debate and approve the measure, while Johnson, R-Oshkosh, voted no both times.

The cloture motion succeeded 67-31 before the bill passed 55-43.

 7:59 AM 

Wis. Republicans oppose debt ceiling vote

Wisconsin's House delegation split on legislation to increase the country's debt ceiling.

The bill passed 221-201, largely thanks to the support of 193 Dems. Among Wisconsin's delegation, all three Dems backed the bill, while the five Republicans opposed it.

The House's top GOP leaders -- Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy -- voted for the bill. But Paul Ryan, the House Budget chair, called it a "missed opportunity."

"We need to pay our bills today and make sure we can pay our bills tomorrow," he said. "I'm disappointed that the president and Senate Democrats refuse to get serious about our fiscal challenges."

Monday, February 10, 2014

 8:11 AM 

Ryan: Immigration reform stalled over GOP's concerns with Obama

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan says progress on immigration reform is stalled by Republican concerns over whether President Barack Obama would fully implement the key elements of an immigration bill.

"If the president won't even enforce a law that he and his party wrote, like health care, what's to think he'll enforce a law that we get him to sign, like immigration?" the Janesville Republican said on Sunday's "UpFront with Mike Gousha," produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com.

He said he supports immigration reform, calling it a rule of law issue.

The House Budget Committee chairman said lawful immigration is good, but described the current system as broken. Ryan cited elevated security concerns in the wake of terrorist attacks and a rising threat from drug cartels as reasons he considers measures like border enforcement and visa verification as required elements of change to immigration policy.

"It's got to be immigration reform that gets the security part right, so we don't have the same problem 10 to 15 years from now," Ryan said.

Ryan also pointed to a new Congressional Budget Office report that concluded the Affordable Care Act will cause some lower-income workers to quit working. Ryan criticized the law, saying it perpetuates a cycle of poverty.

"There is dignity in work, and if we pass all these laws like this healthcare law, that diminishes the value of work... not only is that bad for the person we're talking about... but the economy suffers as a result."

See more from Ryan's appearance here.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

 11:50 AM 

Groups seek Johnson's support for USPS proposal

Groups from paper manufacturers to newspapers are criticizing U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson for not supporting a plan designed to rein in future U.S. Postal Service rate hikes.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, proposed the amendment last week during a markup of the postal bill. It would keep an emergency rate increase the agency implemented, but strip away the Postal Service's Board of Governors' ability to overrule its regulatory body starting in 2017.

The bill as introduced would keep in place the rate boost and allow USPS to determine its own pricing starting in 2017.

Those who use USPS frequently wrote to Johnson supporting Baldwin's amendment because it would maintain "predictable, accountable and affordable postage rates and protect postal customers from an unchecked government monopoly."

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

 3:08 PM 

Baldwin backs farm bill; Johnson opposed

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson split on the farm bill, which cleared the Senate today.

Following the 68-32 vote, the bill is now headed to the president’s desk.

Johnson, R-Oshkosh, was critical of the growth in the food stamps said he opposed the bill because the program and farm policy are considered together in one piece of legislation rather than separately.

“It is well past time for Washington to stop blocking needed reforms and long overdue fiscal discipline,” Johnson said.

Baldwin, D-Madison, said the bill provides farmers long-term certainty and makes keep investments in rural communities that are important to the state.

“Creating jobs by investing in our rural communities, reforming our farm programs so that they work for our family farmers, and putting an end to waste in the system is just commonsense,” she said.

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