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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

 2:35 PM 

Ethics board finds cause to continue investigating allegations against Petri

A unanimous Office of Congressional Ethics Board found "substantial reason" to believe GOP U.S. Rep. Tom Petri violated House rules in taking actions benefiting companies in which he had a financial stake.

House Ethics Committee Chair Michael Conway, R-Texas, and Ranking Member Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., announced today the body would continue to review the matter to gather more information, though doing so "does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee."

Petri, R-Fond du Lac, asked the House Ethics Committee earlier this year to look into allegations he acted on behalf of Oshkosh Corp. while owning stock in the company. At the time, he said he had sought the committee's advice in his actions and did nothing improper.

In the Office of Congressional Ethics report, it noted Petri and his staff sought the committee's guidance at times, but did not "seek advice before taking all official acts."

The report also said Petri and his staff in 2012 and 2013 contacted the EPA on behalf of Manitowoc Co. even though he owned stock in the company.

The board voted 5-0 in June with one abstention to continue looking into the allegations. The House Ethics Committee released the board's report today as part of its announcement the review would continue.

Petri said today he was "deeply disappointed" that the committee has not already resolved the case "once and for all" and described the Office of Congressional Ethics report as "flawed."

The House Ethics Committee statement did not indicate when the committee would wrap up its review or if it would empanel an investigative subcommittee, normally a step before more serious actions are taken against members.

Petri insisted the Office of Congressional Ethics ignored the "well-documented record" of his office's interactions with the House committee, saying he sought its advice and then followed it in his actions.

“But I remain hopeful that the Ethics Committee -- and anyone objectively reviewing the record -- will conclude that I have acted properly and complied with House rules; any suggestion to the contrary by the Office of Congressional Ethics report is untrue, biased and incomplete," Petri said.




Tuesday, September 23, 2014

 5:25 PM 

GOP members back Johnson's Obamacare appeal

Thirty-seven GOP members of Congress have filed an amicus brief supporting U.S. Sen Ron Johnson’s request for a federal appeals court to find he has standing to challenge an Obama administration ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

The members, which include U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida, argue the Obama administration has tried to rewrite Affordable Care Act “on a wholesale basis.” That includes a decision to allow the federal government to subsidize health insurance for lawmakers and some congressional staffers.

That decision has altered their personal health benefits in a way harmful to the members, denied their statutory right to equal treatment under the law and forced them to be complicity in illegal activity, the brief argues.

Johnson raised similar arguments in his suit, but a district court judge ruled he did not have standing to challenge the decision.

“When private citizens enter public service, they do not forfeit the right to seek redress in court for personal injuries suffered at the hands of the Executive Branch,” the lawmakers wrote.

No Wisconsin member signed onto the amicus brief.

A district court judge this summer rejected Johnson's lawsuit, finding much of the injuries alleged in the suit were speculative. Johnson has since appealed, but the case is not likely to be resolved ahead of the election.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals court last week granted a request from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to push back to Nov. 14 the deadline for its response brief to Johnson’s appeal. The senator will have until Dec. 12 to file a reply brief to that response, if he chooses.


Friday, September 19, 2014

 9:39 AM 

Johnson, Baldwin split on Syria vote

Wisconsin's U.S. senators split on a resolution backing a plan from President Obama to arm and train Syrian rebels to combat ISIS.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, was among the strong majority to endorse the plan, which passed 78-22. The House backed the plan Wednesday.

Johnson said although he shared concerns about whether "we will be training individuals who eventually may become our enemies," it was "important to show coalition partners that the U.S. Congress will support strong and resolute action to address the growing threat of ISIS."

Johnson also noted the plan wasn't debated separately from a proposal to fund the government after the end of the month, criticizing "yet another take-it-or-leave it vote with no ability to improve the bill."

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, however, said although she supported a number of provisions included in the measure -- including the extended government funding, reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank and providing aid to combat the West African Ebola crisis -- she had concerns about "another open-ended U.S. military entanglement in the Middle East."

"Spending American taxpayer money to arm and train Syrian rebels demands a much fuller debate in Congress and it is fundamentally wrong for the campaign season here at home to prevent that from happening," Baldwin said.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

 8:17 AM 

Kind, Ryan support plan to arm Syrian rebels

U.S. Reps. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, and Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, were the only members of Wisconsin's congressional delegation to back the president's plan to arm and train rebels in Syria.

The legislation cleared the House 273-156 with 159 Republicans and 114 Dems supporting it.

U.S. Reps. Sean Duffy, R-Weston; Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee; Mark Pocan, D-Madison; Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac; Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood; and Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls; all opposed the bill.

Pocan said the briefings he's had this week have raised more questions that remain unanswered and raised concerns about "another prolonged war in Iraq."

"This $500 million down payment will only further entangle us in a part of the world most Americans want us out of," he said.

Kind called the legislation the "best of the bad options that we have" and said he is opposed to committing ground troops to the region.

"I supported the measure because it gives the president bipartisan support to help him build a coalition in opposition to this growing threat, provides oversight resulting in greater accountability, and is the best plan to avoid putting combat troops on the ground," Kind said.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

 8:15 AM 

Johnson seeks standing to challenge Obamacare rule

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is urging a federal appeals court to find he has standing to challenge an Obama administration ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

The administration allows the federal government to subsidize health insurance for lawmakers and some congressional staffers.

Johnson, R-Oshkosh, argued in yesterday's brief that administration ruling imposes substantial administrative burdens by requiring him to work with senior staff to determine which employees will continue to receive federal benefits, depriving him and the aide who joined him in the suit of their constitutional rights to equal treatment, and forcing them to participate in an unlawful scheme in which they receive special benefits not available to the public.

A district court judge this summer rejected Johnson's lawsuit, finding much of the injuries alleged in the suit were speculative.


Monday, September 15, 2014

 9:06 AM 

Johnson nominated as UN representative

President Barack Obama has nominated U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson to serve as a representative to the United General Assembly that begins tomorrow.

Johnson, R-Oshkosh, will join fellow U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., at the UN's 69th assembly session.

He thanked the president for the nomination despite his "outspoken opposition to many of the policies of both President Obama and the United Nations," noting that not only is it customary for a member from each party to attend the assembly, but "I intend to use this opportunity to gain insight on a wide range of important global issues."

"In these perilous times, it is important for all of us to find common ground and stand united in our dealings with the rest of the world," Johnson said.


Friday, September 12, 2014

 8:40 AM 

Duffy bill would alter credit reporting law benefiting 'deadbeat parents'

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy announced legislation to strike a federal provision he says enables the avoidance of child support payments.

Duffy, R-Weston, said the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires credit reporting agencies to give 10 days notice prior to reporting on the collection of child support, giving "would-be deadbeat parents ample time to run up their credit, dump savings and assets or otherwise give the impression they can afford far less for their children."

"The law should not encourage or provide parents a way out of supporting their children," Duffy said.

The measure was offered with U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla.


 8:37 AM 

Pocan rolls out bills targeting corporate inversions

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan has introduced three bills aiming to curb corporate inversions.

Pocan, D-Madison, in recent weeks has criticized the practice, in which companies merge with a smaller foreign company to avoid U.S. taxes.

One of the newly introduced bills would crack down on earnings stripping, in which interest paid on debt to affiliated foreign companies reduces or wipes out U.S. taxable income.

The others would, in part, require immediate payment of taxes on overseas profits and require corporations to disclose both pre-tax profits and the amounts paid in state and federal taxes.

"Large corporations have taken advantage of tax loopholes to hide billions in corporate profits overseas and avoid paying taxes in the United States," Pocan said. "Enough is enough. This legislation will stop corporate deserters from abusing the U.S. tax system."


Thursday, September 11, 2014

 3:42 PM 

House panel won't look into Moore arrest

The House Ethics Committee has voted against looking into U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore’s arrest at a protest last week.

Moore, D-Milwaukee, was issued a disorderly conduct citation following her arrest Sept. 4 at a protest by fast food workers lobbying for an increase in the minimum wage.

The House Ethics Committee report released today said it convened yesterday to review the arrest and voted against empanelling an investigative subcommittee in the matter.

“The committee considered the scope and nature of the conduct described above and determined that review by an investigative subcommittee is not required in this matter,” the report said.


 8:13 AM 

Baldwin, Johnson say ISIS a threat following Obama speech

Wisconsin’s U.S. senators agreed ISIS is a threat in their reactions to President Barack Obama’s address to the nation Wednesday evening.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, called last night’s speech a “necessary step” in describing the threat posed by the ISIL, saying he’ll review the president’s plan in the coming days. He also stressed it’s crucial for the Obama and American public to remain committed to destroying ISIS.

“I will support strong and resolute action to destroy the growing threat that ISIS and global terrorism represent to America,” Johnson said.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, called them a “group of barbaric terrorists who represent a threat to American personnel and interests in Iraq, and to the stability of Iraq and the region.” She supports building an international coalition that provides military assistance to confront the threat and build “an inclusive and unified Iraqi government.”

But she cautioned against repeating "mistakes of the past" when it comes to using U.S. military personnel.

“I was pleased to hear the President say there will not be American combat troops on foreign soil, but I remain concerned about the potential for open-ended U.S. military engagement in the Middle East,” Baldwin said. “We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past, so it’s important for the administration to work with Congress as a partner and to set clear goals and benchmarks of success for American engagement in this mission.”


Monday, September 8, 2014

 8:22 AM 

Ryan: U.S. must react quickly to ISIS threat

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan says the United States must react quickly to eliminate the terrorist group ISIS, despite mixed public support for further military intervention in the Middle East.

The Janesville Republican told “UpFront with Mike Gousha” the role of the U.S. should be mostly limited to air strikes, but said some Americans could fill advisory positions with local forces like the Syrian Free Army. Ryan warned of the potential for expansion of ISIS, pointing to “thousands of foreign jihadists with foreign passports” that could pose a threat to U.S. security.

“This kind of terrorist group; they’re not war-weary; they’re coming,” the former GOP vice presidential candidate said on the program, produced in a partnership with WisPolitics.com.

Calling ISIS a containable threat, Ryan said the U.S. risks a loss of international standing by failing to react. While he believes the nation’s domestic and economic issues can be handled, he expressed concerns about a “dangerous trajectory” of foreign policy under President Obama.

Although critical of the president, Ryan said he's worried Republicans are framing the upcoming midterm elections as a referendum on Obama’s job performance without presenting alternatives. He said his new book, "The Way Forward," outlines his ideas for building a broader conservative movement that appeals to a majority of Americans.

“We can’t just define ourselves as what we are against … We need to offer a comprehensive alternative,” Ryan said. “We have to be a proposition party; we have to be an alternative party.”

See more from Ryan's appearance here.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

 1:06 PM 

Pocan introduces research legislation

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan today announced the introduction of legislation in the House aimed at helping young researchers.

The Next Generation Research Act -- introduced in the Senate last year by fellow Madison Dem Tammy Baldwin -- would establish an office within the National Institutes of Health to increase access to grants, expand workforce diversity and bolster mentorship efforts.

Pocan announced the bill during a meeting with researchers on the UW-Madison campus, saying in a statement that the federal sequester is "putting the brakes on research and innovation at a time when we need to step on the accelerator."

"This bill will ensure the next generation of researchers has the support they need to tackle the challenges of tomorrow," Pocan said.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

 6:12 PM 

Ryan calls for standing up to ISIS

After video released today appeared to show the beheading of a second American journalist, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan declared the U.S. needs to stand up to ISIS now "because if we don't do it here and now it will get us."

When it was announced that journalist Steven Sotloff was beheaded in Syria, where he was being held prisoner by ISIS, Ryan asked those at a Milwaukee event to bow their heads in prayer.

The Janesville Republican and former GOP veep candidate then knocked President Obama, specifically noting the president’s recent remark that the administration doesn’t have a strategy for dealing with the group.

Ryan spoke to a luncheon crowd of about 250 at the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center during an event sponsored by the Milwaukee Rotary and the Milwaukee Press Club.

Ryan also told the crowd he expected the blowback he received from his proposal to modify Medicare.

“If you’re going to challenge the status quo, you are going to get hit,” he said. “It’s important to put plans out there. Why should I have this job if I’m not going to try to fix anything?”

He said that he and Mitt Romney won senior voters by 20 percentage points and that his plan is still misconstrued. “It would not affect those who are retired or will soon retire,” he said.

The criticism isn’t going to make him “recoil into a corner,” he said, adding that when he was at the Walworth County fair this weekend he ran into people who disagreed with him. He noted that one constituent told him “I don’t agree with you on everything but at least you’re putting something out there.”

See more from Ryan's appearance here.


 5:08 PM 

Baldwin seeks new Obamacare enrollment period for former BadgerCare participants

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is urging the Obama administration to tackle a "coverage gap" through a special enrollment period for Wisconsinites who were removed from BadgerCare eligibility earlier this year.

In a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, Baldwin, D-Madison, argued many of the estimated 38,000 former BadgerCare enrollees that did not join an insurance plan through the Obamacare exchanges are now likely uninsured.

Walker and GOP lawmakers rejected federal funding to expand the state's Medicaid program under Obamacare, instead opting to cover those under 100 percent of the federal poverty level. Those above that threshold who had previously been covered by BadgerCare were instead moved into the health care exchanges.

But the Walker administration acknowledged in July that nearly 70 percent of BadgerCare participants who moved off the program had failed to join an exchange plan. Of the 62,776 BadgerCare Plus members shifted onto the exchange, DHS officials said just 18,801 selected a qualifying health insurance plan on the federal marketplace.

Another 992 were counted as being enrolled in both a public assistance program and an exchange plan, while 4,867 were determined to qualify for Medicaid or BadgerCare Plus after all -- leaving 38,116 former BadgerCare enrollees who hadn't joined an exchange plan as of June 13.

Baldwin called for CMS to establish a special enrollment period immediately to address the "coverage gap," writing "Wisconsin is paying a steep price for our governor's insistence on putting politics ahead of progress."

"The severe consequences of Governor Walker's plan make the urgency for action clear," Baldwin wrote.

Walker, during a stop in Madison today, dismissed Baldwin’s letter as election-year politics.

“It sounds like we're going to hear the same issue from her every week,” Walker said. “I think that’s probably more about the campaign than the policy.”


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