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WisPolitics coverage of news from the nation's capital.
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Wisconsin's Congressional Delegation
|• Herb Kohl (D)
• Russ Feingold (D)
|•1st CD: Paul Ryan (R)
•2nd CD:Tammy Baldwin (D)
•3rd CD: Ron Kind (D)
•4th CD: Gwen Moore (D)
|•5th CD: F. James Sensenbrenner (R)
•6th CD: Tom Petri (R)
•7th CD: Dave Obey (D)
•8th CD: Steve Kagen (D)
|Got a DC news tip? Send it to DC Wrap contributors Greg Bump or David A. Wise.|
4:04 p.m.: Kagen, Zipperer remember ex-U.S. Rep. Cornell
U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, paid tribute to Rev. Robert Cornell today as a politician who “spoke truth to power long before it became popular.”
Cornell, a former Congressman, passed away Sunday at St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere at age 89. He was the only Democrat before Kagen to win re-election in the Fox Valley district, serving in the House of Representatives from 1975-1979.
“He served our children as an experienced professor at St. Norbert College, and in his public life as a great Democrat in the 8th District of Wisconsin. He served with honor and great passion,” Kagen said in a statement. “He committed his life to those who needed his help the most; those who were in need. And when I needed his counsel, he always found time to guide me.”
Cornell, who taught for years at St. Norbert College, also drew praise from Rep. Rich Zipperer, R-Pewaukee and a former student of Cornell’s.
“His sense of humor reminded me that, even when debating serious issues, it is important to never take yourself too seriously,” Zipperer said, noting his frequent disagreements with his liberal-leaning mentor. “And, as the first person ever to tell me I should run for office, I have Father Cornell to thank for helping prepare me to serve in elective office.”
DPW Chairman Joe Wineke praised Cornell’s activism for civil rights, peace and ending poverty and discrimination. Wineke added that his message “transcended politics and religion.”
1:07 p.m.: Feingold to hear from Milwaukee police chief
Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn will be in Washington Tuesday as part of a panel on local law enforcement before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton and Judiciary member, has indicated he will be in attendance for the hearing, titled "Helping State and Local Law Enforcement." U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, also serves on the Judiciary committee.
Flynn, who has served as chief of the Milwaukee Police Department since November 2007, will be joined by Lt. Kris Carlson of the Burlington (Vt.) Police Department -- home of Judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy -- and David B. Muhlhausen of the D.C.-based Heritage Center for Data Analysis.
4:17 p.m.: Nardelli apologizes for confusion over Kensoha plant
Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli sent a letter today to members of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation and Gov. Jim Doyle for misleading them on the Kenosha engine plant.
Nardelli said during a conference call last week that Chrysler was still considering keeping the plant open. He wrote that he had mistakenly conveyed information about the status of the Trenton, Mich., plant in response to a question about the Kenosha facility.
A bankruptcy filing revealed the day after the conference call that Chrysler would close the plant.
"[P]lease accept my sincere apologies for the confusion. We will continue to work with the people of Kenosha to ensure an orderly transition," Nardelli wrote.
4:19 p.m.: Sensenbrenner seeks to deny bailout for Chrysler
U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls and an ardent opponent of numerous federal bailout measures, is hoping the Obama administration denies bailout funds for one company in particular.
Sensenbrenner wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner Thursday asking him to reject funding for Chrysler, which is seeking bankruptcy protection and recently announced plans to shut down its Kenosha plant.
The longtime GOP Congressman said in a statement that using tax dollars to outsource Kenosha jobs to Mexico is "unacceptable."
3:25 p.m.: Petri to keynote AEI conference
U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, will serve as keynote speaker at a Tuesday conference on low-income taxpayers presented by conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute.
Petri, according to a statement from his office, will discuss the "punishingly high" marginal tax rate increases for families moving from poverty to the middle class.
Petri is scheduled to speak at 9 a.m. at Washington D.C.'s Wohlstetter Conference Center. The conference will also feature Cato Institute director of tax policy studies Chris Edwards and a number of resident AEI scholars.
4:10 p.m.: Sensenbrenner hopes to maintain current ethanol blend level
U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, has signed onto a letter by fellow Members of Congress asking the Obama administration to decline the EPA’s request increase the percentage of ethanol in blended gasoline.
Sensenbrenner said increasing the blend beyond its current 10 percent level will negatively affect consumers in a bad economy.
"While I support renewable fuels, increasing the ethanol blend in gasoline will have the unintended consequence of rising fuel costs for Americans," Sensenbrenner said in a statement. "As ethanol requires more fuel to travel the same distance, drivers will need to refuel more often, and therefore, feel the pinch at the pump more frequently.”
2:01 p.m.: Kind rips budget over lack of farm subsidy reform
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, criticized the recently passed federal budget bill over what he called “a lack of farm subsidy reform.”
Kind, who made national headlines advocating changes to agriculture subsidy programs in last year’s Farm Bill, joined his Wisconsin Democratic colleagues in voting for the $3.4 billion Obama budget last week.
He said lawmakers stripped the budget bill of proposals to cap subsidies at $250,000 and eliminate subsidies for producers making more than $250,000.
“It is obvious that the American public is concerned with the way our government doles out taxpayer subsidies to large agribusiness,” Kind said in a statement. “Rather than continuing to favor the largest producers, we must redirect our focus to helping our family farmers stay in business while finding budget savings to reduce our national deficit.”
2:29 p.m.: Kohl meets with Treasury officials on Kenosha plant
U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl has joined the chorus of outrage from the Badger State over the impending closure of the Chysler plant in Kenosha following the embattled carmaker's intention to declare bankruptcy.
Kohl, D-Milwaukee, issued a statement following a Tuesday morning meeting with Steven Rattner, the top Treasury Deparment official on the auto industry reorganization. He blasted the company's decision, saying it is counterproductive to eliminate the 800 Kenosha jobs while expanding the company with unproven workers.
“It’s galling that a company that came here, hat in hand, to plead for taxpayer money to survive would turn around and move jobs out of the country," Kohl said. "There is no place that Chrysler will find better skilled workers than they have in Wisconsin, and it’s important for the people making these decisions to understand that."
11 a.m.: Obey calls for $2 billion boost in pandemic preparedness
House Appropriations Committee Chair U.S. Rep. David Obey said today he will request $2 billion to beef up the nation's ability to respond to pandemic diseases in a supplemental appropriations bill being drafted.
Obey's call comes as the number of cases of the H1N1 flu virus, also known as "swine flu," is increasing in America and globally.
The appropriation would providing funds to build up the nation's stockpile of antiviral medication, speed up development of a vaccine, increase monitoring and laboratory capacity, and fund other related purposes, Obey told reporters during a conference call this morning. The bill would also include $350 million to assist states in strengthening and rebuilding their public health programs, Obey said.
Obey noted that he had included $900 million in the stimulus bill to deal with pandemic flu, but he said it was pulled out from the Senate version at the urging of Republicans who argued it was unrelated to the economy.
Obey pointed to the H1N1 flu's effect on the Mexican economy, which he said is in “shambles” because of it.
“When you close schools, when you shut down as many businesses as they have in Mexico, it has a huge depressing effect on the economy,” Obey said.
Obey said some 11,000 public health professionals have been laid off due to the slumping economy, which the money for state programs aims to address.
“Anytime we lose 11,000 people in the public health care system because of the economic crunch, that creates a severe hole in our capacity to respond and to protect the public's health,” Obey said. “We were right to put than money in the stimulus package in January, and we're right to pursue a much larger effort now.”
He also noted that previous congresses had failed to fully fund former President George W. Bush's efforts to boost pandemic preparedness.
Obey said it's unclear how severe the flu will be this season or when it reemerges next season, but the nation needs to be prepared.
“Eventually, we will face a severe pandemic, and we need to greatly expand the country's ability to deal with it,” Obey said.
Obey also discussed a bill that passed the House yesterday meant to protect credit card holders, saying the credit card industry has been a "racket" that levied $19 billion in penalties to consumers last year through sometimes "shady" practices. The bill is now headed to the Senate.
4:53 p.m.: State Dems seek to honor La Follette
On the eve of The Progressive magazine's 100th anniversary conference and celebration, U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, and Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, have introduced a pair of bills to honor the publication's founder.
One bill would authorize the president to award Robert M. "Fighting Bob" La Follette the Congressional Gold Medal. The other would direct the Treasury Department to mint coins in honor of the former governor, senator and presidential candidate.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, will co-sponsor the bills in the House.
“It was his lifelong mission to ‘make real the promise of democracy,’" Baldwin said of La Follette in a statement from the three lawmakers. "I’m proud to join my colleagues in honoring the life and legacy of this great Wisconsin statesman."
5:43 p.m.: Senate passes budget
The Senate passed the $3.4 trillion budget bill on a 53-43 vote.
Wisconsin's Dem U.S. Sensators Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl voted to approve the budget. Three Democratic Senators, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voted against the budget. U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who announced yesterday that he was switching to the Democratic Party, also voted against the bill.
No Republicans voted for it. See the roll call here.
2:43 p.m.: Feingold bill would void arbitration mandates
U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, introduced the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2009 Wednesday, saying during a news conference with constituent David Kurth of Burlington that the bill is vital to protecting the rights of Americans to have their day in court.
The bill would render pre-dispute agreements requiring arbitration for employment, consumer, franchise and civil rights disputes unenforceable. Feingold said he supports the institution of arbitration to resolve disputes, but said such an avenue should not be mandated in place of being able to take a complaint to court prior to a disagreement arising.
“This is the big bill,” Feingold told reporters during a Capitol Hill news conference. “This is the big bill that stops this practice.”
The bill, which is being cosponsored by U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., in the House of Representatives, is being pushed by several groups, including Public Citizen, The Employee Rights Advocacy Institute for Law And Policy and the Public Welfare Foundation.
- David M. Drucker
1:06 p.m.: Wisconsin delegation splits on budget vote
Wisconsin U.S. Reps. split along party lines Tuesday, along with most of the rest of the House, in passing a $3.4 trillion budget resolution for fiscal year 2010.
The full House passed the resolution 233-193, with 17 Democrats joining all Republicans in voting against the bill.
U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, praised the budget's "strategic investments" toward long-term economic growth.
“This budget plan is fiscally responsible and will enable us to work our way out of today’s recession,” Kagen said in a statement.
But U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, called the budget's scope "breathtaking."
"I'm not saying 'No.' I'm saying 'Not that much,'" Petri said. "This is a bill that is going to come due."
5:35 p.m.: Feingold, Kohl endorse Sebelius as HHS secretary
The Senate confirmed the nomination of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services Tuesday.
Wisconsin U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, and Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee were among the 65 votes in favor of Sebelius. 31 senators -- all Republicans -- voted against the nomination.
See the roll call vote here.
5:16 p.m.: Sensebrenner calls for Napolitano to resign
U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, called for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to resign Tuesday on the heels of her overtures to repeal the federal REAL ID law.
Sensenbrenner, who authored the REAL ID bill, also listed shortcomings in patrolling the Mexican border and DHS' controversial report warning of extremism from returning veterans and right-wing activists as reasons the former Arizona governor should step down.
"Our Secretary of Homeland Security should want better," Sensenbrenner said in a statement. "In my mind, three strikes and you’re out. She should resign.”
1:41 p.m.: Feingold urges supporters to be 'stronger then Steele'
U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, is using the state GOP’s special guest this weekend in an attempt to pick up some extra fundraising for his 2010 campaign.
In an e-mail sent this morning to supporters, the Feingold Senate Committee calls RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who will address the Republican Party of Wisconsin’s state convention Friday, a GOP “cash cow.”
Feingold campaign operative Trevor Miller urges supporters to donate to counter the “tens of thousands of dollars to try and defeat Russ and other Democrats next year.”
“We'll get a taste of what 2010 will sound like when Steele takes the podium,” Miller writes. “Will he speak out in favor of bipartisanship and cooperation, or will Steele stick to the same tired script?”
The e-mail also references Feingold’s calls for investigating government officials involved in approving the use of torture.
“Throughout his career Russ has stood up for what's right, while at the same time seeking common ground to make America a better place,” Miller writes. “Unfortunately, too many politicians are more concerned with spreading fear and scoring political points than fixing the real problems our country faces.”
10:06 a.m.: Ryan says Dems not interested in bipartisanship
House Democrats aren't interested in hearing Republican input on health care reform or the budget, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan said this morning on the MSNBC program "Morning Joe."
Ryan, R-Janesville, said the status quo on Capitol Hill is "one-party rule, moving this stuff through faster than lightning speed."
Ryan said the Republican plan for balancing the budget contains concepts like broadening the tax base, plugging tax loopholes, and cutting spending.
"We're giving specific ideas of how we would do things differently. At the end of the day the American get better government because they get alternatives and choices," Ryan said.
Ryan said he would not consider raising taxes for those who make $10 million or more per year.
"More than half the folks filing at these tax rates are small businesses, 70 percent of our jobs in America come from small businesses," Ryan said. "What you're doing is your not raising taxes on Bill Gates and Brett Favre, you're raising taxes on those small businesses that have 25, 100, maybe 250 employees in an industrial park in Elkhorn, Wisconsin."
See Ryan on Morning Joe here.
Ryan, the ranking GOP member of the House Budget Committee, also released an evaluation of the first 100 days of the Obama adminsitration's spending. See it here.
1:36 p.m.: Club for Growth presents earmark list
The conservative-leaning Club for Growth has released its 2009 list of Congressional members who have “Sworn Off Earmarks.”
The list includes three members of Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation: U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton; U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville; and U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls.
Feingold has a standing rule against requesting earmarks, so his inclusion in the list is to be expected. Ryan and Sensenbrenner were both on last year’s “Sworn Off Earmarks” list, so there inclusion was also far from surprising.
“It is a great sign to see more members of Congress swearing off earmarks,” Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said in a statement. “In Congress, there is an awful lot of pressure to maintain the status quo, but these members are pushing for true reform and leading by example. All forty seven members on the Club’s ‘Sworn Off Earmarks’ list deserve credit for taking a stand in defense of American taxpayers.”
--By David M. Drucker
10:43 a.m.: Ryan featured in DNC ad
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville and ranking member of the House Budget Committee, makes an appearance in a new Web ad from the Democratic National Committee decrying GOP actions during the first 100 days of the Obama administration.
The DNC spot, titled "100 Days of No," shows Ryan for a few seconds at the beginning of the 60-second video. A chorus of voices saying "no" drowns out the 1st CD rep's remarks.
9:01 a.m.: Sensenbrenner rips Napolitano over REAL ID comments
U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, criticized Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano Wednesday after she told the Anti-Defamation League that she is working toward repealing the federal REAL ID legislation.
Napolitano, whose agency enforces REAL ID, said she is working with state governors toward scrapping the law, which some local officials call too expensive and overbearing.
Sensenbrenner, who authored the law as chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said REAL ID remains "a necessary program for keeping America safe."
"Four years ago, I shepherded this bill through Congress to protect our nation from another 9/11 type attack," Sensenbrenner said in a statement. "Without being able to change their identity, terrorists are easier to detect and their plans easier for law enforcement to thwart - making everyone safer."
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