DC Wrap: Senate to vote on Brennan’s nomination; new report on Russian interference in 2016 election

DC Wrap

Welcome to our weekly DC Wrap, where we write about Wisconsin’s congressional delegation. Sign up here to receive the newsletter directly.

Join WisPolitics.com and the Millennial Action Project for an upcoming Appleton event on “The Future of Work” featuring U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher and state Rep. Amanda Stuck. The event is May 29 at 4 p.m. See more details and RSVP here.

Quotes of the week, May 4-10

This is a for-profit company. I don’t know that taxpayers across America should cover the cost of those transitions. I think if it’s an appropriate move, they should make the decision and bear the cost of that transition.
– U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wausau, after touring the damaged Husky Energy oil refinery in Superior. The refinery was damaged by a series of explosions and fires there last month. Mayors in Duluth and Superior have said the refinery should end its use of hydrogen fluoride, but Duffy told reporters should that happen, he wouldn’t back the use of federal funding to cover it.

Maybe I should sign on to more bills to rename a post office in Oklahoma. But I don’t know that that really shows the bipartisan nature of Congress.
– U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont, on the Bipartisan Index that ranks all members of Congress based on how frequently a member introduces bills that get sponsors from the opposite party, and how often they co-sponsor legislation from the other side of the aisle. Pocan, who ranked 333rd in the House, called it a “flawed” and antiquated study.

This week’s news

— Milwaukee attorney Michael Brennan’s confirmation vote for his nomination to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is slotted for today.

The Senate will convene at 9 a.m. CDT to begin debate on Brennan’s nomination with a roll call vote planned two hours later.

The Senate yesterday signed off on Brennan’s cloture motion, as U.S. Sens. Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin ended up on opposite sides of the 49-47 vote.

— A new federal Senate Intelligence Committee interim report on election security identified at least 18 and up to as many as 21 states that had their election systems targeted during the 2016 election.

It also found that in at least six states, the Russian-backed actors conducted “malicious access attempts on voting-related websites.” In other states, the report said, those actors were able to access “restricted elements of election infrastructure” and in some instances they were in a position to alter or delete voter registration data.

But in no cases, the report found, were cyber actors able to manipulate individual votes or vote totals.

Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesman Reid Magney said while Wisconsin was targeted by the Russians in 2016 with “scanning activity,” Wisconsin is not among the states where those activities went beyond scanning.

The report also found the Department of Homeland Security launched an “inadequate” response to attempts to meddle in the US’ elections systems under both Presidents Obama and Trump. Still, it also commends the agency for making “tremendous progress” over the last six months to address the issue.

Magney said while the Senate Intelligence Committee hadn’t been in touch with the state about the report specifically, the Elections Commission has had “regular contact” with Homeland Security since the agency told the commision last September cyber actors had unsuccessfully targeted the state’s voter registration system before the 2016 presidential election.

“At this point, we are working very closely with Homeland Security, and we are satisfied with that relationship that we’re getting the information and the services we need,” he said.

See the report.

— Baldwin, D-Madison, is objecting to President Trump’s decision to end the Iran nuclear deal, while her GOP rivals are praising the move.

Baldwin said the move this week leaves no alternate plan to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

“Our U.S. military leaders have said this international agreement is working in our national security interests and breaking it will not make us safer,” she wrote in a Facebook post.

State Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, meanwhile, called it a “great day for Wisconsin and America. The foolish and dangerous Iranian nuclear deal would have allowed Iran to develop nuclear weapons, and it is now in the wastebasket of history along with the rest of Obama’s naïvely misguided foreign policy.”

Business consultant and former Marine Kevin Nicholson via Twitter applauded Trump for “pulling us back to reality today” by exiting the deal. He also knocked Baldwin for “supporting a deal that sent that same Iranian state sponsor of terror billions of dollars of cash on cargo planes – and allowed them to get closer to obtaining a nuclear weapon. Unconscionable.”

Vukmir and Nicholson are running in a primary for the GOP nomination to go up against Baldwin this fall.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, said Trump’s actions were “a strong statement that we can and must do better. I have always believed the best course of action is to fix the deficiencies in the agreement.”

But U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, called the decision shortsighted and “a reckless display of carelessness in both foreign relations and national security that further isolates us from our allies in the world.”

See more reaction on the WisPolitics.com press release page.

— Baldwin in a new TV ad talks about her mother’s struggles with prescription drugs and mental illness, telling viewers “I know how hard this fight is.”

The ad comes on the heels of Baldwin opening up publicly last week for the first time about her mother, who died in August.

Baldwin begins the 60-second spot saying she used to come home from school, but couldn’t get into the house. She’d pound on the door, but her mother was passed out inside and wouldn’t answer. Baldwin says her mother struggled with addiction to prescription drugs her whole life and she had to “grow up fast.”

“So when I see the opioid crisis that is wrecking so many Wisconsin families, all I can tell you is I’ve been there,” Baldwin says. “I know how hard this fight is. I know the stigma that comes with drug abuse and mental illness.”

See more on the ad via WisPolitics.com.

— U.S. Rep. Ron Kind is calling on the House Veterans Affairs Committee to take up his bill aimed at improving veteran employment opportunities.

The La Crosse Dem wrote in a letter to committee Chair U.S. Rep. Phil Roe and ranking member U.S. Rep. Tim Walz on Monday his bill would “provide critical tools for veterans and their spouses to find employment.”

The bill, he wrote, has been pending for nearly five months without any action being taken.

“When our veterans return from service, they deserve the opportunity to find a good-paying job back at home,” Kind wrote in the letter. “It’s time to pass this bill, which helps our veterans and their families make an easier transition from military to civilian life.”

— U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan joined U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in introducing a bill aimed at bolstering the power of labor unions.

The so-called “Workplace Democracy Act” would let employees form a union by signing up rather than being elected into membership; require workers in every state to pay some dues to the unions they’re represented by; and speed up the timeline for negotiating between unions and companies, according to national media reports.

Pocan, D-Town of Vermont, knocked President Trump and Gov. Scott Walker, saying their work cracking down on unions “makes it harder for middle class families to get ahead.”

“The Workplace Democracy Act restores real bargaining rights to workers and repeals the right to work laws like those that Governor Walker has used to undercut American workers,” he said in a statement.

But state GOP spokesman Alec Zimmerman said the plan “would give more power to big government interests at the expense of worker freedom and choice.”

“Wisconsin families can’t afford Pocan’s attempts to take our state backward,” he said.

Posts of the week

ICYMI

Sen. Ron Johnson stops by Ellsworth

Ron Johnson: “I truly do not believe anybody wins the trade war”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin did back a Department of Peace, but Kevin Nicholson’s attack needs some context

Tammy Baldwin shares story of late mother’s addiction in TV ad

Baldwin releases ad about mother’s struggle with addiction

Pocan hits on Farm Bill, ‘swamp’ during Baraboo stop

Wisconsin Democrats face struggle in gaining congressional seats, despite ‘blue wave’

Rep. Kind Reactions to Iran Nuclear Deal

Trump backs bipartisan House push for congressional term limits

Female truckers could be solution to semi-truck driver shortage

Wisconsin Congress members react to Iran deal withdrawal

Congressman Sean Duffy Tours Damaged Superior Oil Refinery

Congressman Sean Duffy evaluates Husky, says he wants to “learn lessons”

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