DC Wrap: Wis. reps applaud new trade deal; Baldwin aims to force vote to rollback short-term insurance plans

DC Wrap

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

Quotes of the week

Read about false memories. Read about people who have actually confessed to crimes and then later proven totally innocent, OK?
– U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, suggesting California professor Christine Blasey Ford may have “false memories” of her alleged sexual assault. Ford testified last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Johnson’s comments were caught in a video taken by a local filmmaker at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee.

This is a tremendous opportunity for some boy who is now eight years old to be educated that you don’t become a man by being boorish.
– U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, in an interview with VICE News on what the Kavanaugh hearings mean for the country’s future.  

This week’s news

— Wisconsin’s House reps largely applauded the new trade deal between the United States, Mexico and Canada as a step forward in renegotiating NAFTA.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement was announced late Sunday night after Canada joined the United States and Mexico in their previously-announced agreement. That decision followed more than a year of negotiations, and came in just a few hours before an agreed-upon midnight deadline.

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner in a statement said the deal will benefit Wisconsin and expand Americans’ access to auto manufacturing and dairy markets.

“This is an important step toward strengthening our trade relationships and growing our economy, and I applaud the administration for its persistence and hard work in reaching this agreement,” the Menomonee Falls Republican said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan said he is “encouraged by some progress in the agreement,” including a rollback of special investment protections for corporations.

But the Town of Vermont Dem said in a statement he remains concerned about some aspects of the deal, citing harmful environmental provisions, the “continued waiver of Buy American rules” and limits to access to affordable medicines.

“Over the coming months, I will continue to work with advocates from the labor, environmental and agricultural sectors to hold the Administration accountable to their promise of standing up for working families and making real changes to our failed trade policies,” Pocan said.

A fact sheet from the office of the United States Trade Representative listed 10 key achievements of the new deal, including expanded market access for U.S. food and agriculture products, elimination of certain Canadian milk classifications and new protections for proprietary food formulas.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, said the deal is “step forward in this process,” but added “now it’s time for us to come together to discuss the outstanding issues that remain.”

“Not only should we demand the highest possible labor and environmental standards, but ensure they are fully enforceable — a standard which many of our past trade agreements have not met,” he said in a statement.

The effects of the new trade agreement won’t be felt until at least next year. Leaders from all three countries have to sign it, and then Congress and the legislatures of Canada and Mexico will need to give final approval.

— Pocan said Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials did not give many answers in his meeting to discuss the agency’s recent raids in Wisconsin.

Pocan, who previously introduced a bill to disband ICE, met with agency officials last week following reports ICE had recently arrested  83 people in Wisconsin, including 44 who had prior criminal convictions and 16 who did not.

In a statement, he said officials during their meeting could not tell him how many agents are working in Wisconsin, information about the people detained in the recent raids or whether ICE agents followed proper protocol regarding medical conditions or minors during their work in the state.

Pocan said the agency will investigate these issues and noted that the 83 people detained in raids last month were part of a larger list of 250 individuals ICE is targeting in Wisconsin. Pocan said he has requested detailed call logs of ICE’s contacts with local logs enforcement.

“We know that the recent surge in arrests is a direct result of President Trump’s immigration policy and that the agency is following his orders,” he said. “We will continue to press the agency for additional information.”

— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is spearheading a procedural move aimed at forcing the full Senate to take up and vote on her legislation targeting so-called “junk insurance” plans.

The Madison Dem’s effort comes as the Trump administration’s expansion of inexpensive, short-term health insurance plans went into effect this week. The plans, which the Obama administration capped at three months, don’t have to cover pre-existing conditions and other kinds of health care required under the Affordable Care Act.

Baldwin, who introduced a resolution more than a month ago to overturn the plans, announced this week she has the support of all 49 Dem and Independent senators.

Now, she’s looking to get 51 signatures on a discharge petition to force a vote on overturning the administration’s short-term health insurance plan expansion. Still, she would need the support of two Republican senators to bring it before the full Senate.  

“Anyone who says they support coverage for people with pre-existing conditions should support this resolution to overturn the Trump Administration’s expansion of junk insurance plans, and I hope my Republican colleagues join us to protect people’s access to quality, affordable care,” Baldwin said in a statement.

Baldwin also touted the effort on Twitter. As fellow Dem senators sign the discharge petition, they also have been tweeting videos of themselves spotlighting the effort.

See Baldwin’s Twitter feed.

— U.S. Rep Ron Kind has introduced legislation designed to support servicemembers’ transition back to civilian life.

The bill, entitled “Improving Preparation and Resources for Occupational, Vocational, and Educational (IMPROVE) Transition for Servicemembers Act,” would overhaul the existing Transition Assistance Program (TAP) by emphasizing training and education, adding TAP employees, and streamlining veteran access to services.

The IMPROVE Act commands bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. Reps. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and Walter Jones, R-N.C., signed on as co-sponsors with Kind in the House, while Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., plan to introduce companion legislation in the Senate.

“The transition from military life back into the civilian world is understandably challenging for many servicemembers and military families,” the La Crosse Dem said in a statement announcing the legislation.

— U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore’s legislation aiming to support victims of domestic violence has cleared the House.

The “Family Violence Prevention and Services Act of 2018” would reauthorize federal funding to support emergency shelter and assistance for domestic violence victims and their families.

Moore in a statement tied her bill to California professor Christine Blasey Ford, one of three women accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.

The Milwaukee Dem implored Congress to pass her legislation in order to respond to the “fierce energy for justice and equality for women” she said was launched by Ford.

“FVPSA is at the heart of our nation’s response to domestic violence services, ensuring that local domestic violence shelters and programs are able to keep their lights on and doors open to serve more than 1.3 million victims and their children every year,” she said.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

— Moore also introduced legislation to overhaul Temporary Assistance to Needy Families TANF, the United States’ cash support program for the low-income.

Key provisions in the “Rewriting to Improve and Secure an Exit (RISE) Out of Poverty Act’’ include: proposals to “stop the clock” on 60-month time-limited assistance during periods of high unemployment, index block grants to inflation, and provide guaranteed child-care to TANF recipients.

In highlighting her legislation, Moore argued that TANF, which imposed work requirements and limited education and training opportunities, is a “broken program” and needs “sweeping reforms … to ensure it can actually work for the populations it’s supposed to help.”

Moore says her own experience as a welfare recipient gives her a first-hand understanding of TANF’s strengths and weaknesses. Above all, she said she hopes the RISE Act will expand access to cash assistance so that families can meet their basic needs.

“Our nation is only as strong as its most vulnerable populations. Instead of criminalizing and demonizing the poor, we must help lift them up, so they too can escape poverty,” she said.

— U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy has introduced legislation aiming to improve the quality of care in Wisconsin nursing homes.

The so-called “Nursing Home Workforce Quality Act” would allow quality nursing homes to continue training new qualified nurses, while also encouraging underperforming nursing homes to quickly come into compliance with the law.

According to the proposed legislation, the mandatory certified nursing assistant training lockout for skilled nursing facilities with monetary penalties exceeding roughly $10,000 would change to allow the Department of Health and Human Services secretary to impose a lockout based on a substandard quality of care.

Duffy, R-Wausau, said in a statement that it is “more important than ever” that these nursing facilities are able to educate new certified nursing assistants “to meet increased labor demands.”

“This need is especially important in rural America, where SNFs are often major employers,” he said. “I’m proud to introduce legislation to eliminate another layer of Washington red tape that prevents Wisconsin seniors from receiving the highest quality of care from well-trained medical professionals.”

Posts of the week

ICYMI

Leah Vukmir cites Tammy Baldwin inaction on Tomah VA scandal, but lacks evidence of ‘cover up’

Leah Vukmir claims Tammy Baldwin’s plans ‘will destroy health care as we know it’

Obama Endorses Evers, Baldwin, Bryce in Wisconsin Races

Sen. Baldwin Pushes For Access To Televised Packers Games For All Wisconsinites

Band Bon Iver to hold concert, fundraiser for Baldwin

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Secures Funding for Sherman Park Development in Milwaukee

Kind announces Hmong culture grant to CVTC

Pocan meets with ICE officials, says 167 left on list of targeted people in Wisconsin

Mark Pocan: Few answers from ICE on raids in Wisconsin

Casey, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Bill Address Unexpected Child, Infant Deaths

‘We get stuff done,’ U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore says of black women

Johnson suggests Kavanaugh accuser suffers from ‘false memories’

Government may gain new power to track, shoot down drones

Wisconsin Split On Kavanaugh Advancement To Supreme Court

Will Congress Restrict States’ Right to Tax Remote Sales?

Lumberjack Bowl: House approves historic designation

De-listing gray wolf bill passes House

9/28/18 – Congressman Glenn Grothman Interview, New Legislation Aims to Restrict Alcohol Consumption in WI

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