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
“We see states go around and sue ‘big bad corporations’ because where you can’t legislate and get the cost under control of the underlying product in the first place, you litigate. If you can’t legislate, you litigate. And what we need to do is actually have a real, honest conversation about what the underlying cost of the product is, that is driving students into debt in the first place.”
– U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil addressing higher education costs at a House Financial Services Committee hearing this week.
“I think that makes common sense, and I don’t think any gun owner should have any concerns about that if they’re law-abiding. This is not any violation or curtailment of the 2nd Amendment.”
– U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin talking background checks during an appearance on WKOW-TV’s “Capital City Sunday.”
This week’s news
— U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner received a standing ovation from the House Judiciary Committee after more than four decades of service.
This came after Sensenbrenner last week announced he wouldn’t seek re-election at the end of his term next fall. Having previously served as the committee’s chair from 2001 to 2007, Sensenbrenner maintained a strong presence on the now Dem-controlled committee.
Even in the increasingly polarized political climate, Sensenbrenner’s colleagues shared glowing sentiments about the retiring Congressman.
“He has served this committee and this House with distinction, and he will be sorely missed,” Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said.
–With a number of possible GOP candidates considering a bid following his surprise announcement, Sensenbrenner says he will be “strictly neutral” in the 2020 Republican primary to find his possible successor.
The Menomonee Falls Republican told WisPolitics.com last Thursday he’s already had several possible candidates reach out to him. He declined to say who’s contacted him other than describing them as friends and supporters. Sensenbrenner said that’s part of the reason why he’ll stay out of the primary.
“I’ll be making one of my friends and supporters deliriously happy and probably five or six of them very angry at me,” Sensenbrenner said, describing the outcome if he did endorse in the primary. “Those aren’t very good odds.”
Sensenbrenner surprised many with his announcement that he won’t seek reelection after more than four decades in the House, where he is the second-most tenured member. Sensenbrenner said he feels good and there are no health problems that would force him to leave, noting at 76 he’s younger than Dem presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.
Sensenbrenner, though, noted he’s still recovering from hip replacement surgery, which has made it harder to get around.
His hallmark has been the public appearances he’s regularly made in his district during his tenure, including some 100 town hall meetings a year.
“I’ve said all along I’d know when the time to leave has come,” he said.
He also preferred to leave now so a successor could win the seat ahead of the 2021 redrawing of Wisconsin’s political lines. Sensenbrenner said it would be better for the district to have a freshman incumbent in place during that process rather than a retiring veteran to minimize the temptations to carve up the seat, which covers an area immediately northwest of Milwaukee.
Sensenbrenner also said being in the minority didn’t influence his decision, pointing out he’ll have served 22 years in the minority and 20 in the majority after this term is up. He said he has “a lot of friends” on the Dem side of the aisle and isn’t afraid to work with them on legislation.
“I haven’t changed their political philosophy. I haven’t changed mine,” Sensenbrenner said of his relationship with Dems. “One of the things you’ve got to learn in this business — and not just with your colleagues — is that the most important word in the dictionary is respect.”
— GOP state Sen. Chris Kapenga, of Delafield, intends to run for Sensenbrenner’s seat, a source with knowledge of his plans told WisPolitics.com.
The source stressed no official announcement had been made and there was no timeline for one yet.
No Republican candidate has officially entered the race to replace Sensenbrenner, but Republicans considering a bid include: Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau; state Rep. Adam Neylon, of Waukesha; Matt Neumann, son of former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann; and Matt Walker, the son of former Gov. Scott Walker.
— Former GOP state Sen. Leah Vukmir announced this morning she won’t run for the 5th CD.
After her loss in last year’s U.S. Senate race, Vukmir took a job with the National Taxpayers Union as vice president of state affairs. She said in a statement that the job has been rewarding and afforded her the opportunity to “enjoy some personal freedom.” She spent the previous 16 years in the state Legislature.
“My love for my family motivated me to become involved in politics, and now they have helped me come to my decision to prioritize family and friends in a different way,” Vukmir said.
Vukmir is the third Republican this week to pass on a bid to succeed GOP U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, who isn’t seeking reelection next year after four decades in the House. State Sen. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, and Waukesha County Exec Paul Farrow earlier decided against a run.
Farrow had been considering a run, but announced today he won’t get into the race because “ultimately, I cannot serve in Washington, DC when the issues I am most passionate about hit much closer to home.”
“I truly value the opportunity to lead as Waukesha County Executive, and remain passionate about service to my home county and our great state,” Farrow said.
Read Vukmir’s full statement:
See Farrow’s release:
— Meanwhile, state Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Minocqua, has formally launched his campaign to replace Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Weston, who will be leaving Congress later this month.
Tiffany vowed to be “the ally President Trump needs to keep moving our country forward.”
Tiffany said in a statement the president needs a “proven conservative with a track record of getting things done,” touting the “tough choices” he’s made in the Legislature, where he’s served since 2011.
“I don’t plan to go to Washington looking for a fight, but I can guarantee I will never back down from one,” Tiffany said.
Tiffany has won endorsements from former Gov. Scott Walker and State Rep. Romaine Quinn, R-Barron.
“We need another authentic, northern Wisconsinite to punch back against the progressive elites in Washington that continue to look down their noses at our people and our rural way of life,” Quinn said.
Stephan Thompson, whose past campaigns include conservative Brian Hagedorn’s win in this spring’s state Supreme Court contest, will serve as Tiffany’s general consultant in the race.
Though Tiffany is the first candidate to formally get into the race, others are mulling bids.
Surgeon Fernando “Fritz” Riveron posted on social media that he is weighing a run, while a GOP source said Jason Church, an Army vet who serves as Johnson’s northwest region director, has been making calls to stakeholders in the district.
Riveron wrote in his post that he’s troubled by a “national dialogue on healthcare by people who don’t understand it at the ground level” and the “mainstream acceptance of socialism by many of our youth and its support by Democrats.” Riveron was born in Cuba, but left the country when he was 5.
“My life has been blessed by the opportunity and bounty of this great country,” he wrote. “The American dream has been a reality for me, and I deeply care that it be preserved for the next generation. I am prayerfully considering this daunting challenge and the opportunity to serve this community that has done so much for me and my family.”
A GOP source said Church, of Hudson, is seriously considering a run and has been making calls to stakeholders in the 7th CD. Church, who expects to make a decision soon, hasn’t returned calls from WisPolitics.com over the past two weeks.
While deployed in Afghanistan, he was injured by an improvised explosive device and had both legs amputated below the knees. Church played college football at UW-La Crosse and received the NCAA’s 2014 Inspiration Award. He graduated from the UW-Madison Law School in 2018.
Meanwhile, conservative activist Luke Hilgemann has decided against a bid, saying it was not the right time for a run and he will support Tiffany.
“Knowing that a proven conservative who won’t bend to Washington’s will like Tom Tiffany is running for the seat made my decision even easier,” Hilgemann said.
Dems who have said they were considering a run include: state Sen. Janet Bewley, of Mason; Wausau attorney Christine Bremer Muggli; former state Sen. Pat Kreitlow, of Chippewa Falls; and state Rep. Nick Milroy, of South Range.
Duffy has announced plans to resign Sept. 23. Gov. Tony Evers hasn’t said yet when he plans to call a special election.
See Tiffany’s release:
See Quinn’s endorsement:
See Walker’s endorsement:
See the text of Riveron’s post:
See more on Church:
— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin announced legislation to ensure all Wisconsinites are able to watch Packers games every week.
The bill, which she calls the ‘Go Pack Go Act,’ would require TV providers to include broadcast stations from Wisconsin news outlets to their subscribers that live in the state.
Baldwin hopes the bill will grant increased broadcast coverage to 12 border counties that currently receive local channels from neighboring states instead of those from Wisconsin.
“Every Packers fan across our state should be able to watch every Packers game,” Baldwin said in a release. “My “Go Pack Go Act” would give Packers fans in every Wisconsin county the opportunity to receive in-state broadcasts, so they can cheer on our beloved green and gold.”
See the release: https://www.baldwin.senate.gov/press-releases/go-pack-go
— U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher congratulated the Outagamie County Land Conservation for receiving a grant for Great Lakes restorative efforts in his district.
“This is yet another example of how the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative supports critical projects in our community, and I congratulate Outagamie County Land Conservation on this significant recognition of their work to protect the health of our waterways and communities,” Gallagher said in a release.
The grant, which was awarded by the Great Lakes Commission, is part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and will allow the county a total of $199,946 to install cover crops, minimize the harmful effects of manure runoff and incentivize farmers to continually engage in safe farming practices.
In the past, Gallagher has supported local efforts to reduce erosion and agricultural impact on the Fox River. The Green Bay Republican has also supported his home city’s ‘Save the Bay’ initiative.
“I look forward to continue working in bipartisan fashion to support the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in Congress,” Gallagher said in the release.
See the Gallagher release: https://gallagher.house.gov/media/press-releases/gallagher-applauds-grant-outagamie-county-land-conservation
Posts of the week
— Rep. Glenn Grothman (@RepGrothman) September 11, 2019
Honored to speak at the swearing-in for local officers at the @IUOELocal139 in Madison this week, which included my good friend Terry McGowan being sworn in as president. As a nearly 30-year card-carrying union member, I'll always believe workers need a voice in the workplace. pic.twitter.com/zpciXbSlTN
— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) September 6, 2019
It was an honor to join the Association of Flight Attendants in the U.S. Capitol this morning to remember the brave passengers and crew members on Flight 93. Without the heroic actions of those courageous men and women, the U.S. Capitol would not be standing today. pic.twitter.com/Mknp9KL5Ti
— Rep. Mike Gallagher (@RepGallagher) September 10, 2019
Today is the 400th anniversary of the forced arrival of enslaved Africans in the British colonies of North America. The history of enslavement isn’t just African-American history, it’s American history. pic.twitter.com/TOH3t2ANMR
— Rep. Gwen Moore (@RepGwenMoore) September 10, 2019
Pocan Sees State’s Political Winds Shifting
Tom Tiffany aligns himself with Trump as he runs to replace outgoing Congressman Sean Duffy
Scott Walker says son Matt considering Fifth Congressional District run
Lamenting impact on farmers, Rep. Ron Kind calls for Trump to end trade war
Capital City Sunday: Sen. Tammy Baldwin & Vaping Concerns
On The Border With Glenn Grothman
50 Years of Jim Sensenbrenner