DC Wrap

Welcome to our weekly DC Wrap, where we write about Wisconsin’s congressional delegation. Sign up here to receive the newsletter directly: https://forms.gle/YLYZtJWHPSt24HhZ7

Quotes of the week

“You can sell more detergent by showing people fighting on TV.”
-U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont, at a WisPolitics.com breakfast talking about media coverage of partisan fights rather than bipartisan bills making their way through Congress.

“A lady two seats from me was talking about how she just took a redeye from Japan, and I’m like, it is almost impossible to contain something like this in a globalized economy where everyone is flying all around the world.”
-U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, at a WisPolitics.com breakfast talking about the difficulty the world faces trying to contain the coronavirus.

This week’s news

— U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan expressed concern that “there has been a fumbled ball or two” as the Trump administration responds to the spread of novel coronavirus across the United States.

Speaking Tuesday at a WisPolitics.com breakfast in DC in cooperation with the Wisconsin Counties Association, the Town of Vermont Dem said he believed the government agencies were working “in good faith” to prevent a further spread of the disease.

But he said the Trump administration’s goal of reaching 1,000 tests by the end of the month was “not real good” for a nation with a population of roughly 327 million.

Pocan also said he thought Trump’s initial proposal to combat the spread of the disease was underfunded.

“The president proposed about $2.5 billion, but my guess is it’s going to be somewhere north of $7 billion for what we need right now, and even that may not be enough,” Pocan said.

The House yesterday passed an $8.3 billion emergency coronavirus package by a 415-2 margin. The legislation aims to boost state and local health budgets, fund research and develop vaccines, among other things. 

The Senate is expected to take it up today.

Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently said the number of cases in America is expected to continue to grow. CDC  eventually expects widespread transmission will occur.

Testing for the disease has proven difficult as well, with only 15,000 kits available as of yesterday, according to the FDA. Pocan said former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb thinks it’s likely “hundreds, if not thousands” of people already have the virus. 

“We just don’t know, because we’re not testing,” he said.

But getting testing right isn’t the only thing worrying lawmakers. 

U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher noted medical supply chains are “very, very fragile” because they largely depend on Chinese manufacturing.

“This is an acute illustration of a bigger problem we’ve realized belatedly over the last five years,” he said. “If there is a silver lining in all of this, my hope is that it’s going to send a signal to the market that concentrating a lot of your manufacturing in China is not the best long-term strategy for survival and growth.”

Gallagher and Pocan recently introduced a bipartisan bill to require certain medical device and drug manufacturers to report to the FDA in advance if they have a shortage of product.

“It’s crises like this that test the resilience of our healthcare system in Wisconsin,” Gallagher said. “We’re lucky to have the most advanced and best healthcare system in the world, but it does have serious weaknesses and deficiencies.”

 

— Following the shooting at Molson Coors in Milwaukee, the Wisconsin congressional delegation came together in support of the families and communities affected.

“My heart was torn apart when I learned the news of this tragedy,” Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, said in a tweet. “Our city grieves with all the innocent lives lost today.”

Five victims were gunned down in the shooting on Feb. 26. It marked the 47th mass shooting in America in 2020, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

“This is just the latest example of the painful toll that gun violence is having on communities across the nation,” Moore said.

Some other remarks follow.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson: “We are heartbroken by the senseless killings in Milwaukee today at #MillerCoors. Thanks to the first responders who bravely put themselves in harm’s way.  Our condolences go out to everyone in the community affected by today’s horrific events.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan: “Our hearts are with the people of Milwaukee and all the workers at Molson Coors today. The details of this tragedy are still unfolding, but one thing is clear: we cannot allow the plague of gun violence to take any more lives.”

U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil: “My prayers are with the victims. Thank you to law enforcement for their response and continued efforts.”

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin: “Gun violence has taken too many lives in Milwaukee and the mass shooting today is heartbreaking. I want to thank the first responders who ran into harm’s way and saved lives. My office is standing by to help the #MKE community in the wake of this tragedy.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher: “The news out of Milwaukee is devastating, and my heart goes out to the victims, their families, and all those at Molson Coors. There’s no place for these kinds of hateful and disgusting acts in our society.”

 

— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers advocating for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to boost broadband internet access by reducing restrictions on a grant program.

In a letter to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, Baldwin and her colleagues called on the agency to allow areas that previously had been awarded a Federal Communications Commission grant to be eligible for USDA’s ReConnect program.

That program was established in 2018 with the authority to provide grants to “foster rural broadband.” But restrictions on the grants, the lawmakers said, still hold many Americans back from receiving high-speed internet.

“[The restrictions] prevent rural communities across the country from receiving their share of over $500 million in federal funding for high-speed broadband, which is vital in reducing the digital divide,” they said in the letter.

Current USDA guidelines block service providers from receiving grant money in areas that received FCC Connect America Fund Phase II grants, even if only a satellite provider received funding for that area. But satellite coverage is considered insufficient for rural communities, meaning poor service could still be prevalent in an area that cannot receive federal funding.

The restrictions are not mandated by law and can be rescinded by the USDA.

“We urge you to act to allow service providers to submit applications for ReConnect funds if the area has only received FCC auction funding only for satellite service,” the senators wrote

See the release here.

 

— U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil has introduced legislation to give the secretary of the Treasury broader authority to sanction businesses trading with Iran through Europe.

Heavy economic sanctions have been in place against Iran since President Trump in 2018 withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known commonly as the Iran nuclear deal.

But a back channel that allows companies in Europe to do business with Iran while avoiding American sanctions has been established. 

The Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges system created by Germany, France and the United Kingdom has yet to process an order but should begin operation shortly, according to the German Foreign Office.

“We must prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and stop the regime’s support of terrorism,” Steil said in a release. “In order to change Iran’s behavior, we must continue enforcing our sanctions and prevent evasion.”

The bill would allow Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to sanction a financial institution that is operating outside the United States and knowingly conducts a sanctionable transaction using INSTEX.

“We must remain vigilant in our maximum pressure campaign against Iran,” Steil said.

See the release here.

 

— U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan is seeking answers from CDC after public information regarding coronavirus testing was allegedly removed from the agency’s website.

According to a letter sent to CDC Director Robert Redfield, the agency was reporting data on: the number of travel-related cases of COVID-19 in the country; the number of cases spread between people; the total number of people tested for the disease; and the number of deaths associated with COVID-19.

But now, the letter says, the CDC site no longer has information on testing numbers or deaths from the virus.

“I would like to know why,” Pocan wrote.

Pocan referenced comments from former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb who speculated that thousands of unidentified cases could already exist in the United States. 

“With that in mind, when will you return to publicly reporting the total number of deaths and tested persons on your website?” Pocan asked.

See the release here.

 

— Steil was one of 14 lawmakers at the White House for a briefing on novel coronavirus.

Vice President Pence this week briefed Steil and his colleagues on ongoing efforts to combat the outbreak.

The Janesville Republican called it a productive meeting and called for the necessary resources to address the disease.

“Funding will be used to develop a vaccine, allocate testing kits to states, and support prevention measures,” Steil said.

A Steil spokeswoman said the group of lawmakers that met with Pence was split evenly between Dems and Republicans.

 

— Americas PAC is running a new radio ad in the 7th CD race that calls Dem Tricia Zunker “just too strident and extreme.”

The group spent $249,920 on the ad, according to a filing. It’s the first independent expenditure in the race reported to the FEC post-primary.

The spot includes audio from Zunker as the narrator accuses her of talking “like she would take away private health insurance and would impose a Bernie Sanders-style, government-run health care on everyone, even union members.” The narrator goes on to say Zunker “mocks” Second Amendment sanctuary counties and would “forcibly confiscate guns.”

The last line refers to an interview Zunker did that’s included in the ad. She was asked if she’s “aligning with Beto O’Rourke who said ‘You bet I’m coming for your AK-47s? So you would make them illegal?” Zunker answers “yes.”

Listen to the ad.

 

— The Cook Political Report has moved the 7th CD to a “solid Republican” rating.

It was in the “likely Republican” category in the late January assessment of seats.

The special election on May 12 between Zunker and GOP state Sen. Tom Tiffany will fill the seat formerly held by Republican Sean Duffy.

See more.

Posts of the week

 

ICYMI

Moore memorializes Molson Coors victim on House floor

Three Democrats look to unseat freshman U.S. Rep. Steil

Sen. Tammy Baldwin calls on Trump Administration to support timber industry

What Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher Wants To See In US-UK Trade Deal

Rep. Kind backs plan to save Hmong refugees from deportation

Ron Johnson threatens subpoena over Hunter Biden’s Ukraine work

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