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

“The senators who voted to acquit chose to look the other way as our democracy was attacked. History will remember this day and so will the American people.”
– U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, on U.S. senators who voted in Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial.

“Rush Limbaugh always fought for our American rights and values and was a leader in speaking out against the big government establishment. He may no longer be with us but his message is not forgotten.”
– U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, tweeted after Limbaugh died yesterday.

This week’s news

— U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson faces even more reelection pressure as he strengthens ties to Donald Trump after the impeachment trial, Opportunity Wisconsin launches an ad campaign and Alex Lasry announces his U.S. Senate bid. 

The labor union group Opportunity Wisconsin launched a $1 million statewide ad campaign. It features two 30-second clips asking for Johnson to stop opposing direct economic relief checks. That came just before Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry announced he will run as a Democrat for Johnson’s seat, a top Dem Party target next year. 

Meantime, Johnson was denouncing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for saying former President Trump was responsible for the Capitol riots. The Oshkosh Republican still hasn’t announced if he will run again for office in 2022. 

“The thing about Ron Johnson that the political chatter class just does not get is he doesn’t make decisions like your typical politician,” the communication director of Johnson’s 2016 campaign, Brian Reisinger, said. “He’s going to look at a situation and march to his own tune — it’s why the people of Wisconsin have elected him twice, and why the pundits and prognosticators are constantly getting him all wrong.”

Reisinger told WisPolitics that Johnson has a lot of things to consider before deciding if he will run again in 2022, but he doesn’t have the same political aspirations as some other politicians and doesn’t feel any pressure to decide. 

Johnson in a mid-February interview on a radio talk show said McConnell “speaks for himself.”

“In this case, I don’t believe he speaks for the conference, and I think he needs to be a little careful,” Johnson told The Ross Kaminsky Show. “You know when I speak, I do actually try and take in mind how it might reflect on the party.”

Immediately after the Senate acquitted Trump with the help of Johnson, the Oshkosh Republican exchanged harsh words on the Senate floor with U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who was one of seven Republicans who voted to convict. But Johnson told reporters on the floor the words between them were private. 

Johnson also on the talk show said he supports Trump because he believes the former president “really expanded” the Republican Party, adding that McConnell’s thoughts on Trump’s actions did not represent the “vast majority of Republican senators.” 

Reisinger said “Johnson only runs for office when he knows he can make a difference.” But he added that the two-term senator would have a solid platform to campaign on after becoming a freshman senator in 2010 and then being “basically left for dead” during his successful bid for reelection in 2016. 

He said Johnson could use his leadership role in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee combined with “grass roots Republican support” and the recognition that comes with incumbent status to build a strong campaign against whoever wins the Democratic primary. 

Lasry will face at least Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson in the Aug. 11 Dem primary. Others are considering a bid.

Reisinger added that the increasing size of the Dem field could muddy the waters for voters and mean campaign donations from Dem constituents are spread thinner across the field. 

Johnson said on the talk show he feels no pressure to decide, but he would support whoever the Republican candidate for his Senate seat if he does decide not to run for a third term.

“I do believe it’s crucial that we retain at least one U.S. Senate as a Republican seat here in Wisconsin,” Johnson said.

See the two Opportunity Wisconsin ads:

Listen to the radio talk show

— In launching his bid for the U.S. Senate, Lasry said it’s time to “chart a new way forward.”

Lasry said there have been “three systemic shocks to the system” in the last 20 years: the Sept. 11 attacks, the “great recession” and the COVID-19 pandemic. But he says “Washington still hasn’t fixed things.”

“We can’t just continue with the same people and expect anything to change,” Lasry said. “It’s time to elect leaders with a fresh perspective and a record of delivering real results for the people of Wisconsin.”

Lasry, 33, is a New York native who came to Wisconsin after his father, hedge fund billionaire Marc Lasry, became co-owner of the Bucks in 2014. He has been working as senior vice president for the team, but is taking a leave of absence during his campaign.

See more here.

— The other declared Dem U.S. Senate candidate, Tom Nelson, has placed billboard advertising in Winnebago County calling Johnson a traitor and urging him to resign.

The billboard directs people to TraitorRon.com, which charges Johnson “has displayed zero conscience or remorse for his part in the deadly Capitol insurrection or the mass suffering he has helped inflict on Americans.”

See more here.

— President Biden in a Tuesday  town hall suggested getting to a $15- per-hour minimum wage over time would still stimulate the economy while easing the burden on small business owners in the Midwest.

“It’s about doing it gradually,” Biden told the CNN town hall at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee in response to a question from audience member Randy Lange, co-owner of Lange Bros. Woodworking in Milwaukee.

Biden continued, “No one should work 40 hours a week and live in poverty. But it’s totally legitimate for small business owners to worry about how that changes.”

Biden in his stimulus bill proposed a $15-an-hour minimum wage. But opposition has emerged in Congress.

See more here.

— The state Dem Party is running a new digital ad knocking former GOP 3rd CD candidate Derrick Van Orden, who’s expected to look at another challenge of U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, in 2022.

The party said it’s spending five figures on the ad, which will run across the western Wisconsin congressional district for the next few weeks.

The spot hits Van Orden for traveling to Washington, D.C., for the Jan. 6 protests that led to a mob storming the Capitol.

See more here.

— Kind is one of 12 House Dems the conservative American Action Network is targeting with an issue ad campaign urging lawmakers to support a bill that would penalize schools that don’t offer in-person instruction during the pandemic.

The House blocked immediate consideration of the bill, which would put conditions on $54 billion that Congress allocated to K-12 schools in December. Only those that reopen would get full funding.

See more here.

— Both of Wisconsin’s U.S. attorneys announced Feb. 11 they will resign their posts later this month.

The moves come shortly after national media reported the Justice Department had asked most U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Trump to resign their posts. Media reported only two overseeing Trump-era investigations weren’t asked to step down.

The requests for mass resignations has become routine during administration transitions, though the Dem senators from Illinois expressed disappointment last week that the U.S. attorney for northern Illinois was among those asked to step down. There are 94 districts across the country.

See more here.

— Johnson also said he opposes President Biden’s $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Act” that Democrats appear poised to muscle through the Senate without Republican support.

Johnson said hundreds of millions of dollars from a previous COVID-19 relief package remain unspent or unobligated.

“Listen, when you spend trillions of dollars, it will go to help people, no doubt about it. But we don’t have an unlimited checking account and we’re not being careful at all, we’re not doing oversight, we’re not stopping and considering, is there a better way of doing this?” Johnson in an “UpFront” interview Feb. 14 said.

See more here.

— Johnson tweeted that YouTube had suspended his account.

Johnson tweeted late last month that YouTube had pulled two videos from his channel of doctors testifying before the Senate committee he used to chair. Both touted what they said were early treatments for COVID, though others in the medical community have questioned the treatments they were touting.

See more here.

— U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, led colleagues in calling on the Biden administration to prioritize funding for the Community Development Block Grant program, which funds local community development initiatives that support jobs, housing, infrastructure, and public services for millions of Americans, in his upcoming budget proposal.

See the release

— U.S. Representative Bryan Steil, R-Racine, reintroduced H.R. 233, the Exposing the Financing of Human Trafficking Act. The bill holds foreign countries accountable for their efforts to investigate, prevent, and prosecute financial criminal activities associated with human trafficking. 

See the release.

Posts of the week



Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry announces Senate run

The Birthplace of the Republican Party Buckles After Trump Nearly Blew Up the GOP

Mandela Barnes, Scott Fitzgerald penalized for accepting too much in campaign contributions

Record campaign cash in only competitive congressional race in state

Grothman Introduces Vitamin D Resolution

In their prosecution of Trump, Democrats invoke Wisconsin Republican Mike Gallagher, who pleaded with Trump to call off Capitol rioters

Candidate for U.S. Senate puts up billboard attacking Sen. Ron Johnson

Baldwin to chair Senate AG appropriations subcommittee

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