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Quotes of the week

Today, we remember those killed, injured and forever impacted by this senseless act of violence. Families who came to see Santa Claus, high school bands and the Dancing Grannies instead witnessed a horror that will leave life-long psychological scars. My thoughts and prayers are with the community of Waukesha as they continue to recover from this tragedy.
– U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson in a statement of support for the Waukesha Christmas Parade victims.

“Marriage equality is deeply personal to me and my husband of almost 16 years, Phil. As the #RespectForMarriage Act advances in the Senate today, I couldn’t be prouder of my friend @SenatorBaldwin.”
– U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, in a tweet on how U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s Respect for Marriage Act affects him personally.

This week’s news

— U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, blasted GOP U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson for voting against a bill that would protect same-sex marriage rights.

The bill, cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, cleared a key procedural vote yesterday, paving the way for final passage. Twelve Republicans joined Dems as the Senate voted 62-37 to advance the bill to a final vote.

Yesterday morning, hours before the scheduled vote, Pocan in another tweet sharply criticized Johnson, R-Oshkosh, for waiting to signal his intentions until months after the measure was proposed. 

“So @SenRonJohnson played this every way during the election,” Pocan said. “Now he flashes his middle finger at the people of WI. Am I surprised, of course not. Am I disappointed, of course. Six more years of this crap. And one working Senator in @SenatorBaldwin. RoJo, enjoy those FL trips.”

Johnson in the 62-37 procedural vote moved against the measure. He said an amendment announced this week clarifying concerns about religious freedom didn’t go far enough.

“The Democrats have used this to create a state of fear over a settled issue in order to further divide Americans for their political benefit,” Johnson said. “The substitute amendment did not provide sufficient protection for those with strongly held religious beliefs and leaves a lane open for discrimination by activist groups, state governments and the IRS.”

The amendment added this week states nothing in the bill would infringe religious liberty or conscience protections and that nonprofit religious organizations and their employees would not be required to provide “services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage,” among other things.

Baldwin in a floor speech talked about a gay couple she is friends with who adopted a daughter. She said before the Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriage rights across the country, the two were “legal strangers.” Baldwin said her friends Margaret and Denise had to think about things most married couples take for granted.

“We often think when we think about marriage of the wedding and the ceremony and the celebration, but we don’t often think about the hundreds upon hundreds of rights and responsibilities that civil marriage confers upon couples,” the Madison Dem said. 

The Respect for Marriage Act would require that individuals be considered married if the marriage was valid in the state it was performed in, a measure that also aims to protect interracial couples. It also would add other legal protections for married couples. 

If it clears the Senate, the House would need to approve the Senate version before sending it to President Biden’s desk. The House passed a similar bill over the summer.

The push was prompted by Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion this summer in a ruling overturning the right to an abortion that argued the U.S. Supreme Court should reconsider other cases, including that one that struck down same-sex marriage bans nationwide. Baldwin, the first openly gay senator, has played a key role in securing votes for and drafting the legislation. 

Still, Johnson continued to argue the legislation was unnecessary and there was no chance the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down gay marriage bans would be overturned. Johnson originally said this summer he saw no reason to oppose the legislation, but he began to raise concerns about religious freedom.

Johnson also said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, had proposed an amendment to address his concerns about religious freedom, which was not included. Johnson said the amendment would have prohibited the government from discriminating against people for their religious beliefs. 

“I would have also supported the bill with his language,” he said. 

See Pocan’s tweet.

See Pocan’s other tweet.

See the bill text.

See the roll call. 

— Baldwin and Johnson are working together on a different measure to recognize the first anniversary of the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy.

The pair today introduced the resolution that would honor the six who died and 62 who were injured after Darrell Brooks drove a red Ford Escape through the parade last year. Brooks last month was convicted on all 76 charges from the incident, including six counts of first degree intentional homicide. Brooks was give six life sentences yesterday in the case’s csentencing hearing. 

See Baldwin’s release.

See Johnson’s release.

— U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil was tapped to lead a GOP transition team focused on easing restrictions at the Capitol put in place after the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

Republican House Leader U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, trying to become speaker if the GOP majority materializes, tapped the Janesville Republican to lead the team in charge of the “Restoring the People’s House” plan. Steil in a statement said he’s eager to start work.

“It’s past time that we re-open the People’s House,” he said. “I’m committed to ensuring the House of Representatives is open and accessible to the people we are here to serve. I am eager to get to work with my colleagues on this team for a successful transition into the 118th Congress.”

McCarthy, R-Calif., said the “Transition Teams will ensure we hit the ground running on issues that Democrats have ignored or made worse for the American people under one-party rule, all while shutting out our fellow citizens from the People’s House.”

See Steil and McCarthy’s statements.

— U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore introduced a bill to allow widowed spouses of military service members to retain vital benefits if they remarry.

The Love Lives On Act would allow spouses to retain Survivor Benefit Plan, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, and education benefits if they remarry. The measure would also allow access to electronic medical records, appointments, referrals, and prescription refills for remarried spouses with dependent children. The Milwaukee Dem in a statement said it would provide crucial benefits for spouses of military members who make the ultimate sacrifice. 

“It’s vital that our country takes care of all surviving spouses of military service members, which is why I am so pleased to join my colleagues in this bipartisan effort,” she said.

See the statement

— U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman this week lost his bid for House GOP conference secretary. 

Rep. Lisa McClain of Michigan will take the position. Grothman, of Glenbeulah, announced his candidacy on Friday in a letter to colleagues.

See the letter

— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s communications director for the past decade is joining the Department of Health & Human Services as assistant secretary for public affairs/public health.

John Kraus, who also worked for U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, worked on Baldwin’s 2012 Senate bid before joining her Senate office.

He’s also worked on numerous state campaigns, from presidential bids to state superintendent.

— U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, and fellow Dems are pushing to have party leadership appoint the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair.

The move, made in lockstep with fellow Dem U.S. Reps. Suzan DelBene, of Wash., and Brad Schneider, of Ill., would be a step away from the usual caucus-wide election pathway to the top of the DCCC. 

Posts of the week

ICYMI

Howard University hosts Congress Members for Glory: Conversations on the CROWN Act

‘UPFRONT’ recap: Wisconsin’s split ticket decision, Paul Ryan calls Trump ‘drag on our ticket’

Anthony Chergosky on Van Orden’s win in Wisconsin’s 3rd

Wisconsin Republicans target leadership positions with expected House majority; Ron Johnson pushes to postpone selections

Local reactions to Donald Trump’s re-election announcement

Mike Gallagher, Marco Rubio put forth legislation to ban TikTok

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