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

Biden’s plan to cancel student loans are just one example of the Admin’s efforts to unilaterally spend your tax dollars. We need to put a check on the Biden Administration and require them to disclose their executive actions impact on inflation.
– U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Janesville, in a tweet on President Biden’s plan to forgive student loan payments. The program has been temporarily blocked by a court order, and the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in lawsuits over the plan this week.

.@POTUS has the authority to forgive student loans.
– U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont, in a tweet on Biden’s proposal.

This week’s news

— U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher declared the “era of wishful thinking is over” as the committee on China he chairs launched a prime-time hearing.

In a 4-minute speech to introduce the committee’s Tuesday primetime hearing, the Allouez Republican said the Chinese Communist Party poses an “existential struggle” for the United States as it works to dominate various markets, such as the technology sector. He also said the CCP has taken advantage of past U.S. policies focused on building trust in order to veil its true intentions.

“We were wrong. The CCP laughed at our naïveté while they took advantage of our good faith,” he said. “But that era of wishful thinking is over. The Select Committee will not allow the CCP to lull us into complacency or maneuver us into submission.”

He followed the speech with a video featuring clips showing CCP dissidents talking about COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, police arresting and beating lockdown protesters, public censorship and Uyghur Muslim genocide.

The committee also heard testimony from:
*Former Trump administration National Security Advisor Matthew Pottinger;
*Former Trump administration National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster;
*Chinese human rights activist Tong Yi; and
*Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul.

A pair of protesters holding “China is not the enemy” and “Stop Asian hate” picket signs interrupted McMaster less than 30 minutes into the meeting before Capitol Police removed them.

Gallagher and Ranking Member U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., in their separate introductions said part of this meeting’s goal was to carefully distinguish that its target is the CCP, not the Chinese people.

Much of the testimony focused on the need to increase American military deterrence efforts, improve domestic semiconductor and raw material production, ensure American entrepreneurship and technologies are secure and build stronger relationships with our allies.

Watch the hearing.

— Gallagher is also demanding the Biden administration declassify evidence of the COVID-19 pandemic’s origin as the U.S. Department of Energy is reporting it most likely came from a Chinese laboratory leak. 

The department with “low confidence” concluded the pandemic most likely began after an accidental lab leak in China, according to classified documents first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Gallagher, R-Allouez, House Intelligence Committee member, in a statement also demanded the administration identify those who downplayed or dismissed the lab leak hypothesis while briefing members of the intelligence community. 

“In order to prevent the next pandemic, we have to know how this one began,” he said. “The administration must move with a sense of urgency and use every tool at its disposal to ensure we understand the origins of COVID-19.”

— U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany has called on the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians to remove roadblocks as part of a dispute over expired easements, saying the move is less like a negotiation, and more like an “extortion racket.”

The Minocqua Republican in a letter to the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians President John Johnson said he wants to see a resolution that addresses the concerns of everyone involved. But he cautioned that won’t happen if the tribal government continues to block the four town of Lac du Flambeau roads. 

“In fact, the longer the roadblocks remain in place, the more likely policy makers will be to pursue a legislative option,” Tiffany wrote.

The barriers have kept non-tribal citizens from accessing their homes. The tribe has said it learned of the expired right-of-way easements more than 10 years ago and notified the Bureau of Indian Affairs Midwest Regional Office. 

The tribe in a statement last month said the BIA sent notices to homeowners affected more than 10 years ago when the tribe discovered the easements had expired. The tribe also said BIA representatives have shown an “utter lack of recognition” for the tribe as a sovereign nation, arguing the agency failed to respond to its requests.

The tribe last month decided to implement physical barriers to bar access to the affected roads — an action the tribe says it had advised stakeholders was a possibility — as negotiations between the tribe and attorneys representing property owners have stalled.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Gov. Tony Evers, both Democrats, last month in a letter to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs called for the agency to resolve the issue. They noted the tribe’s concerns that the Midwest Regional Office failed to respond to its requests for assistance over the years, calling it “unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, Tiffany said the tribe’s decision puts the health, safety and wellbeing of town residents at risk. 

“Rather than working in the spirit of cooperation to address the situation, tribal officials and their lawyers have fueled tension and distrust among neighbors in what appears to be a shakedown attempt,” Tiffany wrote.

The tribe in its previous statement said tribal leaders had taken measures to ensure the safety and welfare of affected non-tribal residents, and said the residents have access to EMS, propane, mail delivery and waste disposal services. It has also said tribal police were conducting welfare checks on residents twice daily, and tribal staff had offered to deliver food and medications from off-reservation pharmacies. 

Local landowners filed a federal lawsuit this week seeking to reopen the roads. See more details in the ICYMI section below.

See the tribe’s statement.

See Tiffany’s letter. 

See Evers and Baldwin’s letter.

— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and colleagues across the aisle this week introduced legislation to prohibit non-dairy products from being labeled with dairy terms such as milk, yogurt or cheese. 

The FDA last week proposed guidance to allow plant-based dairy alternatives to be labeled as milk. The bill would also require the agency to report to Congress on how it is enforcing labels on such products two years after implementing the restrictions.

“Wisconsin’s dairy farmers produce second-to-none products with the highest nutritional value and imitation products have gotten away with using dairy’s good name without meeting those standards,” the Madison Dem said in a statement.

Baldwin added the FDA guidance is “just wrong.” She said her legislation would protect dairy farmers and ensure customers know the nutritional value of the products they buy.

Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative President Brody Stapel praised Baldwin for the effort, saying the FDA’s lack of action to crack down on product labels is frustrating for both farmers and consumers. 

“We appreciate Senator Baldwin taking the lead reintroducing this bill and sending a clear message to the plant-based alternative processors that they must abide by federal regulations,” Stapel said in a statement. “Accurate labeling supports real dairy products, produced by actual dairy farmers and processors.”

See Baldwin’s release.

— U.S. Rep. Scott Fitzgerald and some of his Republican colleagues have introduced the Parents Bill of Rights Act, which includes the former state lawmaker’s CRT Transparency Act.

The Juneau Republican in a statement touted the measures as ways to hold schools accountable and ensure they post their elementary and secondary school curriculums on a public website in order to receive federal funding. Fitzgerald also blasted many school officials as “woke” for trying to insert their ideals into lessons.

“For too long, teachers’ unions, bureaucrats, and woke school administrators have sought to inject their political beliefs into classrooms and divert critical funding for special interest projects,” he said. 

See the release.

— U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, joined Fitzgerald to introduce a bill aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic.

The Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues would permanently move fentanyl to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s Schedule I list from its Schedule II list. The DEA website shows Schedule I drugs “are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Schedule II drugs are generally substances with medical uses with a high risk of abuse. Fitzgerald in a joint statement with Johnson said Fentanyl is more potent than morphine and heroin.

“Too many families are losing loved ones to drug overdoses fueled by fentanyl. This legislation is critical to ending the abuse of this powerful and dangerous substance,” he said.

Johnson argued the measure “is more important than ever as Americans face the worst border crisis in our nation’s history.”

“This bill codifies an effective regulation that is preventing new fentanyl-related substances from entering our communities,” he added. 

See the statement.

— U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, joined his Dem colleagues at the party’s Issue Conference in Baltimore.

See the conference schedule.

— Pocan will also join WisPolitics.com for a D.C. breakfast event at the end of March.

The program starts at 8:30 a.m. after the 8 a.m. breakfast. Tickets are $19 each.

Register here. 

— While Black History Month is over, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore in a WisPolitics Capitol Chats interview had a message for Wisconsin state lawmakers:

“We belong here,” Wisconsin’s first and only Black member of Congress said. “We’re part of the history of this state, along with our brothers and sisters, Native Americans and the early immigrants.”

Listen to the interview.

Posts of the week


Axios: Scoop: Congress’ next oversight target is itself 

WPR: Landowners sue Lac du Flambeau tribal leaders to reopen roads blocked for a month

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, back from under-the-radar trip to Taiwan, emphasizes calls for arming the island as tensions with China rise

Politico: Longtime Trump backers flock to DeSantis event 

CBS News: Transcript: Reps. Mike Gallagher and Raja Krishnamoorthi on “Face the Nation,” Feb. 26, 2023

PBS Wisconsin: Which committees are Wisconsin’s US House members assigned to in the 118th Congress?

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