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 Senate has finally turned the ‘Infrastructure Week’ talk of the past into real action today by getting the job done and passing bipartisan legislation that will help build a stronger economy and make a real difference in the lives of Wisconsin working families.”
– U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, on passage of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill after a 69-30 vote that sent the measure to the House. 

“Again, to me, this is a disastrous bill. When we actually do need to spend money on infrastructure, I have no idea why Republicans would want to have any of their fingerprints on this bill.”
– U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, blasting his GOP colleagues for breaking rank. 

This week’s news

— The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed through the U.S. Senate this week would allocate nearly $6 billion to Wisconsin, according to a state-by-state breakdown from the White House.

The majority of the funds, $5.2 billion, would be allocated to highway repair efforts while the remaining money would be spread across a variety of infrastructure priorities.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, supported the bill in the final 69-30 vote as U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson voted against it. The bill now heads to the House for consideration. 

Baldwin in a statement said she is proud to have worked with her colleagues across the aisle to bring billions of federal dollars to her state for “hard” infrastructure work. Wisconsin would get $225 million for bridge replacement and repairs, $592 million to improve public transportation, $198 million for airport infrastructure development and $100 million for broadband in addition to money for charging stations and energy-related items.

“Wisconsin will receive support to improve the resiliency of our infrastructure so we are better prepared for the impacts of climate change and the next extreme weather events,” Baldwin said. “With this legislation, we are also taking a big step forward in creating more clean energy jobs and a renewable energy economy that takes on the climate crisis.”

That support includes $20 million to help Wisconsin prevent wildfires and funds from the bill’s national $3.5 billion investment in weatherization aimed at reducing energy costs for families. 

Johnson criticized the bill and its supporters, including 19 of his GOP colleagues. He said it was a spending wish list to help progressives fund their dreams with only a small portion going to real infrastructure. 

Johnson added he supports infrastructure spending in general and touted his previous plan to spend $700 billion from the last $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

“That should have been the Republican position,” he said. “We shouldn’t be signing up to the Green New Deal, Part I.”

Baldwin also praised the bill’s $841 million investment in Wisconsin’s water infrastructure, noting the funds will ​​help “provide safe and clean drinking water to people across our state.”

Wisconsin would also get $79 million to support a statewide electric vehicle charging network, which could be funded further by grants the state is eligible to apply for under the bill. The measure comes as hybrid-electric car manufacturer Fisker considers a partnership with Foxconn to make new electric vehicles in Wisconsin.

The measure also comes after Oshkosh Defense signed a 10-year contract to produce up to 165,000 electric and gas mail carriers for the U.S. Postal Service in February. 

While Gov. Tony Evers already directed $100 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to the Public Service Commission’s broadband expansion efforts, Wisconsin would receive a minimum of $100 million to help provide broadband coverage across the state and about $18 million to help prevent cyberattacks under the bill. 

That minimum allotment of federal money for broadband in Wisconsin is the same as minimum allotments for broadband in every other state. However, Wisconsin can compete with other states for a chance to receive even more funding for broadband, according to the White House report. About 5.5 percent of Wisconsinites live in areas that do not have broadband services, according to the White House report.

When it comes to the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, staffers for various members of the Wisconsin delegation are not exactly sure how the process will work. But U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher spokesman Jordan Dunn said he doesn’t expect the House to take up the smaller infrastructure bill until roughly October. 

 

— Builders and unions both had positive things to say on the infrastructure bill.

Associated Builders and Contractors spokesman John Schulze told WisPolitics.com the federal infrastructure measure is likely the most significant such investment in decades, but there are problems.

“This is probably the most significant federal infrastructure investment since President Eisenhower created the interstate system,” he said, praising the measure’s general goal to improve infrastructure.

See more here

 

— U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, spearheaded an effort that resulted in 46 GOP senators signing on to a letter pledging they will not support increasing the debt ceiling.

Dems didn’t include an increase to the debt ceiling in the $3.5 trillion budget outline that the Senate approved 50-49 with no Republican votes. While that bill can pass without GOP support, any effort to raise or suspend the debt ceiling outside the budget process would require at least 10 Republican votes to overcome the 60-vote legislative filibuster.

If all 46 Republicans who signed Johnson’s letter stuck to their pledge, it would leave Dems short of the support needed to move forward.

See more here

 

— Dem U.S. Rep. Ron Kind announced he won’t seek reelection in 2022, telling a La Crosse news conference, “The truth is, I’ve run out of gas.”

Kind has represented the western Wisconsin seat for more than 24 years and was already a top GOP target in 2022 after his narrow reelection last fall.

Appearing at a news conference in front of his former elementary school, the 58-year-old Dem said he will serve out the remainder of his term, ticking off a series of priorities. That includes beating COVID-19, rebuilding the economy, addressing climate change and protecting voting rights.

See more here

 

— The National Republican Congressional Committee immediately knocked Kind and what his pending retirement means for Dem chances of holding the House in 2022.

“Ron Kind chose to retire rather than defend Democrats’ record of rising prices, rising crime, and skyrocketing illegal immigration. Kind’s retirement is the clearest sign yet that Democrats’ House majority is toast,” said NRCC spokesman Mike Berg.

During his news conference, Kind touted rankings that regularly pegged him as one of the most bipartisan members of Congress, calling himself a “dying breed.” He also thanked his family for their support.

See more here

 

— Speculation immediately turned to Dems who will take a look at running for the seat.

That includes state Sen. Brad Pfaff, a former aide to Kind and ex-DATCP secretary who won his La Crosse-area seat in 2020. Pfaff, D-Onalaska, isn’t up for re-election to the Legislature again until 2024.

Dems also mentioned Rebecca Cooke, of Eau Claire. She owns Red’s Mercantile, a home goods and accessories store geared toward women. The store also has a social entrepreneurship arm that awards grants to women in the Chippewa Valley who want to start their own business. Cooke also has experience working on political campaigns, including serving as finance director on California Dem U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz’s 2014 campaign.

 

— Gov. Tony Evers announced the Wisconsin lodging industry has received roughly $70 million in grants using federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.

More than 800 lodging businesses have taken advantage of the funds, receiving grants administered by the Department of Revenue of up to $2 million each, according to the guv’s press release. Evers says getting the money out to businesses to help recoup at least some of the losses they incurred during the pandemic is a priority.

“Members of Wisconsin’s lodging industry are essential to tourism in our state, and they were hit very hard by the coronavirus pandemic,” Evers said. “Tourists and residents alike depend on their services when visiting or traveling around our beautiful state.”

See more here

 

— A new Marquette Law School poll found a majority of Wisconsin voters approve of how Biden and Evers are handling coronavirus issues.

The poll of Wisconsin registered voters found 49 percent approving of Biden and 46 percent disapproving. On his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, 54 percent approve while 42 percent disapprove.

Evers’ job approval remains the same as it was in October 2020, standing at 50 percent, according to the poll, while 43 percent disapprove. On his handling of the pandemic, 54 percent approve and 39 percent disapprove.

 

— The Marquette poll also showed Johnson’s approval dipped since October 2020. Recent numbers show 35 percent view him favorably while 42 percent view him unfavorably. 

In October 2020, 38 percent viewed Johnson favorably while 36 percent viewed him unfavorably. 

Despite the dip, Johnson’s lowest net favorability rating was reported in November 2015, when 27 percent of participants had a favorable opinion of him and 38 percent had an unfavorable opinion of him.

 

— U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore joined a press conference at the new Hmong American Women’s Association in Milwaukee to announce the organization’s Roots Down Capital Campaign to raise $1 million to support advocacy services. 

The building will serve as a resource for Hmong and other Southeast Asian women, girls, queer and trans community members.

 

— U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil delivered a U.S. flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol to the Brighton War Memorial. 

“The new U.S. flag we presented to the Brighton War Memorial was flown over the U.S. Capitol and will now fly over the Memorial to honor and remember our nation’s heroes,” Steil said. 

State Rep. Samantha Kerkman joined Steil to deliver the flag to Connie Erdman of Brighton and members of the Brighton War Memorial Board.

Posts of the week

ICYMI

Rep. Grothman against vaccine mandates for health care workers

Rep. Moore leads on bill to help pregnant women experiencing intimate partner violence

Sen. Tammy Baldwin introduces ‘Disease X’ bill to prepare for unknown viral threats

U.S. Rep. Steil On Inflation, Infrastructure And The Economy

Rep. Mark Pocan On U.S. Politics + Peru’s New President

Report: Johnson pushed for tax break benefitting megadonors

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