June 4, 2018
As some members of Congress sweat their town hall meetings ahead of upcoming midterm elections, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, seemed to have the opposite experience Monday: Only one constituent was in attendance.
As some members of Congress sweat their town hall meetings ahead of upcoming midterm elections, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, seemed to have the opposite experience Monday: Only one constituent was in attendance.
We’re all over Capitol Hill and its surrounding haunts looking for good stories. Some of the best are ones we come across while reporting the big stories.
There is life beyond legislating and this is the place for those stories. We look for them, but we don’t find them all. We want to know what you see, too.
Send tips, clips and all your hot goss to HOH@rollcall.com, tweet at us at @HeardontheHill or send them directly to Alex Gangitano, our Heard on the Hill reporter, at AlexGangitano@rollcall.com. Here’s the word on the Hill for today:
After the news spread that former President George H.W. Bush was released from the hospital on Monday, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen sent best wishes to fellow Florida Republican Jeb Bush.
Rep. Jody Hice posted a pun-filled note to his wife for their 35th wedding anniversary.
Sen. Bill Cassidy's office likes to be correct. Politico reporter Dan Diamond spotted a sign informing the his office staff that “health care” is two words.
One person showed up to Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner's Town Hall on Monday morning, so that constituent had a one-on-one conversation with the congressman.
PwC announced that Mark Prater, former chief tax counsel for the Senate Finance Committee, will be managing director of PwC’s Washington National Tax Services group.
Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said he would consider co-hosting a cable TV show with lawyer Michael Avenatti, who represents Stormy Daniels.
“He has a real presence [on TV]. He would be the type of guy that I would want on my team, frankly,” Scaramucci told C-SPAN. “Would I have a show with him? Nothing has really come up with that.”
Sen. Marco Rubio posted a video this weekend predicting that the New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns will play in the next Super Bowl.
The Browns have never been in the Super Bowl and are coming off a 0-16 season, but you can check out his Rubio’s reasoning.
Rep. Gus Bilirakis is getting hammered about some of the topics of his first-ever Women's Summit, like gardening, weight loss and “a woman’s guide to financial planning,” the Tampa Bay Times reported from an event flier.
The congressman said the topics came from feedback after a women’s event in 2014.
A series of unintelligible tweets from Rep. Billy Long last week raised a few questions. It turns out that the congressman's phone was hacked, AJC reported.
Long deactivated his Twitter account and will have the House tech staff look at his phone.
Rep. Seth Moulton invoked lessons from Teddy Roosevelt and his grandfather in tackling a project at home this weekend.
The always popular annual ice cream party on Capitol Hill, hosted by the International Dairy Foods Association, is on Wednesday. It's from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Union Square Park, which is located across the reflecting pool from the Capitol.
Hannah Smith is Sen. Chris Coons' new deputy communications director. She previously was communications director for Rep. Debbie Dingell.
Brookfield, WI — Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) is hosting a series of public town hall meetings beginning Sunday, June 3 in Hartford, WI.
Rep. Sensenbrenner: “It is important for citizens to have the opportunity to raise concerns and ask questions directly to their elected representatives. After a successful spring full of town hall meetings, I’m pleased to announce my summer schedule, and I look forward to seeing everyone there.”
Hartford Town Hall Meeting
Hartford City Hall
109 N. Main Street
Hartford, WI 53027
Sunday, June 3
This event is free and open to all constituents of Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District as well as members of the press.
Constituents who are unable to attend are encouraged to share their feedback HERE.
An up-to-date list of upcoming town hall meetings can be found HERE.
It was rush hour, but no one could leave the parking garage. Activists from ADAPT, a national disability rights group, hurled their wheelchairs and their bodies in front of AARP employees’ cars so they couldn’t leave. Someone spotted an opening. “You! There,” said one protester to another in a wheelchair, who then launched himself in front of a car, stopping the employee from driving away.
Roughly 200 ADAPT activists last Tuesday surrounded the Washington, D.C. headquarters of AARP, the influential non-profit focused on older adults, barricading exits so no one could leave. Police eventually guided people out of the building. But they only made it as far as the end of the block before activists stopped them again with their bodies.
ADAPT wouldn’t let up until either AARP endorsed a critical civil rights bill, or they were arrested.
“You worked with us to save Medicaid,” an AARP representative told a few ADAPT organizers during the protest, referencing the time when the groups were united and fought to save Obamacare. To this, activists scoffed.
“So when they say ‘we worked together on this’ and they’re not willing to work on our right to life and liberty — it’s completely disrespectful to the disability community because what it says is ‘we will use you as a win for us but we won’t support your right to life and liberty,’” said Bruce Darling, an ADAPT organizer. “We thought we had earned the respect of progressives and Democrats.”
ADAPT protested for six hours in humid, 90-degree heat before police successfully escorted every AARP employee out of the garage — but only after employees were forced to drive on a sidewalk they secured from activists. No one was arrested, and one activist suggested this was perhaps because many protesters were themselves AARP members, though the rationale was not made clear.
ADAPT managed to inconvenience people at Gallery-Place Chinatown, but that was the point. People with disabilities are repeatedly made to feel like this in public as they try to get through their days — AARP and other bystanders only had to experience it for a couple of hours.
“When it comes to civil disobedience, and that level of activism, it really is, and always has been ADAPT,” said Rebecca Cokley, a disability rights activist and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP). ThinkProgress is an editorially independent news site housed at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “They know how to catch lightning in a jar, and over the last several years have become extremely strategic in both their scheduling and where they go and who they visit.”
ADAPT is the country’s only direct action advocacy group focused on disability rights. It’s a decades-old organization that garnered national attention last summer after Capitol Hill police dragged ADAPT demonstrators in wheelchairs and with assistive canes out of Trumpcare hearings. They were protesting the Medicaid cuts that would have severe repercussions for people with disabilities.
“People for the first time on national television saw disabled Americans being dragged away and disappeared, but that for us happens everyday. They are taken from their homes and forced into institutions,” said Bruce Darling, an ADAPT organizer. “We are just dramatizing the conflict.”
It’s this tactic that earned ADAPT credit for helping save Obamacare. And it’s also what led to recent, incremental wins for a bill that’s been years in the making: the Disability Integration Act (DIA). After staging multiple protests within 24 hours last week, ADAPT secured endorsement for the bill from the Center for American Progress, as well as meetings with AARP and the Heritage Foundation (though the latter also played a prominent role in pushing for the repeal of Obamacare). Throughout the week, ADAPT protesters visited lawmakers’ offices to demand support for DIA.
The objective was to garner as much support from lawmakers and prominent think tanks, planned with an eye toward the midterms. “We want disabled Americans to know which candidates support their life and liberty and which are okay with them essentially being locked up,” said Darling.
ADAPT’s been working for 2.5 years fo pass DIA, but unlike the health care fight over the summer, the activism around DIA is getting minimal attention in many mainstream news outlets.
So what is it? And why has it barely registered on so much of the American public’s consciousness?
The story of the Disability Integration Act begins with the fight to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.
The ADA outlawed discrimination in public and private settings, and began to make it easier for people with disabilities to work and get around their communities. Cokley calls it “probably the widest reaching civil rights legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
But one area the ADA did not truly address was the need to make it easier for people with disabilities who required long-term care to live in their homes instead of being institutionalized.
“[I]n recent years, as we’ve seen the institutional bias wax and wane, our colleagues in ADAPT and the disability community writ large have been fighting for the right to live in their homes, for the right to age in place, to receive the services that their lives depend on in their home, in their communities, with their families, versus being warehoused against their will in an institutional setting,” said Cokley.
At times, the courts helped on this front. In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled in Olmstead v. L.C. that the ADA actually required public entities to provide people with disabilities appropriate community-based services, when those services can be accommodated.
Put another way, when someone with a disability does not prefer to live in a nursing home, psychiatric unit of a hospital, or other institution, states, counties, and cities have to do their best to find home-based solutions within the community. Solutions like providing a home health aide are actually half as expensive as housing someone full-time in a nursing home, and they can allow the person to lead a fuller, happier, and more productive life.
However, many states were not providing the services their residents needed. While the Affordable Care Act attempted to provide states with more Medicaid funding to do this via the Community First Choice State Plan, only eight states offered it as of 2016. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee concluded in a 2013 report that this needed to change, most efficiently by amending the ADA by requiring states to allow residents with disabilities the choice of where they want to live and receive services.
This is called strengthening the ADA’s “integration mandate,” and something the Disability Integration Act tries to address. While the legislation would not directly amend the ADA, ADAPT’s website says it “strengthens Olmstead’s integration mandate and creates federal civil rights law which addresses the civil rights issue that people with disabilities who are stuck in institutions cannot benefit from many of the rights established under the ADA.”
It might seem like a no-brainer to get unanimous consent for a legislative solution to a problem that affects millions of Americans, and that supporters argue would save taxpayer money while easing the regular daily struggles of people with disabilities and those who support them.
The DIA was introduced in the current Congress by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and has been steadily gaining cosponsors. But passage is by no means a done deal. Organizers still face significant hurdles.
“We struggle on both sides of the aisle with this bill,” said Darling. “Conservative politicians make a lot of money from donations they receive from those institution owners. Progressives get a lot of donations from the unions that organize within the facilities.”
AFSCME, the labor organization that represents many health care workers, has spent millions on Democratic campaign efforts, and the nursing home industryhas contributed millions to both Democrats and Republicans. ThinkProgress asked AFSCME if it supported the DIA or had a position on changes to long-term care policy and a spokesperson declined to comment.
Heath Montgomery, along with 200 other ADAPT activists, visited every House members’ office last Wednesday, explaining to representatives’ staff why they should support the DIA. That day, they got six more lawmakers to support the bill. So far, 107 have — 18 senators and 89 representatives from both sides of the aisle. This support and ongoing negotiations with prominent D.C. think tanks have activists feeling pretty optimistic.
“The focus has been on disabled folks putting their bodies on the line, but there’s been less conversation about why,” said Cokley. “What is it that they’re actively fighting for? Because yes, they’re fighting for Medicaid, but they’re also having a conversation about the institutional bias that’s inherent within Medicaid, and the fact that a lot of these programs do need to change, and do need to evolve in ways that could enhance the freedoms experienced by disabled Americans beyond just ‘oh, Stephanie Woodward was being pulled out of her wheelchair again’ — actually why, Stephanie, why are you fighting for this, why does it matter, and what does action look like, and what does ADAPT want to see?”
Many activists admitted it’d be strange for President Donald Trump to sign the next big disability rights bill into law, given the president’s offensive comments on the campaign trail and regressive policy thereafter. But a win’s a win, and bipartisan support for this bill is growing, said various ADAPT members.
Activists are drawing inspiration from demonstrations that led to the passage of the ADA. Heath for one is motivated by other young disability activists. At 9 years old, Heath is the youngest member of ADAPT and just one year older than Jennifer Keelan, who in 1990 became a symbol for the disability movement when she tossed aside her wheelchair to ascend the Capitol steps. This was known as the “Capitol Crawl,” a demonstration meant to illustrate the need for accessibility. That year, the ADA passed.
“His life is built on the foundation that this movement created,” said Heath’s mom Jenny. Heath is living with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects body movement and coordination. “Everytime he rides an accessible bus, everytime he goes into an accessible building — that is because of ADAPT.”
“Part of what we’re excited to see is the attention and awareness in progressive communities that people with disabilities are valuable allies and that they are a constituency group that can be incredibly powerful in fights like as you saw in the health care fight where I think you saw progressives rightly crediting them with putting their bodies on the line in a way that was transformational in that debate and that in many ways saved the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid,” said Rebecca Vallas, vice president for the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress.
She argued that progressives need to avoid inadvertent tokenism by ensuring that people with disabilities “need to be at the table for agenda-setting, for policymaking, that we need to be centering disability as we think about our broader agenda, not just as an outreach or a media strategy.”
ADAPT started as Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transportation but later changed to Americans Disabled Attendant Programs Today. It got its start in 1983 in Denver, Colorado initially focusing on getting wheelchair accessible lifts on buses.
Technically speaking, there isn’t a national ADAPT organization. Rather, it’s made of roughly 30 state affiliates across the country. They’re a distributed, guerilla-style, 501c(3) non-profit organization, have almost no overhead, and no central office. Members of each state group meet twice a year to prioritize an issue. Last fall they were on the defensive, protecting Medicaid. This spring, they’re on the offensive, advocating for DIA.
“Our approach is really to build on our strengths: we get in the way. If we go out to a restaurant, we are blocking up things,” said Darling. “We are comfortable with that. It makes everyone else very uncomfortable to have to climb over people with disabilities and to have to deal with us.”
It’s this strategy that got AARP’s attention. Activists capitalized on the fact that AARP employees didn’t know what to do when protesters surrounded their cars. But sometimes activists’ wheelchairs are used against them. At one point during this protest, a police officer took the key from someone’s powered wheelchair, effectively paralyzing them. In another instance, three police officers physically carried away a man in a wheelchair who was protesting.
And these tactics have mixed results. A day before, activists staged protests at the offices of Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to get their endorsement. Murray’s staff agreed to cosponsor the bill, but at Alexander’s office, 20 activists were arrested.
ADAPT is a leaderless resistance. While conventional wisdom is leaderless movements are impossible to maintain, ADAPT appears to make it work. Two to three people set the schedule last week and knew where all the staged protests were, while everyone else was left in the dark until they arrived at the demonstration site.
“For me, as a disabled person, I’m constantly dependent upon those around me and in general I have trouble trusting,” said Sheryl Grossman. “When I’m amongst my own here we’re all at some points in that space and we know what it feels like and so we learn to trust each other. And I know that any one of these folks would have my back in a split second.”
This is why ADAPT is bigger than just the policy they advocate for, dozens of activists told ThinkProgress. For Charles Miller, ADAPT is where he learned about wheelchair maintenance. For Cheryl Gottlieb, it means not having to worry if her ride to an event is wheelchair accessible. And for many, ADAPT is the epitome of community integration done right.
May 24, 2018 – Washington D.C. – Washington County Supervisors met with Congressman James Sensenbrenner this week in Washington D.C. Sensenbrenner and his staff met members of the Washington County Board of Supervisors to talk about local issues and various federal legislative proposals.
One of the major policy points discussed was fully repealing the Cadillac tax.
From left to right – Roger Kist (District 2), Congressman Sensenbrenner, Donald Kriefall (District 21), Timothy Michalak (District 17), Mark McCune (District 20), and Denis Kelling (District 6).
WAUKESHA, WI — 19-year-old Archie Badura died of an accidental overdose on May 15, 2014. On the day of his burial, family members jumped into water fully clothed in his memory, letting Archie know his death would not be in vain and that they would help raise awareness of the opioid crisis in his name.
On Saturday, May 19 from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Waukesha County, state, and local officials will promote awareness and tools to fight against the opioid crisis at the 4th Annual Jump for Archie, Jump for Prevention Day in the Park at Oconomowoc's City Beach.
Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow and Saving Others for Archie Founder Laurie Badura will join others for a series of "Jumps" into Lac La Belle: for those living in Recovery, for advocates of Prevention, to honor Archie and others lost to addiction, and for elected officials and leaders to show support.
The public is invited to bring a towel and change of clothes to capture their own jumps, to hear inspiring stories, and receive free Naloxone (Narcan) training to learn how to administrate the opiate reversal agent.
Participants in Naloxone trainings will receive a free dose of the drug. Participants in the jumps will receive a free t-shirt and SOFA wristbands while supplies last.
WHAT: 4th Annual Jump for Archie, Jump for Prevention Day in the Park
WHEN: Saturday, May 19, 2018 from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
LOCATION: City Beach – 324 W. Wisconsin Ave, Oconomowoc, WI
11:30 a.m. Event Kick Off
12:00 p.m. Recovery Jump
12:30 p.m. Jump for Archie and Others
1:00 p.m. Elected Officials and Federal, State and County Leaders Jump
1:30 p.m. Prevention Jump
1:45 p.m. Closing remarks by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner
CITY OF OCONOMOWOC - In the four years since his death, Archie Badura's family and friends have made it their mission to bring awareness to opioid addiction.
From 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 19, the fourth annual Jump for Archie, Jump for Prevention Day will take place at the Oconomowoc City Beach. Lauri Badura, Archie's mother and the founder of Saving Others for Archie, will host the event. Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow will also be in attendance for National Prevention Day in the Park.
This year, several jumps will be featured. The Recovery Jump is scheduled for noon followed by the Jump for Archie & Others at 12:30; Elected Officials & Federal, State, County Leaders Jump at 1 and the Prevention Jump at 1:30. At 1:45, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner will give the closing remarks.
The public is invited to bring a towel and change of clothes to capture their own jumps, to hear inspiring stories, and receive free naloxone (Narcan) training to learn how to administrate the opiate reversal agent. Participants in naloxone trainings will receive a free dose of the drug. Participants in the jumps will receive a free T-shirt and SOFA wristbands while supplies last.
In February, Sensenbrenner introduced the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act to help save lives by fighting the spread of fentanyl analogues. Sen. Ron Johnson introduced a similar SOFA Act in the Senate in July 2017.
Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) participated in a House Judiciary Committee hearing titled “Challenges and Solutions in the Opioid Abuse Crisis.” Among the expert panelists that testified before the committee were acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Robert Patterson, and Dr. Timothy Westlake of Hartland, WI.
Rep. Sensenbrenner: “In addition to treating addiction, empowering law enforcement agents to stop the proliferation of dangerous opioids and synthetic opioids, like fentanyl and its analogues, is an important step to ending the opioid epidemic. This hearing gave members of the committee an opportunity to hear directly from subject matter experts about the next steps Congress should take to combat this public health crisis, including my Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act.
I’m grateful to all of the witnesses, especially Dr. Timothy Westlake, who has been instrumental in my work on this issue. His expertise and passion have proven invaluable as we try to end the scourge of the opioid epidemic.”
Dr. Timothy Westlake is an emergency medicine physician at a practice based in Oconomowoc, WI. He serves on Wisconsin’s Medical Examining Board and Controlled Substances Board and has nearly 20 years of practice in southeastern Wisconsin.
Dr. Westlake provided the following opening statement during the hearing:
“In my role on the Wisconsin Medical Examining and Controlled Substance Boards, I became the physician architect of the state’s prescription opioid reform strategy and an expert on opioid scheduling.
As an emergency physician on the front lines of the opioid battlefield for the past 20 years, I’ve witnessed more tragedy than I care to recall. Like you, I am laser focused on what can be done to stop the senseless loss of life. It’s why I am grateful for this opportunity to talk with you today and to share a legislative solution that’s actually working in Wisconsin right now.
But first, a brief story about a young man named Archie Badura. Every Sunday, we sat next to Archie and his family in church, where he was an altar server alongside my daughters. Archie got hooked on marijuana first, then prescription opioid pills, heroin followed shortly, and eventually fentanyl – a tragically all too familiar slide. The last time I saw Archie alive, he was my patient in the ER. I had to resuscitate him with Narcan after he overdosed on fentanyl. Before discharging him, we pulled out a body bag, unzipped it, and pretended to fit him for it. It was a wake-up call. Archie became serious about getting clean and started following recovery principles. He told his family he was going to beat the odds and not end up in a body bag. He stayed drug-free for six months after this. Sadly, he eventually relapsed on fentanyl and died at age 19. His mom, my friend Lauri, vividly remembers Archie being zipped into a body bag – identical to the one she had seen me showing him months earlier. In his honor, Lauri founded SOFA – Saving Others For Archie – and now helps others who are desperately trying to help their loved ones.
It is incontrovertible that the increased availability of prescription opioids has fueled the epidemic. As a medical regulator, I have spent countless hours working to identify and implement best practices. For starters, we need more judicious prescribing practices. We are doing this in Wisconsin – not with top-down mandates, but through education and partnerships within the medical community. In my written testimony, I provide more detail about the kind of cutting-edge Prescription Drug Monitoring Program reforms and educational reforms that we have put into place.
The fact is that the lion’s share of medical regulation does and should occur at the state, medical licensing board, and health system levels. Where Congress can and has – and can continue to be helpful – is in law enforcement and in providing flexible funding to the states themselves to invest in communities where the dollars are most needed. When government intervenes too much, for example, with the development of the pain scale and pain as the fifth vital sign, there is too much room for unintended consequences.
By far, the deadliest front in the opioid war is the danger posed by the creation of fentanyl-related substances. These deaths now surpass heroin deaths. The lethal dose of fentanyl is 2mg, which means that there could be enough fentanyl in this 4 lb box to kill more than 900,000 people – which would be more than the entire population of D.C. In fact, fentanyl variants and related substances are so deadly, they can be used – and are classified – as chemical weapons. These are not just drugs, they are actually considered weapons of mass destruction.
The “bad” guys use loopholes in the existing scheduling laws to create new legal fentanyl variants. These untested chemicals are then produced – mostly in China – and introduced into the opioid supply. As our prescription opioid reforms take effect and the medical community returns to more judicious prescribing practices, the market for counterfeit pills will continue to explode. Most illicit opioid users have no idea what they’re consuming. With the advent of counterfeit pill production, they believe they’re ingesting a “safe” trade-name manufactured pill when actually it’s a fentanyl-related counterfeit substance. These pills can be alarmingly more strong than what they are purported to be, up to hundreds of times stronger. The singer Prince died from a counterfeit Vicodin pill ingestion that was actually fentanyl.
During 2016, in one weekend, there were 12 deaths in Milwaukee from counterfeit pills that contained cyclopropyl fentanyl, which at the time was not controlled and could be bought legally on the Internet.
We saw this coming in Wisconsin years ago. We worked closely with the DEA to get ahead of it. We created and enacted novel scheduling language now being modeled nationally. “Act 60” – or the SOFA Act (Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogs in homage to Saving Others For Archie). It controls, by structure, all likely and possible bioactive chemical fentanyl modifications. This novel, catch-all legislative language allows us to schedule proactively and not wait for loved ones to die before we can schedule each newly modified fentanyl variant. So instead of playing whack-a-mole with the variants as people die as we discover them, it unplugs the entire fentanyl machine.
The week after Wisconsin enacted SOFA, the DEA published the identical scheduling language in the Federal Register as the method of federal temporary scheduling. Chemists around the world, and in China, must be paying attention because since that announcement six months ago, there have been no new fentanyl variants found. In the prior two years, there had found and scheduled 17 new fentanyls, representing hundreds of deaths.
But the language needs to be written into the U.S. code, as the DEA Administrator said, for the best permanent scheduling solutions. Many thanks to Mr. Sensenbrenner and Senator Ron Johnson, who have the federal SOFA Act. Thank you for their leadership on that.
When asked how often I see fentanyl overdoses, the answer is tragically far too often. The last shift I worked was two days ago – on Sunday. As I was preparing my testimony, I was interrupted to go resuscitate a fentanyl overdose.
It’s for this reason, I urge you to pass legislation and make it so. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to answering any questions.”
You can view Congressman Sensenbrenner’s question to acting Administrator Patterson here.
You can read the full text of the SOFA Act here.
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, is again Wisconsin’s most cooperative member of Congress.
U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, also scored well for bipartisanship during 2017, according to the Lugar Center and Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy.
Congratulations to both public servants.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, was the most improved of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation at working across the partisan divide last year, though she’s still pretty average for collaboration in the Senate.
Even U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, has improved a little in the last year, after finishing nearly dead last for cooperation in the House of Representatives in 2016.
Yet overall, Wisconsin’s members of Congress should be doing much better at working with others to propose sensible legislation that’s good for our state and nation.
The Lugar Center, founded by former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Georgetown researchers released their latest assessment last week of how often members of Congress sponsored legislation with bipartisan support. The annual and scientific assessment accounts for variations based on which political party is in power, and compares performance to a 20-year baseline of data.
The Lugar Center and McCourt School of Public Policy began calculating their Bipartisan Index in 2015 to encourage more pragmatism and cooperation toward solving America’s problems.
Kind ranked as the 21st most bipartisan lawmaker in the 435-member House during 2017. That’s down a bit from past years but still excellent.
Sensenbrenner ranked 79th best in 2017, while U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, placed 185th. U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wausau, improved to 216th, though he’s still pretty average when it comes to partnering with members of the opposite party in the often gridlocked Congress.
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Black Earth, fell to 333rd, which is disappointing. Yet he is better at cooperating across party lines than U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, who ranked 359th.
Wisconsin’s least bipartisan member is Grothman, who was 410th, though that was better than the previous two years when he ranked nearly last among all his congressional colleagues.
In the Senate, Baldwin improved to 54th among 100 senators, which is below average but much better than previous years. Her Senate colleague from Wisconsin, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, finished 51st.
(U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, wasn’t rated because he is the House speaker, so his job is inherently partisan, according to the researchers.)
Wisconsin’s representatives in Washington must do better. The only way America’s many challenges will be met is by working together for the common good.
Dozens of Congressmen, including three from Wisconsin, are calling on U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to work toward negotiating an end to Canada's Class VII dairy pricing program during upcoming NAFTA negotiations. In a letter to the trade ambassador, the lawmakers claim America's dairy farmers and those whose jobs are tied to the dairy product manufacturing sector are experiencing limited markets and deeply depressed farm income levels under the current arrangement.
"The new Class VII pricing system within the Canadian National Ingredient Strategy introduced in February 2017 has negatively impacted dairy farmers in Wisconsin by favoring Canadian milk products," said Rep. Ron Kind. "Under the National Ingredient Strategy, Canadian milk product ingredients are priced at or below internationally competitive levels, undercutting Wisconsin dairy farmers not only in Canada but allowing dumped Canadian product to threaten market access for Wisconsin farmers globally."
Reps. Sean Duffy and Jim Sensenbrenner also signed the memo. They stated that its 'critical' that the Administration achieves its established goals of eliminating Canada's newer milk program and dairy tariff walls.
"The industry is counting on the USTR to deliver in these key areas, which would spur U.S. exports and therefore help contribute to favorable gains in the U.S. trade balance in the NAFTA markets," the letter read. "This Administration, with strong support from Congress, has rightfully condemned Canada's actions on dairy trade over the past year. While Canada is one of our strongest allies and trading partners, its approach to dairy policy has been on that for too long has used various policy tools to impact trade in ways that directly harm our dairy industry."
Several dairy groups also commented on the lawmakers' request on Wednesday, stating that it's 'imperative that we do note lose this opportunity to tackle these problems.'
The International Dairy Foods Association says Canada has imposed stiff tariffs of 200 to 300 percent on U.S. dairy exports for many years, causing dairy farmers to face dire economic conditions in recent years.