Democratic Senators Side With Trump?

The Washington Post reports that six Democratic senators from states that went for Donald Trump are supporting punishing corporations that outsource labor.

Six Democratic senators from Rust Belt states won by President-elect Donald Trump called Tuesday for a swift congressional crackdown on U.S. companies that send manufacturing jobs abroad, claiming common cause with Trump’s crusade against outsourcing.

Trump on Sunday tweeted that “any business that leaves our country for another country, fires its employees, builds a new factory or plant in the other country, and then thinks it will sell its product back into the U.S. without retribution or consequence, is WRONG!” He threatened to impose a 35 percent tariff on goods those companies seek to import.

I don’t think that this is sound economic policy…whether Mr. Trump is saying it or my senator is saying it…and what I find troubling is…my senator is saying it.

The Democratic senators from Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin stopped short of calling for a protectionist tariff regime. But in a letter to congressional leaders Tuesday, they applauded “the recent attention President-elect Trump has brought to the issue of outsourcing and its impact on middle-class families” and called for legislation that would penalize companies that send jobs abroad.

Those penalties, they say, should include taking into consideration any history of outsourcing while awarding federal contracts and potentially keeping outsourcers from receiving tax breaks and other federal incentives, and “clawing back” those incentives if companies later ship jobs out of the country.

“The loss of manufacturing jobs in our states has contributed to the decades-long trend of the declining middle class,” the letter reads. “We believe these principles — which we intend to introduce as legislation — are critical to our shared commitment to encourage companies to invest in the United States and in American workers.”

Yes it is time to have a national discussion on economic issues in this country…a discussion on trade…on tariffs…on sanctions…on inducements. But there needs to be sound discussions. Educational discussions. Not shoot from the hip emotional reactions. There is far more going on in corporate decisions that deserve to be examined and discussed.

But I have to wonder if the six senators are serious? Or calling Mr. Trump’s bluff? Or patronizing their local constituency who voted for Mr. Trump? All three possibilities make me even more uneasy about the future relationships between Congress and the White House.

The lead signer of the letter was Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), who praised the decision last month by Carrier Corp., under pressure from Trump, to reverse its decision to send hundreds of Indianapolis manufacturing jobs to Mexico. Also signing the letter were Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

Chris Taylor and Tammy Baldwin endorsed Hillary Clinton. That shouldn’t surprise anyone

I’ve been reading a lot on Facebook and elsewhere about Chris Taylor and Tammy Baldwin endorsing Hillary Clinton and how they’re “wrong” for endorsing her. While I disagree with their decisions to endorse Clinton, because I don’t believe she’s as progressive as her rhetoric, Taylor, Baldwin, and anyone else is free to endorse Hillary for whatever reasons they see fit.

To be honest, I expected both Chris Taylor and Tammy Baldwin to endorse Hillary Clinton, because she’s the establishment Democratic candidate, and they’re part of the Democratic establishment. The folks who make up the Democratic establishment tend to stick together.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin will not return campaign money received from indicted fellow Senator

This is disappointing…

A number of Democrats are returning campaign money they have received from New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez in the wake of his federal bribery indictment.

Not U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

A spokesman for the Wisconsin Democrat said Baldwin will wait to see the outcome of the Menendez case.

“Senator Baldwin believes the charges against Senator Menendez are serious but that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and he is entitled to his day in court,” said John Kraus, communications director for Baldwin.

“If he is found guilty and convicted, the campaign will donate the same amount it received three years ago.”

Menendez’s leadership PAC, New Millennium, gave $5,000 to Baldwin’s campaign in October 2012, when she was in a tight race with former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

While I absolutely support the premise that everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, Sen. Baldwin’s decision to keep money her campaign received from Sen. Menendez’s PAC simply doesn’t pass the smell test. It’s disappointing, especially considering I’d venture to guess her campaign doesn’t really need the money.

Report: Sen. Tammy Baldwin had report detailing excessive opiate prescriptions at Tomah VA for months

This is an absolute travesty.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s office received an inspection report last summer detailing high amounts of opiates prescribed at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, but there is no indication her office took action on the findings until last week, when she called for an investigation after a news report revealed a veteran died from an overdose at the facility.

The report by the VA inspector general, a copy of which was obtained by USA TODAY, noted that two practitioners at the center were among the highest prescribers of opiates in a multistate region — at “considerable variance” compared with most opioid prescribers. That, the report said, raised “potentially serious concerns.”

A whistleblower who learned in November that Baldwin had had a copy for months and hadn’t acted, repeatedly emailed her office asking that she do something to help the veterans at the center, according to copies of the emails obtained by USA TODAY.

PDF: Read the report

In them the whistleblower — former Tomah VA employee Ryan Honl — asked that Baldwin call for an investigation, that she push colleagues on the Veterans Affairs committee to take action, and that she help bring the issues in the report to public attention. The report had not been made public, but Baldwin’s office received a copy in August.

When she still had not taken public action in December, Honl sent a message to her staffer with the subject line: “Final plea for Help from Senator Baldwin.”

“All we ask is that our senator publicly support our desire to have an open forum rather than remain silent publicly, which is what the VA does in hiding reports from the public,” Honl wrote.

Honl, a Gulf War vet and West Point graduate who left the Tomah facility in October, said in an interview Monday he believes Baldwin’s inaction after receiving the report is a “travesty.”

Baldwin’s office declined to explain what she did between receiving the report in August and last week, when she called for an investigation after the Center for Investigative Reporting published details of the inspection report outlining opiate prescription amounts at the center and recounting the overdose death in August of a 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran while he was an inpatient.

The fact that Sen. Baldwin’s office appears to have had the report outlining the excessive prescribing of opiates to veterans by staff at the Tomah VA hospital for months without taking any action is unconscionable.

Why did Sen. Tammy Baldwin vote for the awful CRomnibus bill?

On December 13, the Democratic-controlled Senate voted 56-40 to approve H.R. 83, the so-called “CRomnibus” bill, a $1.1 trillion, nine-month omnibus spending bill that will keep the federal government fully funded through September 2015.

Among the Democratic Senators who voted for the CRomnibus bill was progressive Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and as the CapTimes notes, there’s a lot for progressives to hate about the CRomnibus bill.

  • The measure includes a rewrite of rules for derivatives trading that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said “would let derivatives traders on Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money and get bailed out by the government when their risky bets threaten to blow up our financial system.”

  • It includes provisions that will allow billionaires and millionaires to spend dramatically more money buying elections. Democracy 21’s Fred Wertheimer refers to these sections of the CRomnibus as “the most destructive and corrupting campaign-finance provisions ever enacted by Congress.”

  • It reworks pension rules in a way that Teamsters President James Hoffa says could “slash the pensions of thousands of retirees who worked years for a pension that they thought would provide them financial security in their retirement years.”

While I understand compromises need to be made in order for the sausage-making process that is legislating to occur, I can’t help but wonder why a progressive like Sen. Tammy Baldwin chose to vote in favor of such a horrible piece of legislation. After all, the last time I checked allowing millionaires and billionaires to spend more money to buy elections and slashing pensions for retirees don’t sound like issues a progressive should support.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin to oppose Obama nomination of Wall Street insider to Treasury position

Good for Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin joined a small but growing list of Democrats who are opposing Pres. Obama’s nomination of Antonio Weiss for a high-ranking post in the Treasury Department.

Weiss has been nominated to be Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance.

While the post is not a high profile one, some Democrats see Weiss as a “Wall Street insider” whose appointment reflects a too-cozy relationship with the financial sector on the part of the Obama administration.

“I do not believe Mr. Weiss is the right nominee to push for strong oversight of Wall Street and protect the interests of Main Street as Under Secretary for Domestic Finance,” Baldwin said in a statement she released Thursday. “Based on his record and qualifications as a Wall Street investment banker I don’t have confidence that he will work to even the playing field for middle class families and small businesses who need a fair shot to get ahead.”

Sen. Baldwin joins fellow Democrats Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Al Franken of Minnesota and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire as well as independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont in opposition to the appointment of Antonio Weiss.

Baldwin to Walker: where are the healthcare coverage numbers?

On Thursday Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin sent a letter to Republican Gov. Scott Walker in which she asked Gov. Walker for an update on his efforts to transition the nearly 63,000 Wisconsinites who will lose their BadgerCare coverage thanks to decisions made by Gov. Walker. Specifically, Sen. Baldwin requested an immediate report on how many of those nearly 63,000 Wisconsinites have actually transitioned into coverage through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace, in the interest of holding Gov. Walker accountable for his promise to use Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act Marketplace to cut Wisconsin’s uninsured rate in half.

Here’s Sen. Baldwin’s letter to Gov. Walker.

Letter from Sen. Tammy Baldwin to Gov. Scott Walker by BloggingBlue

Some reaction to the SCOTUS decision in McCutcheon

My thoughts on the United States Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC can be summed up thusly:

Paul Campos of Salon has an excellent writeup of just how awful the Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon really is. Here’s a highlight.

And now, Wednesday, the next blow to attempting to keep the rich from being able to buy politicians as effortlessly as they purchase anything else has been struck by McCutcheon v. FEC, a Supreme Court case dealing with limits on how much money individuals can contribute to candidates.

McCutcheon has now struck down overall limits on individual campaign contributions. This latest outburst of judicial activism in the struggle to render campaign finance laws completely toothless is merely accelerating a historical process that is coming to seem almost inevitable.

To see why, consider the practical implications of the theory that weak or nonexistent limits on campaign finance will allow the rich to transform what is putatively a democratic republic into an unapologetic plutocracy.

If money can buy the political outcomes desired by the super-wealthy oligarchs at the apex of our increasingly unequal economy, then there are only two possible ways to avoid this result. First, we can assume that that there is a strong distinction between law and politics, that judges make legal rather than political decisions, and that legal decisions, unlike political outcomes, cannot be bought.

And here’s some reaction to the McCutcheon decision from lawmakers in Wisconsin, starting with Democratic State Rep. Chris Taylor.

“First the Citizens United ruling and now this? This Supreme Court seems intent on opening the floodgates for more and more political cash into our elections. Our republic was born out of bloodshed, out of the fight for independence. Our forefathers fought for individual rights and freedoms. I doubt any one of them thought those freedoms included the right to buy elections.

“Today’s ruling doesn’t impact the average American or the average donor. According to Billion Dollar Democracy, a US PIRG study, 32 super-rich donors contributed as much as 3.7 million small dollar donors in the last presidential election. Today’s ruling allows the super-rich to give even more money. By equating money with speech, the US Supreme Court is allowing more ‘speech’ for the most wealthy. This ruling threatens our democracy.”

Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin also issued a statement.

“This decision is extremely disappointing but not surprising coming from an activist court majority that has previously opened the floodgates of corporate special interest influence in our elections with the Citizens United decision. This is yet another step towards gutting campaign finance reforms and increasing the sway of the powerful and wealthy over our Democratic process. It is far too often the case in Washington that powerful corporate interests, the wealthy, and the well-connected get to write the rules, and now the Supreme Court has given them more power to rule the ballot box by creating an uneven playing field where big money matters more than the voice of ordinary citizens.”

The very notion that millionaires or billionaires have more free speech rights by virtue of the money said millionaires or billionaires possess is simply stunning and seems to me (and I’m sure many other reasonable people) to run counter to what our founding fathers had in mind for our country.

What Is He Running For: Ron Kind

Earlier this week, Zach posted that Representative Ron Kind from Wisconsin’s Third Congressional District had ruled out running for governor against Governor Walker in 2014.

After this past weekend’s Democratic Party of Wisconsin state convention, I would never have expected that Rep. Kind was interested in governor. But he certainly is running for a statewide seat. He hosted a large reception at the convention and was one of the major speakers on Friday night. But listening to his speech, where he repeatedly discussed the issues in the US Senate…and extolled the wisdom of Senator Tammy Baldwin and decried the voting record of Sen. Ron Johnson…I would speculate that Rep. Kind has his eye on Sen. Johnson’s seat in 2016!