Excerpts from recent Wisconsin editorials

November 11, 2019 GMT

Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, Nov. 10

A very bad week for the Senate GOP

Below-freezing temperatures, with lows in the single digits, are predicted for early this week across Wisconsin.

That means thousands of homeless people, many of them single mothers with children, will need help getting out of the frigid cold.

The Wisconsin Senate, led by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, doesn’t seem to care.

The Republican-run Senate refused last week to discuss or vote on Assembly Bill 119, which would have provided $500,000 more annually to homeless shelters. The bill is one of eight popular and bipartisan proposals approved by the GOP-led Assembly.

AB 119 has earned unanimous votes of approval from key committees in the Assembly and the Senate. Yet Fitzgerald and other Republican senators — even one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills — voted against a Democratic attempt to force consideration during the Senate’s final floor session of the year last Tuesday. The bill clearly has enough votes to pass.

So what is the hold up? Fitzgerald won’t say. The bills, which would spend $7.5 million over two years, now appear stalled until at least spring.

The bills were written largely by Republicans and originated under former GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s administration. So petty partisanship shouldn’t be an issue. Moreover, the $7.5 million to defray housing costs, help struggling people find housing, create more shelter beds, pay for training and repair low-cost housing still represents a modest expense, compared to what surrounding states commit to the cause.

Public pressure could help free up this money that’s already been approved as part of the state budget. Find your senator’s email and phone number at go.madison.com/senators, or call the legislative hotline at 800-362-9472. Tell your senator you want action on Assembly bills 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125 and 144.

Fitzgerald and his Republican colleagues also ignored Gov. Tony Evers’ call for sensible safeguards on gun purchases last week. Evers ordered a special session to consider adopting consistent background checks on guns — including those sold at gun shows and online, which are now exempt. The vast majority of the public wants universal background checks so criminals have a harder time getting guns.

But Fitzgerald cowardly called the session to order with no other lawmakers in the room Thursday evening, adjourning the session a few seconds later to avoid debate or a vote.

To bottom out the state Senate’s weak week of dysfunction, the Republican majority fired Evers’ designated agriculture secretary, Brad Pfaff. Some GOP senators — including Howard Marklein of Spring Green, and Kathy Bernier of Chippewa Falls — voted against Pfaff’s confirmation even though they had supported his nomination in committee.

Fitzgerald was miffed in July when Pfaff criticized the Legislature’s budget committee for failing to release funds for mental health assistance to farmers. Pfaff’s confirmation process — and those of other Evers’ appointees — have now been stalled for nearly a year.

The Senate needs to do its job, listen more to the public, and stop obsessing over perceived political slights.


The Capital Times, Madison, Nov. 6

Trump’s toadies have chosen partisanship over patriotism

Shame on James Sensenbrenner.

Shame on Brian Steil.

Shame on Glenn Grothman.

Shame on Mike Gallagher.

These four political charlatans put partisanship ahead of the country in a time of peril. These four members of the House are supposed to represent the people of Wisconsin. Instead, last week, they represented one constituent: Donald Trump.

When the House voted Thursday to establish the rules for a formal inquiry into allegations of wrongdoing on Trump’s part, Sensenbrenner, Steil, Grothman and Gallagher joined fellow Republicans in seeking to obstruct that inquiry. In doing so, they rejected logic and duty.

No member of the House was asked on Thursday to vote to impeach of the scandal-plagued president. They were simply asked to endorse the practices and procedures that will ensure that the investigation is fair and thorough.

The work of holding a president to account using the powers of impeachment that are outlined in the U.S. Constitution is a process, and it is right and proper to outline the process, as the House did last week. Unfortunately, while Democrats took the constitutional high road, Republicans veered off the cliff of rank partisanship.

It did not have to be this way.

Even in this era of divided governance and siloed communications, it should have been clear to members of both parties that a proper inquiry was required to examine allegations of startling abuses of power — and equally startling attempts by the president and his aides to obstruct that investigation. And that appropriately framed rules were needed to organize that inquiry.

Democrats and Republicans, no matter how they might eventually vote on articles of impeachment, should have recognized these essential truths. Yet Sensenbrenner, Steil, Grothman, Gallagher and their fellow Republicans decided to oppose any attempt to get to the bottom of the questions that have arisen with regard to Trump’s pressuring of a foreign leader to do his political bidding.

The debate on Thursday was rancorous, and at times bizarre, as all the coming debates on impeachment are likely to be. In this regard, it proved to be highly instructive. Both sides showed their cards.

Democrats recognized the solemn importance of the vote they were taking. Quoting from James Madison, Tom Paine, and other founders of the American experiment, Democrats identified this new phase with constitutional duty and patriotism. Some of the Democrats who addressed the chamber Thursday were still too apologetic about embracing the responsibilities that go with their oaths of office. But the savviest of their number spoke the bolder language that must define their work going forward.

“These rules are fair and strong and will make sure that we can — and we will — defend the Constitution of the United States,” declared House Judiciary Committee member Jamie Raskin, who was elected to Congress in 2016 after teaching constitutional law for decades. The Maryland Democrat, who will be a pivotal figure when the process gets to the Judiciary Committee, explained that “the impeachment inquiry has discovered a substantial body of evidence that the president of the United States has violated the Constitution by placing his political interests above the interests of the country, thereby putting both our democracy and the nation’s security in jeopardy. In light of this evidence, the House of Representatives must fully investigate. We have sworn a sacred oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. We will honor our oath by countering all high crimes and misdemeanors committed against the American people and our Constitution.”

With a vote of 232 to 196 that broke almost entirely along party lines, the House embraced what Raskin and others explained as a duty not merely to uphold an oath but also to follow the evidence of presidential wrongdoing to a logical conclusion. “We are here because the facts compel us to be here,” explained House Rules Committee Chair James McGovern as he opened a remarkable floor debate on the resolution outlining the rules that will govern the inquiry. Referring to “serious evidence Trump might have violated the Constitution” by pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open an investigation aimed at a political rival (former Vice President Joe Biden), McGovern explained the steps that had been taken to guarantee transparency and “due process for the president.”

With that said, McGovern acknowledged that “some on the other side will never be satisfied with any process that uncovers the truth about what the president did.” A few minutes later, House Republican whip Steve Scalise stepped up to prove McGovern right.

Standing beside a cartoonish graphic image of Moscow’s Red Square and a Communist hammer and sickle, Scalise declared, “This is Soviet-style rules.” The House Republicans’ second-in-command went further off the deep end than most of his partisan colleagues. But like the rest of the Republicans, Scalise made no real effort to defend Trump. Instead, he complained about perceived slights and rules he didn’t find favorable enough to his cause.

The griping grew so tedious that McGovern announced, “I get it: My friends across the aisle want to talk about process, process, process, but not one of them wants to talk about the (abuses and wrongdoing) of the president. That speaks volumes.”

That does speak volumes. With their votes in favor of the impeachment inquiry, Wisconsin U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan, Ron Kind and Gwen Moore embraced the oaths that they swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” and to “bear true faith and allegiance” to that commitment. History will regard their votes as honorable.

But there will be no honor for the Wisconsin representatives — Sensenbrenner, Steil, Grothman and Gallagher — who rejected their oaths, their responsibilities and the Constitution itself. Their partisanship has overwhelmed their patriotism.


Beloit Daily News, Nov. 4

When the partisans quiet, it’s your turn

Lots of drama, not much action — until next November

In Hollywood parlance this might be called a spoiler.

Here’s what to expect with the impeachment drama in Washington. There will be hearings marked by partisan bickering. Then majority Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives will vote to approve articles of impeachment against President Trump on a fully, or at least nearly, straight partisan tally. Next, the U.S. Senate will be tasked with holding a trial for Trump, presided over by Chief Justice John Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court. As quickly as possible majority Republicans will move the Senate along to a decision, which on a fully, or at least nearly, straight partisan tally will dismiss the articles of impeachment.

At that point President Trump will claim vindication. Expect a world class tweetstorm.

Maybe it can be argued that all this is necessary for various reasons, not least of which is the fact that poll after poll says a strong majority of Americans support the impeachment inquiry while the country at present is evenly split on whether Trump deserves to be removed from office. Those numbers are much higher than similar polls conducted at this stage during the Nixon and Clinton impeachment inquiries.

Call us crazy, but we still cling to a naive belief that public sentiment matters, even if evidence suggests partisan politicians no longer pay much heed beyond the base.

What does matter to many people is fact and truth. Over the course of the public inquiry evidence will be gathered and presented, witnesses will testify under oath and tough questions, presumably, will be asked and answered.

Even though the script seems preordained — House will impeach, Senate will dismiss, Trump will claim victory — when the process is over the people will know more than they know today.

The poll that counts is the one which will be determined in November 2020. When the Democrats and Republicans are done spinning and President Trump is done tweeting, voters get the final say.

The same guy stays.

Or he’s fired and the new man or woman takes over.

Thus is the genius of the Founders confirmed every four years. Slippery politicians, the spinning party faithful, the donor class, the lobbyists and influence peddlers, all fill the air like a toxic cloud day-in and day-out. But on one fateful day, every four years, they all chew their fingernails in anxiety as the American people go to the polls and deliver a verdict without appeal.

One set of partisan firebrands will indict President Trump. Another set of partisans will swat that aside.

The real jury gets the case next November. Don’t forget to fulfill the job the Founders assigned to you. Pay attention. Then vote.