By Tracy Will
MADISON — U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, fresh from a 12-hour subcommittee mark-up session on energy, telecommunications and broadband issues, said she’s heard both conservative and liberal economic advisers warning of a slow recovery that could get worse before it gets better.
“We brought in McCain’s advisors and those who worked on the Obama campaign during the year,” Baldwin said. “Almost to a one the predictions were dire and incredibly serious. It’s an ugly situation, when you’re going to pass a bill that has how many zeroes … nine. $825 billion is what we’re looking at.”
“We’re hopefully shortening the time that the recession will [last],” Baldwin told the crowd at the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce event, adding that Congress will try to get a bill to the President Obama’s desk by President’s Day in February.
The Madison congresswoman said that the work of the Congress was more of a national recovery and social safety net plan rather than a bailout plan. Baldwin said that it would be a while before health issues were addressed by the new Congress and said she expects plans mostly along the lines of those proposed by Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton during the campaign.
“If you have insurance and you’re happy with it, we’re going to leave you alone. Next we’ll take on those who have no insurance or are underinsured,” Baldwin said, “although it’s not certain whether this will be something the federal government will handle, or whether it will be left up to the states. We’ll first focus on creating a medical home for the 47 million uninsured Americans.”
Baldwin also discussed an amendment she authored with Iowa’s Bruce Braley to dedicate up to $500 million in loan guarantees for cutting-edge biofuel projects.
“Now there’s a transportation sector in the loan guarantees, something that will have a huge impact in Wisconsin, in our own region, because we have an institute here at the University of Wisconsin focused squarely on advanced biofuel research.”
Baldwin said her vantage point at the Inaugural ceremonies, between the U.S. Capitol and stage where President Obama gave his inaugural address, moved her, “both for the history of the swearing-in and by the mass of humanity that came to witness this moment in history.”
Nancy Mistele, a candidate for Dane County executive who runs a family construction business, asked Baldwin if anything could be done to prevent banks from dumping foreclosed properties on the market and competing with builders.
“That was one of the problems we in the House had with the former administration’s bailout plan,” Baldwin replied, ”we voted in the House last week to attach more accountability and transparency to the second half of the TARP funds. But the Senate removed that language.”