House Representatives gather at Blackhawk

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Austin Montgomery/Beloit Daily News A forum on the future of America’s workforce brought together multiple officials at Blackhawk Technical College Thursday afternoon. From left: Former Department of Labor Administrator David Weil, UW-Madison labor researcher Joel Rogers, Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, Rep. Mark Pocan, Rep. Donald Norcross and Roosevelt Institute Vice President of Research Nell Abernathy.

JANESVILLE — Members of the U.S. House of Representatives gathered at the Blackhawk Technical College central campus Thursday, calling the current atmosphere in Congress as “dysfunctional.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, was at the campus between Beloit and Janesville, to discuss wages and the nations workforce and was accompanied by Rep. Mark Desaulnier, D-California, and Rep. Donald Norcross, D-New Jersey. But other issues loom large in this session of Congress, according to lawmakers.

•Possibility of Government Shutdown:

The uncooperative climate in the House comes less than a week ahead of Congress needing to take action to avoid a government shutdown. Pocan believes a short-term budget agreement would be made to ensure national operations.

“We are hearing there will be a continuing resolution,” Pocan said. “Theres been talk of a one-week resolution where they have to buy time to keep negotiations going. I think ultimately we will have some sort of continuing resolution. The drawbacks of a continuing resolution is that its drafted by a small group of people, its unamendable, but it keeps the government open. Its a terrible stop-gap, regardless.”

•Health Care Reform Update:

Pocan pointed to the failure by Republicans to rush a health care reform bill through Congress, which included billions of dollars in corporate tax cuts, as a major indicator of the state of Congress.

“If you thought healthcare was difficult, tax reform is going to be even more difficult,” Pocan said. “If they want to start with corporate tax reform, and maybe whats left are the crumbs for the middle class and everyone else; its whats wrong systemically with the Republican Party.”

Pocan said there were rumblings in the House of pushing some health reform plan to a final vote this Congressional term, but couldnt give specifics on the matter. He said it appeared GOP lawmakers had tunnel vision on appealing the Affordable Care Act, while forgetting the needs of the American public.

“The Democratic Party has come out and said, whatever they do, it has to improve access to health care,” Pocan said. “That no one loses their health insurance; and they make it more affordable. If they cant do those simple premises, they dont have a viable health care proposal.”

Lawmakers and union leaders who attended the event at Blackhawk Technical College stressed the need for active participation in helping get labor-friendly officials into office in Madison and Washington in 2018.

The event was highly critical of Gov. Scott Walkers Act 10 imitative, which slashed collective bargaining rights in the state, while harshly criticizing President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryans efforts to push corporate tax reform.

Labor representative and Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfelt moderated the event, which also featured speakers Joel Rogers, a labor researcher with UW-Madison, former administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor David Weil and Vice President of Research and Policy at the Roosevelt Institute Nell Abernathy.

An audience member noted state lawmakers will begin deliberations on a prevailing wage law, with hearings starting Monday in Madison. Public input is scheduled from noon to 6 p.m.

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