BELOIT - U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said the new U.S. Congress is very much different from the last three Congresses he has served in, mostly because Democrats now hold the majority, but it also is marked by its diversity.
Pocan spoke with Beloit residents Saturday at the Merrill Community Center while a rare spring snowstorm was covering the ground outside.
Pocan said the new Congress saw the election of a record number of women, including the first two Muslim women elected to Congress (Ilham Omar and Rashida Tlaib) and the first Native American Congresswomen (Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids).
"It's an interesting time in Washington," Pocan said. "Finally we're looking more like the country we represent - at least on one side. It's more representative of America and I think it will help us do a better job."
The new congress has been active in its first 100 days, passing legislation on election reforms and gun violence, and when members return to Washington Pocan expects them to take up measures on prescription drug price reform, minimuum wage and re-entering the Paris Climate Accord.
Pocan admitted, some measures approved by the House may not make it through the Republican controlled Senate, but he believes there are some issues that will receive bipartisan support.
"Corrections reform is one issue that has received bipartisan support, along with infrastructure repairs and prescription drug price reform," Pocan said.
Regarding the recently released report from Independent Counsel Robert Mueller on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, Pocan said it contained some startling information.
"The first 180 pages should cause an outcry about the interference by another country in our elections," he said. "There was hacking of local and state government. They were trying to pull us apart. No one should want any other government to interfere in our elections."
Regarding any implications of wrongdoing by President Donald Trump, Pocan said there are witnesses the Congress will want to talk to due to information contained in the report.
"It is very clear there are some witnesses we want to bring in," Pocan said, noting Mueller himself should testify before Congress, as well as White House Counsel Donald McGahn.
Responding to a question about the Beloit casino proposal, Pocan admitted everything seems to move slowly at the federal level. He said part of the delay with the casino proposal was President Trump had not made appointments to the Department of Interior. However, now that speed bump has been smoothed out.
"Every report we have nos is it is moving well now," Pocan said of the Beloit casino proposal.