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'Very strong' Democratic sentiment to oppose GOP budget bill

WASHINGTON

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said Wednesday there’s “very, very strong” sentiment among Democrats in the chamber to oppose GOP-drafted legislation to keep the government’s doors open, comments that could indicate the chances are increasing that the government could shut down at midnight Friday night.

Democrats’ votes are needed to advance the stopgap measure through the Senate, but they have been rebuffed in their demands to add protections against deportation for younger immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children.

“The overwhelming number in our caucus have said they don’t like this deal and they believe if we kick the can down the road this time we’ll be back where we started from next time,” Schumer said. “So there’s very, very strong support not to go along with their deal.”

Talks among a bipartisan group of leaders of both the House and Senate convened Wednesday, but participants reported little progress.

“Good will but no progress,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a negotiator but one whose loyalties lie chiefly with separate compromise legislation on the so-called “Dreamer” immigrants that he has co-authored with Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., some of the Senate’s most dovish Republicans on immigration.

House GOP leaders unveiled the spending bill Tuesday night, sweetening it with a six-year renewal of the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program and with provisions to temporarily suspend three “Obamacare” taxes, including a tax on generous “Cadillac” health plans.

Separately, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other Democrats met privately in the Capitol with White House chief of staff John Kelly, and some emerged citing little progress. The talks were on legislation aimed at shielding the hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation.

“They have a disproportionate focus on the border more than anything else,” Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., one of the six senators who crafted the bipartisan proposal, said after the meeting. He added that in return for protecting the young immigrants, “what they want in return is continuously a moving target and it continuously expands.”

It seems certain that no immigration accord will be reached this week, in time to affect the outcome on the vote on the separate bill preventing a federal shutdown. If Congress can’t temporarily finance the government by Friday, a shutdown would begin the next day, an election-year debacle that GOP leaders and many Democrats are eager to avoid for fear of alienating voters.

House Republican leaders tried to win over wary conservatives for the spending bill by sweetening it. They added a two-year delay on implementation of unpopular taxes on medical devices and generous employer-subsidized health care plans. The taxes, also unpopular with many Democrats, are part of former President Barack Obama’s marquee health law.

In a bid to pressure Democrats, GOP leaders also included a long-delayed, six-year renewal of the health insurance program for children of low-income families. The overall measure would fund the government through Feb. 16 and was well received by most GOP lawmakers when Ryan proposed it Tuesday.

But some conservatives have yet to be won over.

“At what point do you quit kicking the can down the road and passing just another CR in hopes that things get better in a few weeks,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a leader of the chamber’s most conservative faction.

Even if the spending measure succeeds in the House, Republicans would still need at least nine Democratic votes to push it through the Senate, which the GOP controls 51-49. Democrats seeking leverage are forcing that bill to require 60 votes for passage.

When the Senate approved a similar short-term spending bill in December, 17 Democrats plus Maine independent Angus King voted to keep the government open. Seven of those Democrats face re-election in November in states Trump won—including West Virginia, North Dakota and Montana, which have small numbers of minority voters.

Democrats voting against that December bill included some senators—including Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California—who might seek the presidency in 2020 and would love support from their party’s liberal voters.

Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, late last year but gave Congress until March 5 to pass legislation extending the initiative created by Obama. It has protected around 800,000 young immigrants from deportation.


Ryan caught between Freedom Caucus, Democrats on stopgap funding measure

WASHINGTON

Likely short of the votes he needs to pass a stopgap government funding bill through his chamber by Friday, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., spent Wednesday morning railing against Democrats—whose votes he might need to court.

A four-week continuing resolution that GOP leaders unveiled Tuesday night faces opposition from members of the House Freedom Caucus who want immediate action to increase defense spending and Democrats who want a resolution this week on the status of young documented immigrants known as Dreamers.

While Ryan swatted off a question about whether he has the Republican votes to pass a CR, saying GOP leaders haven’t whipped it yet, he is likely to find he’ll need to negotiate with the Freedom Caucus or with Democrats.

The speaker’s comments during a Wednesday morning news conference repeatedly criticizing Democrats for threatening to oppose the CR over immigration suggest he’s unlikely to reach out to the latter.

“It’s baffling to me that Democrats would be willing to block funding for our military over unrelated issues,” Ryan said.

He also said it was “unconscionable” Democrats would oppose funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, six years of which is included in the CR.

Democrats are also preventing agreement on raising the sequestration spending caps needed to write a fiscal 2018 omnibus spending measure instead of further stopgap funding bills, Ryan suggested.

“I think the caps deal is very, very close, and I think the Democrats are holding out on the caps deal over these DACA negotiations,” he said.

Holding up government funding “for deadlines that don’t even exist this Friday, that makes no sense to me,” he added.

The Trump administration supports the House Republican-crafted spending bill aimed at averting a government shutdown by week’s end, a White House official told Roll Call.

So far, House Democrats are united in opposition to the four-week CR because it fails to address several of their priorities, including but not limited to the DACA situation, caucus leaders said Wednesday.

To garner large-scale Democratic support, the stopgap measure would need to be more reflective of Democratic “values,” Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley said. While Democrats support funding for CHIP that was included in the CR, “we believe that it’s woefully lacking in other issues,” the New York Democrat said.

Those other issues include funding for community health centers, opioid abuse prevention and disaster relief, in addition to a legislative replacement for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Crowley said.

“Absent that, it will not have the support of the Democratic caucus,” he said.

Rep. Linda Sanchez, the caucus vice chairwoman, said Democrats are “overwhelmingly united” in their opposition to the CR but said no one is forcing members to reach that conclusion.

“Nobody is directing members,” the California Democrat said. “Members are making choices on what’s best for their districts.”

Ryan said Republicans are operating under a March 5 deadline for passing an immigration deal, as that is when the DACA program would end.

The bipartisan, bicameral talks among congressional leaders “speak to the fact” that Republicans want a solution on DACA, he said, calling their push for a more comprehensive deal “perfectly reasonable.”

Trump has called for a DACA fix to include border security measures, including funding for a wall along the southern border, and an end to the diversity visa lottery program and extended family visas.

“The president is being completely rational” in his demands for dealing with the root cause of the DACA issue, and that’s lax border security and enforcement of immigration laws, Ryan said.

“We will not bring a DACA bill that the president won’t support,” Ryan said. “What point would that be?”


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Basketball for a buck: Boys & Girls Club hopes to draw teens with affordable hoops program

JANESVILLE

Teenagers can buy a lot of things with $1.

A soda.

A candy bar.

A cheap toy.

A pack of gum.

The Boys & Girls Club of Janesville hopes teens instead spend their money on something more positive that can affect their lives long term: a $1 basketball league.

The club hosted the first session of its evening youth basketball league Tuesday night. Organized and coached by UW-Rock County basketball players, the league teaches participants the fundamentals of the game and lets them compete.

Several basketball leagues operate in the area, but they can be too expensive for some families and have transportation requirements that some can’t meet. The club’s league allows kids to play locally for an affordable price, said Sara Stinski, club executive director.

“We’re worried they (teenagers) don’t have enough evening options,” she said. “We know basketball is something that’s really popular, and we’re hearing it’s creating a nice buzz.”

Club members can play for free. Money from nonmembers—$1 per game or practice—goes toward membership. When participants have paid for 10 basketball nights, they’re halfway toward paying for a membership, which would allow them to participate in other activities, Stinski said.

The membership and league dues contribute little to the club’s bottom line, but requiring kids to pay to play gives them a sense of pride about belonging to the club or league, she said.

About a decade ago, the club hosted several sports leagues. Those died away because of the proximity of the YMCA, but the club is trying to return to those days, Stinski said.

Club leaders have noticed that few teenagers participate in regular activities. Many of the club’s teens enjoy video games, making videos and other creative pursuits rather than sports activities, Stinski said.

“This is just making sure we’re providing lots of variety of activities, so we make sure we’re getting some new faces in the club,” she said.

The basketball league wouldn’t be possible without help. David Harper, a UW-Rock County student and basketball player, talked to club officials about it, and Harper decided to volunteer to coach the kids.

Soon all of the UW-Rock County basketball players—up to a dozen of them—decided to volunteer, too. The students will teach players about teamwork, which is Harper’s favorite part of the sport, he said.

“I love being part of a team. I love the camaraderie of it,” Harper said. “It makes the game more fun.”

They’ll also teach basic skills, such as dribbling, passing and shooting.

“There’s nothing worse than playing basketball and wanting to win, and the person on your team can’t make a layup,” Harper said.

During the second half of the basketball league, teens will face off in an informal tournament, Stinski said.

Stinski is elated UW-Rock County student-athletes are donating their time to help the community’s younger residents. College-focused students who are generous with their time are the type of role models the club wants for its teenagers, she said.

“We were really excited when the team and David reached out to us, and we’re really grateful for the time that they’re giving the club,” she said. “They’re amazing guys, and we’re so grateful to them for finding a way to pay it forward.”


Paul Ryan


Gazette at a Glance for Jan. 18, 2018

Local • 3A, 6A

2017 strong for corn, beans

Production of the state’s two biggest field crops dipped in 2017, but the decrease wasn’t as large as some expected. The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its final 2017 crop production report last week. Corn and soybeans maintained strong yields despite falling from record-setting levels in 2016.

Marine, Janesville native slain

A Janesville native serving with the U.S. Marines in California has died. His father posted on Facebook the death was the result of a stabbing, which the Marines have not confirmed. The deceased is 18-year-old Pfc. Ethan Barclay-Weberpal, a spokesman for U.S. Marine Corps Training Command at Camp Pendleton confirmed in an email Wednesday.

Nation/World • 6B-7B

Neighbors recall odd family

A pattern of thinking emerged over years among neighbors of the David and Louise Turpin family that the Turpin clan was “kind of strange” but that there was nothing so sinister as to alert authorities. When police responded to a 911 call placed by the couple’s 17-year-old daughter, they discovered the grim truth.

Apple plans new campus

Apple is planning to build a new corporate campus and hire 20,000 U.S. workers in an expansion driven in part by a tax cut that will enable the iPhone maker to bring an estimated $245 billion back to its home country. The pledge announced Wednesday comes less than a month after Congress approved a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. tax code championed by President Donald Trump that will increase corporate profits.


Democrat's upset in Wisconsin race sparks hope elsewhere

MADISON

A small-town medical examiner has given Democrats across the country another shot of hope heading into the fall election by upsetting a Republican legislator in a conservative Wisconsin state Senate district.

Patty Schachtner’s victory Tuesday over state Rep. Adam Jarchow marks the 34th legislative seat that has flipped from Republican to Democrat nationwide since President Donald Trump took office last year, according to the national Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, signaling backlash against Trump could fuel a Democratic wave in November.

Gov. Scott Walker, who is running for a third term in November, sounded a warning, firing a flurry of tweets late Tuesday urging Republicans to “wake up.”

He told reporters Wednesday in Milwaukee that dissatisfaction with national politics influenced Schachtner’s win. He stopped just short of blaming Trump or GOP congressional members.

“Washington and Wisconsin are two very different places,” Walker said. “I think people look at Washington and think there’s not as much getting done as maybe some people had hoped.”

Democrats have already made gains elsewhere, including picking up 15 seats in the Virginia state House in November and in Alabama, where Doug Jones captured a U.S. Senate seat last month.

In the past two weeks, high-profile Republicans passed up Senate races in North Dakota and Minnesota that were thought to be winnable seats. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty cited the tough outlook as one reason for skipping a run to replace former Democratic Sen. Al Franken.

Wisconsin’s Walker has refused to call a special election for another open state Senate seat, last held by a Republican, meaning it will remain vacant all year until a replacement is selected in the fall.

Schachtner’s win is especially notable in Wisconsin, where Democratic numbers are at their lowest since 1971 in the state Senate. Even with the victory, the GOP still holds an 18-14 edge in the Senate.

The district in northwestern Wisconsin—a mix of rural areas, small towns and two larger college towns just across the St. Croix River from Minnesota’s Twin Cities—has trended deeply Republican for years.

Mitt Romney won it by 6 points in 2012 and Trump won it by 17 points in 2016. Former Republican Rep. Sheila Harsdorf held the seat from 2001 until November when she resigned to become Walker’s agriculture secretary.

Schachtner was the clear underdog, with a bio that included serving as the St. Croix County medical examiner and starring in a 2006 “Wife Swap” episode in which she trades families with a modeling agency manager.

Jarchow is a political veteran in the middle of his third state Assembly and conservative outside groups rallied behind him. Americans for Prosperity and the Republican State Leadership Committee both ran ads supporting Jarchow. Republican state Sen. Leah Vukmir, who is running for U.S. Senate, traveled to the district to campaign for him.

Schachtner won by 11 points.

“Thanks to you, we have sparked hope throughout Wisconsin and the nation,” Schachtner said in a statement to her supporters.

Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Martha Laning was more effusive, posting on Facebook following Schachtner’s win that a “change is coming!!!”

In a statement, the party said the result shows a national Democratic wave is swelling, fueled by voter anger toward Trump and his allies.