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Feingold still believes in bipartisanship

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Stacy Vogel
February 10, 2008
— Bipartisanship has taken a beating in the last few years, but Sen. Russ Feingold still believes it’s necessary, he said.

“I believe in it so much that the Republican nominee’s biggest problem is that he’s got my name attached to him,” he joked Saturday morning at the Janesville Municipal Building.


About 25 Rock County residents turned out to speak to the Democratic senator and Janesville native.


Feingold has been visiting each of the state’s 72 counties once a year since he took office 15 years ago. Each resident was able to discuss one issue with the senator during Saturday’s session, ranging from gas mileage standards to loan forgiveness for veterinarians.


The audience’s concerns mirrored the major political issues of the country: Speakers mentioned health care, education, the economy and the war in Iraq.


There was Tia Johnson, 38, Beloit, who for the past four years has stayed home with her children but had to take a job this year as a substitute teacher to make ends meet. She urged Feingold to push for smaller class sizes.


Or Larry Harding, 57, Hanover, whose brother Floyd stepped on a land mine in Vietnam and now might lose some of his veterans benefits.


Feingold fiercely criticized the Bush administration, especially regarding the war in Iraq and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is up for renewal next week.


But he also emphasized his work with Republican presidential nominee John McCain, calling their campaign finance reform law “the most famous bipartisan bill in the last 25 years.”


He described five more initiatives he is working on with Republicans:


-- Health care. Feingold is working with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, on a pilot program that would set up universal health care in three to five states, he said.


-- No Child Left Behind.


“I think this bill is a real mess,” Feingold said. “This thing needs to be changed, or we’re just going to have people teaching to the test.”


-- Public campaign funding. The public finance laws are outdated, Feingold said. In the past, elections weren’t about which candidate could raise more money, he said.


-- Clean water.


“The Clean Water Act has been the key to cleaning up the waters of this country for all these years … but a couple of recent Supreme Court decisions have really weakened that authority,” Feingold said.


-- The “Janesville line-item veto.” In April, Feingold introduced a bill with Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, also a Janesville native, to curb so-called “pork-barrel” spending.


The legislation would allow the president to identify spending tucked into a bill that doesn’t relate to the main purpose of the bill. He would then send those sections of the bill back to Congress for a separate vote.



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