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Politics & Government

Spotlight On Wisconsin Senators Intensifies As COVID-19 Relief Bill Advances In Congress

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Chip Somodevilla
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Getty Images
A temporary security fence topped with concertina razor wire surrounds the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 17 in Washington, DC. The fence was erected after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package passed the House of Representatives over the weekend with the backing of all three Wisconsin House Democrats, and none of the state's five Republican Representatives.

The spotlight this week, and maybe next, will be on the U.S. Senate. Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin is expected to vote for the measure, while it's predicted Republican Ron Johnson will oppose it.

That's despite the efforts of liberal groups who have made the COVID-19 legislation part of their ongoing campaign to defeat Johnson in next year's elections, get him to live up to a 2016 promise to make this his last term or resign soon. 

The coalition Opportunity Wisconsin held on online forum late last week, with several people speaking in favor of the COVID-19 bill's key components. Those include  payments of up to $1,400 for eligible individuals and couples, an expansion and extension of supplemental unemployment benefits and an increase to the child tax credit. As NPR has reported, the bill also has $25 billion for emergency rental assistance and an expanded tax credit for low-income workers without children.

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Credit Screenshot
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Child care center operator Tricia Peterson speaks during an Opportunity Wisconsin forum on Feb. 25.

Tricia Peterson runs a child care center northwest of Milwaukee in Juneau. She said the pandemic has financially hurt her business, and many families that send their kids there. Her message to Senator Johnson: "Listening to your constituents. I think that's huge and actually getting people from all different sectors of the state to understand. Obviously the sector he's listening to isn't the right one."

Milwaukee County resident and longtime GOP activist John Savage said he just saw Johnson Friday night when the senator spoke to county Republicans in Glendale. On Saturday morning, prior to another GOP event, Savage said the $1,400 payments are the only good part of the President's COVID-19 relief bill.

"But the rest of it is all just pork and nonsense!” Savage exclaimed.

He said Johnson has been an excellent senator and hopes the incumbent stays in office a long time. 

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Credit Chuck Quirmbach
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Milwaukee County Republicans gathered for their annual caucus on Feb. 27, inside the Bavarian Bierhaus in Glendale.

But Johnson's other doings of late — continuing to challenge whether the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol was an “armed” insurrection — may keep the heat on the senator for some time to come. 

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