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U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin meets with local law enforcement and makes a stop in Viroqua

VIROQUA, Wis. – U.S Senator Tammy Baldwin made a stop at the Noble Rind Cheese Shop in Viroqua on Thursday, March 28 where she spoke to a crowded room of people who came out to hear her message. As the campaign season gets into full swing, Baldwin made stops in several communities throughout Wisconsin over the last several days on what she is calling her “Dairyland Tour”.

Baldwin said now that she knows who her opponent is, she can focus her message more clearly, and went on to call her opponent Eric Hovde a “California bank owner”. Baldwin and the Democrats have criticized the pick because Hovde owns a home and lives in California, but has his roots in Wisconsin. Hovde’s grandfather founded a real estate business near Madison that he and his family now run. He is CEO of Sunwest Bank, has appeared in television commercials for them that airs out west, and owns a $7 million estate in Laguna Beach, California, in addition to his property in Madison.

“That is partly why they recruited him,” said Baldwin. “So they wouldn’t have to raise the money for him, and he can simply write the check. He announced his candidacy last month and within days launched campaign advertising statewide. Wrote a $3,000,000 check for that first few weeks right out of his own checkbook.”

But Baldwin then turned her attention to what she called success stories on a range of issues.

“But I would suggest to you that there’s another reason why they’re after me as a U.S. Senator,” said Baldwin. “It’s because I am someone who has never been afraid to stand up to powerful interests. And you know what? Sometimes I win. Sometimes we win, and I want to tell you a few of those stories.”

Healthcare

Baldwin went on to tell the story she has told many times about how she was raised by her maternal grandparents because her mother had her at 19-years-old, was getting divorced and struggled with mental health and addiction. Baldwin said her experience getting seriously ill at nine-years old and watching her grandparents struggle because she was not covered under their health insurance motivated her to tackle the issue later in life. She spent three months in the hospital and from then on insurance companies would deny her coverage until she was old enough to enter the workforce.

“No one would insure me because they could do that back then,” said Baldwin. “They could say no we aren’t going to cover you.”

Baldwin said that was her “fire in the belly” and many years later when she was in Congress she was on the committee to help write the Affordable Care Act. Baldwin said the lobbyists for the big health insurance companies were pressuring them to not pass the bill. But she said they made sure the bill did not allow companies to tell people they won’t cover them for illnesses like the one she had, or because they had diabetes, or charge women more because they might get pregnant.

Baldwin said it was her amendment to the bill that changed the law to allow children to stay on their parent’s health insurance until they are 26-years-old.

“And when that bill became law, overnight millions of young people who hadn’t had insurance, for the first time got it,” said Baldwin. “You can stand up to those powerful interests and win.”

Drug pricing

Baldwin said she worked with Senator Bernie Sanders to investigate drug pricing and found that many drugs cost up to 10 times more in the U.S. than in other countries. Baldwin said the pharmaceutical companies set the list price.

“Two years ago, we passed the Inflation Reduction Act,” said Baldwin. “And now Medicare is negotiating with those companies for the first time to bring down the cost of lifesaving medications.”

Baldwin said the bill forces negotiation on 10 drugs for various things like cancer, hypertension, and diabetes.

“Following that will be 10 more,” said Baldwin. “And then 10 more. I would like it to be a hundred more.”

Baldwin said the bill also capped the cost of insulin at $35 and called it a “game changer” for people with diabetes. Baldwin said they recently scored another victory for asthma inhalers that cost anywhere from $250 and $650 per inhaler in the U.S. And many people need one every month. Baldwin said the same inhaler in Europe costs between $5 and $55. So, she and Senator Sanders asked why the price difference and why there is no competition to lower the cost?

After asking all those questions one of the four manufacturers voluntarily lowered the cost to $35 each. And a short time later another followed suit, and now a third company has committed to capping the price at $35.

“When you stand up to these powerful companies,” said Baldwin. “You can win.”

Made in America

Baldwin said Wisconsin is known for making things, but trade policies have forced many jobs overseas. Baldwin said a company may choose to locate their manufacturing overseas because they have no minimum wage or labor standards, or they may even have forced labor, or weak environmental standards.

“I consider myself as the champion in the United States Senate of buy American policy,” said Baldwin. “I am not telling private industry what to do but when they are spending tax dollars I would prefer they are supporting U.S. workers and U.S. small businesses whenever possible.”

Baldwin said in the past she was able to get temporary buy American policies in place but under the Biden Administration she has been able to get permanent legislation in place to require companies using tax dollars to buy American. 

Baldwin said the Infrastructure Bill, the Chips and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act all have buy America provisions.

She cited a recent example in the Infrastructure Bill that is putting money into broadband expansion. Baldwin said the Sec. of Commerce approached an overseas company that made apiece of equipment that is vital to broadband expansion and said they could not buy from them because they did not do manufacturing the United States. Baldwin said the company found a way to license their equipment to a Kenosha company and now 200-400 new jobs are coming to Wisconsin.

Reproductive rights

Baldwin also spent some time talking about what she called “extremists” who she said “plotted for years on how to overturn Roe vs. Wade.”

“I think of America as a country that has recognized rights and freedoms and we’re always going in the forward direction,” said Baldwin. “And when the Dobbs decision came out stripping away the rights of half of Americans, so they have fewer rights than their parents and grandparents, it’s a gut punch for everybody.”

Baldwin said her fear is the trend is toward rolling back more rights.

“But we’re not just seeing it with regard to the Dobbs decision,” said Baldwin “We’re seeing books being banned, we’re seeing curriculum being altered.”

Baldwin said the Dobbs Supreme Court ruling may also put in jeopardy other long stand rights because it seemed to be saying there is no right to privacy with certain issues because it is not in the constitution.

“So, it makes you think about what other cases were decided based on a right to privacy as well,” said Baldwin. “Those cases include Loving vs Virginia. The case that struck down a Virginia statute that criminalized interracial marriage. It includes cases like Griswold vs Connecticut. The right to be able to access contraception. It includes cases like the more recent Obergefell case which allows same-sex couples to have marriages recognized. So, if they decided that there wasn’t a right to privacy, all those other cases were in jeopardy.”

Baldwin said that is why she wrote and helped pass the Respect for Marriage Act.

“So, the Respect for Marriage Act,” said Baldwin. “The way I would have you understand that is that it was like an insurance policy. That should a future Supreme Court overturn the loving vs. Virginia case regarding interracial marriage or overturn the Obergefell case relating to same-sex marriage, that this bill, the Respect for Marriage Act would say that your legally recognized marriage prospectively, and retroactively, would be recognized by the federal government and in all 50 states.”

Baldwin said the bill getting passed is an example of how people can come together over even very divided issues.

“When we introduced the bill in the wake of Obergefell I was told ‘you don’t think you can actually pass that do you?’” said Baldwin. “And I said, just you watch.”

Baldwin said because of the filibuster rules in the Senate every bill needs 60 votes and the Senate was evenly divided.

“I literally for weeks and weeks and weeks talked to one Republican after another,” said Baldwin. “And we figured out they had loved ones that were impacted by this. They went to church with people who were impacted by this. They had staff members who were impacted by this. And one by one. Now I needed 60, but nobody wants to be identified as the deciding vote for something. So, in the and we got 12 Republicans to sign on and we passed the Respect for Marriage Act and we stood up to those extremists.”

Baldwin said she is attempting to do the same with women’s reproductive rights and has authored the Women’s Health Protection Act that would restore reproductive rights in states like Wisconsin, codify Roe vs. Wade, and not allow states to take those rights away.

Contrasts with her opponent

Baldwin contrasted her position on issues with her Republican opponent Eric Hovde who she said stated when he ran for office in 2012 that he was against abortion rights, is committed to overturning the Affordable Care Act, has advocated for a higher retirement age, and has endorsed limiting Social Security.

Protestors

The Senator did face some opposition from those who met her in Viroqua. A group of protestors opposed to U.S. support of Israel and their actions in the Gaza Strip gathered on the street outside of her appearance holding signs, and some spoke up on the issue inside the venue. One man asked her about her support of the Israeli actions and said several times it was a genocide. Baldwin responded to the man by saying “I do not agree with that word”, then went on to say there does need to be more done to protect civilian Palestinians and deliver more humanitarian aid.

Baldwin also referred people to her recent actions on the issue including calling for a two-state solution and supporting a permanent ceasefire if all sides can agree to terms. She said she also recently wrote to President Biden urging his administration to establish a framework for U.S. recognition of a non-militarized Palestinian state.

La Crosse stop to meet with Western Wisconsin law enforcement and public safety leaders on the fentanyl epidemic

Before stopping in Viroqua Senator Baldwin with Western Wisconsin law enforcement, first responders, and community leaders to discuss efforts to address the fentanyl and opioid epidemic. During the meeting, Senator Baldwin heard from local leaders about the impacts of fentanyl and discussed her work to crack down on Chinese chemical suppliers, invest in border security and technology, and support local communities in their prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts. 

Senator Baldwin was joined by City of La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds, Chief of Police Shawn Kudron, Fire Chief Jeff Schott, Community Risk Educator Molly McCormick, La Crosse County Sheriff John Siegel, Gundersen Health Regional EMS Director Dr. Christopher Eberlein, Town of Campbell Fire Captain Beth Lubinski, City of Onalaska Administrator Rick Niemeier, City of Hillsboro Administrator Josh Finch, City of Hillsboro Chief of Police Patrick Clark, and Village of Ontario Chief of Police Dave Rynes – Contributed photo

In a written statement from her office Baldwin said “Today in La Crosse, I was able to meet with law enforcement and public safety leaders who are at the forefront of fighting the fentanyl crisis in Western Wisconsin,” said Senator Baldwin. “This crisis knows no bounds, impacting communities of all sizes, from rural to urban, across Wisconsin. I’m proud to support our law enforcement and first responders in this fight, and our discussion today provided an opportunity make sure they have the tools and resources they need to save lives.”

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin meets with local law enforcement and public safety officials in La Crosse – Contributed photo

Since 2019, fentanyl overdoses have been the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18-45, and in 2022, Wisconsin experienced over 1,400 opioid-related deaths. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Baldwin crafted and voted for legislation to provide needed investments to help secure our border, combat the flow of fentanyl, and deliver resources to Wisconsin communities to help address the opioid epidemic. Senator Baldwin is also working to pass the FEND Off Fentanyl Act to crack down on the chemical suppliers in China and cartels in Mexico to disrupt the fentanyl supply chain and is fighting to close a trade loophole that is allowing China and other countries to bring illicit drugs like fentanyl into the country. Baldwin voted for, and is continuing to advocate for the passage of, a bipartisan package to invest in screening technology and border patrol agents to stop fentanyl from coming across the Southwest border.  

Earlier this month, Senator Baldwin convened a roundtable discussion with Southeastern Wisconsin law enforcement and public safety leaders on the fentanyl and opioid crisis. To support law enforcement and first responders, Senator Baldwin is leading the Safe Response Act to train first responders on how to use life-saving overdose reversal drugs, like naloxone. Senator Baldwin’s Safe Response Act has garnered strong support from local, state, and national law enforcement leaders, including from attendees at the Western and Southeastern Wisconsin convenings.

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