Representative Baldwin discusses U.S. Senate race while “On the Issues”

Tammy Baldwin. Photo by Martina Ibanez/

U.S. Senate candidate and current House Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) talked health care, the debt crisis and her campaign yesterday when she went “On the Issues” with Mike Gousha.

Students, staff and community members gathered at Eckstein Hall to discuss Baldwin’s campaign for current Senator Herb Kohl’s seat, as well as issues such as national security and Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget.

Gousha opened the discussion by asking Baldwin why she was inspired to run for the U.S. Senate and leave her current, “safe” district, the solidly Democrat-leaning Dane County.

“I decided to get into the race for a number of reasons,” Baldwin said. “Middle-class families are struggling, and people are making big sacrifices. I am unafraid to stand up to interests for middle-class families, and they need a champion right now.”

While Baldwin is the only Democrat running for the seat, she faces multiple opponents from the Republican field, including Speaker of the Assembly Jeff Fitzgerald, former House representative and gubernatorial candidate Mark Neumann and former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

“There’s quite the GOP food fight going on on the other side,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin continued to highlight her achievements in standing up to interests and fighting for her constituents, including her amendment to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act that allowed people to stay under their parents’ insurance coverage until age 26.

Gousha brought up the deliberations being held by the U.S. Supreme Court about the Affordable Care Act and its constitutionality, asking what steps Baldwin would take to start from the ground up on health care reform should the law be declared unconstitutional.

“I had exposure at a young age to how important health care programs are,” she said. “I would continue to fight for the most complete health care coverage.”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who represents Wisconsin’s first congressional district and chairs the House Budget Committee, recently proposed a budget plan that has received much scrutiny from the president and other Democrats.

“Ryan argues that we face a ‘debt crisis that is detrimental to the country,’” Gousha said. “He’s wondering, ‘Where are the Democrats on this?’”

Baldwin said that controlling the debt crisis could be done by ending the war in Afghanistan and cutting extraneous spending.

“What I find in the Ryan budget is that he goes after education, infrastructure and things that continue to pay off over generations,” she said.

However, she added there is room for compromise and cooperation in talks about the budget crisis.

“I think that there is a lot of bipartisan territory for closing tax loopholes and improving the system,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin has made headlines by introducing the “Buffett Rule,” which would call for those making a million dollars or more a year to pay a higher tax rate. The term was coined by billionaire Warren Buffett, who noted that he paid a lower tax rate than his secretary in an August 2011 New York Times editorial.

“I think if some more members of the Congress could take a look at what happens when we work together, (the Buffett rule) could see some bipartisan support,” she said.

Gousha asked Baldwin what being a “first” would mean for her and Congress. If Baldwin were to win the race for U.S. Senate, she would be both Wisconsin’s first female U.S. Senator and the first openly gay member of the Senate.

“I have always been open and honest about who I am,” Baldwin said. “Someone who serves in Congress brings their life experience with them. However, I think people will be focusing on the economy at the polls during this election.”

Audience member Justin Singleton said that he was thankful for Baldwin’s service and what she represents for members of the gay community.

“Tammy Baldwin has been a fighter for members of the LGBT community and for progress,” he said.

Another audience member asked Baldwin how she plans to face an electorate that recently elected Sen. Ron Johnson, one of the more conservative members of the Senate.

“I think there will be a different group of voters coming out in this election,” she said. “November 2012 will be very different than in November 2008 or 2010.”