U.S. Senate candidates' talking points show divergent opinions

Liberal and conservative candidates running in the election to succeed departing U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl were in Eau Claire this week to tout their visions for the nation.

Liberal and conservative candidates running in the election to succeed departing U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl were in Eau Claire this week to tout their visions for the nation.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Madison, the sole announced Democrat running in the November election, was at UW-Eau Claire Wednesday, while former Congressman Mark Neumann of Nashotah, who is in a field of Republicans, met Tuesday with the Leader-Telegram's Editorial Board.

During their visits, Neumann emphasized his plan to cut the nation's debt, while Baldwin spoke of the need for affordable education and her support for the middle class.

"Spending on education is not spending, it's investing," Baldwin told about 50 students at UW-Eau Claire's Davies Center, explaining she supports plans to keep interest rates for Stafford student loans from doubling, as they are set to do in July.

Baldwin said she proposed a plan that would keep student loan rates at current levels, 3.4 percent, and would pay for it by instituting the "Buffet Rule" -- which would require those making $1 million or more annually to pay a minimum 30 percent tax rate on all of their income.


While Democrats and Republicans in Congress agree student loan rates shouldn't increase, they're currently locked in an election-year debate regarding how to pay the $5.9 billion it would cost to keep loan rates at the current level.

Baldwin said keeping higher education affordable is necessary to ensure America stays competitive in the increasingly global marketplace.

Neumann, meanwhile, focused largely on his plan to eliminate the nation's debt.

He has written a plan that aims to balance the federal budget in five years and pay off the nation's debt in 30 years.

"It's not impossible to do. It's not beyond conception," Neumann said.

Neumann's plan calls for deep cuts or elimination of 150 federal programs and significant spending reductions while not raising taxes.

"Washington does not have a revenue problem," said Neumann, who was in Congress from 1995 to 1999.

Baldwin said the nation's debt is a serious issue and that she'll push for a solution that includes a mix of spending cuts and tax increases.


Baldwin said her campaign is about helping the middle class economically. As an example of her efforts in Congress, she pointed to legislation she co-introduced, the CHEATS Act (China Hurts Economic Advancement Through Subsidies), which would allow the Commerce Department to place tariffs on subsidized imports from China, which Baldwin said hurt Wisconsin's paper industry.

Neumann -- who's vying in the Republican primary against state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, Eric Hovde, George Lucia, John Schiess and former Gov. Tommy Thompson -- said he's the most conservative among the field, but added he believes his budget plan will appeal to moderate voters too.

Baldwin, considered one of the more liberal members of Congress, said she has worked to be bipartisan, and points to the CHEATS Act, which was co-introduced with Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood.

Neumann has been backed by high-profile Tea Party Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

Baldwin has Kohl's endorsement, who shared the stage with her Tuesday.

"I like to say, 'She's everything like me you like and more,' " Kohl said.

Swedien can be reached at 715-833-9214, 800-236-7077 or .

(c)2012 the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.)


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