• WisPolitics

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

 8:06 AM 

Feingold calls on Johnson to take position on Pacific trade deal

Dem Russ Feingold Monday challenged Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson to take a position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, saying he's had long enough to decide.

Johnson's campaign has called Feingold's opposition to the trade pact a knee-jerk reaction, saying the former senator hadn't even reviewed the deal before announcing last spring he opposed it.

But Feingold said Monday he first saw a draft posted to the Internet last March, reviewed that thoroughly and then decided to oppose the "rip off" of a deal. He questioned whether Johnson has reviewed the document, which was formally released in November, saying there's no evidence he's looked at it.

"It's time for him to take a position. Four months is long enough," Feingold told reporters after a speech to the Wisconsin State Council of Machinists Spring Conference. "If you've got time to file lawsuits all the time about the Affordable Care Act, you ought to have time to work on something that the people of Wisconsin are really concerned about, and that's job loss."

Johnson spokesman Brian Reisinger said the senator is doing the "hard work of reaching out to affected constituents" before making a decision on "this complicated agreement."

"Senator Feingold only knows how to grow government, which is why he decided months ago to try for cheap political points by condemning this deal before he'd even read it," Reisinger said, adding about Johnson, "He believes the job of a senator is to do his homework and put facts ahead of rhetoric or politics."

Feingold also said the country needs to change tax code language that encourages companies to move their headquarters overseas, but he didn't embrace Hillary Clinton's criticism of Johnson Controls.

The publicly traded company announced it was merging with Tyco and would move the merged companies' headquarters to Ireland.

Feingold said he backs legislation by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to clarify what percentage of a company's operations would have to be based in a foreign country "to get away with this."

Still, he called Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls a "great company."

Clinton started a TV ad earlier this month slamming the company's move.

"The answer isn't demonizing a company," Feingold said. "The answer is changing the law in a way that would make sense."

In other comments to reporters, Feingold:

*called the Republican Party a "mess" with the ongoing turmoil over front-runner Donald Trump and questioned why Johnson hasn't taken a stronger position on the billionaire's status as the front-runner.

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., posted to Facebook yesterday that he can't support Trump for president and would likely look for a third candidate if the businessman wins the GOP nomination. Congressman Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood, also has denounced Trump.

During an appearance on Charlie Sykes' radio show Monday, Johnson was asked about Sasse's position. Johnson had said earlier in the segment that he was praying for a GOP nominee that has "integrity, intelligence, ideas and courage." He said something similar when Sykes asked him about Sasse's announcement.

"I'm praying, let's see how the process plays out," he said. "Charlie, we have such enormous problems facing this nation. I don't like demagoguery on any side of the political spectrum, and we have it across the political spectrum."

Republicans, meanwhile, have pushed Feingold to publicly proclaim his candidate in the Dem presidential primary. He again said he'll support the Dem nominee, adding both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders would make a good candidate.

"I've said that I'll support whoever the Democratic nominee is," Feingold said. "I don't know why Sen. Johnson is unable to make the same statement. I'm happy with our candidates, and I think they've done an admirable, mature job of talking about the issues."

*said he expects the race with Johnson to be close despite several surveys from the Marquette Law School that have him up on the incumbent by double digits.

"I do not take those kinds of numbers seriously," Feingold said. "I'm working as hard as I've ever worked in my life because so much is at stake."

Listen to Feingold's Q&A with reporters:

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