Todays word on the state of our state, our nation, and the world.
Friday, 29 May 2015 11:00 AM
By John Gizzi
Barely six months after he assumed the U.S. House seat held for a quarter-century by moderate Rep. Tom Petri, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman is fast demonstrating that he’s no Tom Petri.
In a recent interview with Newsmax, Grothman, a 59-year-old bachelor, attorney and former state legislator, underscored his long-standing conservative stands on such issues as abortion ("Pro-life with the one exception of saving the life of a mother, period") and welfare benefits ("This whole system is way too generous").
Grothman raised eyebrows during a Republican primary debate in July by saying he would be "insulted" if people felt he was like Petri, a member of the centrist Republican House caucus known as the "Tuesday Group."
"Great countries collapse from within," the freshman lawmaker told us. "Our overly generous welfare system, our out-of-control government spending, and perhaps most threatening of all, our out-of-control handling of illegal immigration will sink our economy and our country as well. Unless we do something, that is."
By "doing something," Grothman explained, he means "we’ve got to stop approving everyone who wants to come into the country for any reason at all. Reform of immigration starts with border security, I agree, but there has to be much more than that: vetting anyone from another country who wants to come to the U.S. for any reason whatsoever. And it also means tightening up just who receives welfare."
He added that "if we simply enforce the current laws on the books dealing with citizenship and illegal immigration, we’re halfway home. I realize we need more immigrants to do particular work, but there must be guidelines set as to who can come into the U.S. for a particular profession."
Never shy about criticizing fellow Republicans, Grothman said the current problem the U.S. faces with illegal immigration "is not just a partisan problem. Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton — they are to blame for letting this problem get to where it is now."
A backer of his state’s Gov. Scott Walker for the Republican presidential nomination ("He’ll make a great president!"), Grothman also emphasized that "we cannot afford another Republican like George W. Bush, who didn’t express the views on immigration of those who elected him twice."
On the seemingly endless controversy surrounding Obamacare, Grothman freely seconds the view of fellow Wisconsin Republican and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan that "President Obama is not going to sign anything that would undo legislation known as Obamacare."
Grothman added: "I campaigned on and voted for repeal. But I’m not going to be able to change presidents. Not until January of 2017, anyway."
But "if we can document abuses in the system and those abuses are particularly abusive, then the president might sign something that deals with this."
For now, he supports "free market-based alternatives" to Obamacare, such as the Patient Freedom Act offered by Louisiana’s Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy and Rep. Ralph Abraham, both of whom are physicians.
One area where Grothman parts company with many fellow House conservatives is on extending the debt ceiling to keep government running. "I think the debt is going to have to be extended. But it’s bad to do this without doing something to deal with the debt. That is why this Congress, sooner or later, will have to address entitlement reform, while continuing to protect Medicare and Social Security for future generations."
Wisconsin’s ‘Horton the Elephant’
A graduate of Homestead High School in Mequon, Wisconsin, and of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and its law school, Grothman won his first race for office in a special election for the state Assembly in 1993.
A decade later, he stunned pundits and pols on all sides by launching a primary challenge to then-State Senate Majority Leader Mary Panzer. Branding Panzer a moderate and proudly trumpeting his own good-as-Goldwater record in the Assembly, Panzer rolled up an eyebrow-raising 79 percent of the vote against the incumbent.
"You have to remember that Glenn has a solidly conservative record on just about everything and has his own memorable way of articulating it," veteran Wisconsin GOP consultant Scott Becher told Newsmax. "He’s Wisconsin’s own version of Dr. Seuss’ Horton the Elephant, who ‘meant what I said and said what I meant.’"
In the modern Wisconsin Republican Party, it is rare that incumbent members of Congress are seriously challenged for renomination. To find a successful challenge, one has to go back to 1974, when then-state legislator and future U.S. Sen. Bob Kasten scored a primary victory over 10-term Rep. Glenn Davis.
That didn’t discourage Grothman. True to form, he announced in 2013 that he would challenge veteran Rep. Petri, then 73, and make an issue of the veteran congressman’s less-than-conservative votes.
After insisting for weeks he would run again, Petri suddenly switched gears and announced his retirement. In the August primary, Grothman was declared the winner over three opponents, including two fellow legislators, by a margin of 219 votes.
He handily won in November, although outgoing Rep. Petri refused to endorse him.
As to what is next for freshman Rep. Grothman, that is uncertain. But as a member of the Budget, the Education and the Workforce, and the Oversight and Government Reform committees as well as the Joint Economic Committee, he is likely to be heard on a variety of key issues.
And even opponents agree that he will say what he means and mean what he says.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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