2007.09.04: September 4, 2007: Headlines: Figures: COS - Somalia: Politics: Congress: Sheboygan Press: Petri evolves into voice of moderation in the House of Representatives

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Petri evolves into voice of moderation in the House of Representatives

Petri evolves into voice of moderation in the House of Representatives

Petri has paid a price for being a moderate Republican willing to work with Democrats. Conservative House GOP leaders passed him over for chairmanship of the House Education Committee in 2001 and for the top Republican seat on the full House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this year. He has a subcommittee post as ranking Republican. Democrats have been spotty on their promises of bipartisanship since taking control of the House in January, but Petri said, "We've been making progress on bread-and-butter issues," he said. Democrats on the Education and Labor Committee were open to his proposals for changing student testing requirements in the No Child Left Behind law. "I've discovered that's one area where my Democratic colleagues are interested in my ideas, even though I'm in the minority," Petri said. Congressman Tom Petri of Wisconsin served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Somalia in the 1960's.

Petri evolves into voice of moderation in the House of Representatives

Petri evolves into voice of moderation

GOP lawmaker is 'hopeful' about Democratic Congress

By Ellyn Ferguson
Gannett News Service

WASHINGTON — House members, including Rep. Tom Petri of Fond du Lac, return today for what is expected to be a bruising fall session on the federal budget, the Iraq war and other issues.

They left for August recess on a bitter partisan note with Republicans accusing Democrats of "stealing" a floor vote on a procedural motion to send the 2008 agriculture spending bill back to committee to add wording that explicitly denies undocumented immigrants benefits under the bill.

Republicans say they won the vote, but Democrats said the motion failed because of lawmakers changing votes. Democrats agreed to create a special committee to review the vote, but the House vote to pass the spending bill stands.

Petri, R-Fond du Lac, said the shouting between the parties was a mix of political theatrics and genuine frustration.

"I am still hopeful (about bipartisanship)," said Petri, who represents the Sixth Congressional District.

Petri has paid a price for being a moderate Republican willing to work with Democrats. Conservative House GOP leaders passed him over for chairmanship of the House Education Committee in 2001 and for the top Republican seat on the full House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this year. He has a subcommittee post as ranking Republican.

Democrats have been spotty on their promises of bipartisanship since taking control of the House in January, but Petri said, "We've been making progress on bread-and-butter issues," he said.

Democrats on the Education and Labor Committee were open to his proposals for changing student testing requirements in the No Child Left Behind law.

"I've discovered that's one area where my Democratic colleagues are interested in my ideas, even though I'm in the minority," Petri said.

Committee Democrats also included in their bill to restructure student federal aid an idea for a pilot program using market-based methods such as auctions to reduce taxpayer costs for federal guaranteed loans. Lenders would have to bid for the business and those willing to take the lowest government subsidy would have the right to offer loans to a region or a set of institutions for several years.

Petri also got another provision included that would limit a graduate's monthly student loan payments to 15 percent of his or her adjusted income. The House passed the bill, H.R. 2669, in July. Negotiators are working out differences between House and Senate bills.

Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., called Petri "a principled and hardworking member of Congress."

"He has shown this during his work over the last couple years on higher education issues, where he has been willing to buck his party leadership and work in a bipartisan way to help students and families pay for college," Miller said.

Additionally, Petri said the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, of which he is the ranking Republican, got the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill out of committee. The legislation would modernize air traffic control systems and authorize $15.8 billion for the Airport Improvement program that provides grants to update runways and other airport infrastructure. The bill would authorize nearly $13 billion for the FAA's facilities and equipment and $37.2 billion for FAA operations. The legislation is pending before the House Ways and Means Committee, which is responsible for fees and taxes in the bill.

Committee Republicans lost a fight over a provision to force the FAA to reopen contact talks with air traffic controllers. The provision triggered a presidential veto threat.

Petri said Democrats could do much more to make allies of Republican moderates.

Charles Bass, president of an association of moderate congressional GOP lawmakers, agreed.

"The Democrats, instead of reaching out to the moderate Republicans, are being hyper partisan," said Bass, who runs the Republican Main Street Partnership.

Bass, a former New Hampshire congressman, said Main Street members could play a larger role in the fall as Democrats try to wrap up the session with legislative accomplishments. Petri could benefit from that, he said.

"Congressman Petri has always had a reputation for working with Democrats. Petri is not known as a bomb thrower," Bass said.

Petri's willingness to work with Democrats began before he entered Congress. As a young Harvard law grad, he clerked for federal Judge James Doyle Sr., father of Gov. Jim Doyle, D-Wis., and an activist credited with helping rebuild Wisconsin's Democratic Party in the 1950s.

Petri entered the House after winning a 1979 special election. He had served seven years in the Wisconsin state Senate after a stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Somalia.

Low-key and affable, Petri has navigated his way through the House as a fiscal conservative willing to spend on transportation, road and bridge projects. He occasionally breaks with his party on education issues and other issues such as President Bush's decision to send 21,000 more U.S. troops to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and surrounding areas.

Majority Whip James Clyburn said Petri and other Republican moderates are more likely to be effective within committees where there's more willingness to work across party lines.

"I think he does (have a role) within the committees. There's much more cooperation in the committees than there is on the floor," said Clyburn, D-S.C.

Clyburn, who is responsible for rounding up votes for Democratic legislation, said bipartisanship is less likely on the floor, where each party is trying to define itself.

Clyburn said he's worked with Petri and "he's a guy I like very much. He's a good guy."

Petri has built a reputation as a thoughtful man.

"If you want good advice, seek out Tom Petri," said Rep. Bob Inglis, R-S.C. "He's a guy who is well prepared."




Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: September, 2007; RPCV Tom Petri (Somalia) ; Figures; Peace Corps Somalia; Directory of Somalia RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Somalia RPCVs; Politics; Congress; Wisconsin





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Story Source: Sheboygan Press

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Figures; COS - Somalia; Politics; Congress

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