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Baldwin Says Another Shutdown Can Be Avoided

Press Release

Location: Madison, WI

Wisconsin's two U.S. senators, both of whom will be on a panel charged with finding a solution to avoid another government shutdown, agree the first one was a mistake that shouldn't happen again.

But that's where the agreement ends.

"We're not agreeing on the size of the problem; we're not agreeing on the numbers; we're not agreeing on what dollar values different solutions have," Republican Sen. Ron Johnson said in an interview Tuesday. "It starts with, how do you define the problem?"

He and Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin will get a chance to bridge their political differences and find a budget solution as part of a special conference committee charged with delivering a compromise to Congress by Dec. 13. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, of Janesville, is co-chair of the committee.

The panel was created last week as part of the deal to reopen the shuttered federal government and raise the nation's debt ceiling. Baldwin voted for that deal, while Johnson voted against it.

That deal only keeps the government running through Jan. 15 and allows the Treasury Department to continue paying the country's bills through Feb. 7.

Baldwin said it would be "very unlikely" that the government would shut down again. She said the conference committee would work out a path to stop the government going from one crisis to the next. Johnson, too, said he was hopeful there wouldn't be another shutdown.

"I'm going to do everything I can to avoid it," he said. "I didn't want to see the last one; I don't want to see one in the future."

Johnson, a tea party Republican, said any solution must involve shrinking the size of the government and reducing the federal debt.

"I'm there not to grow the federal government," he said. "I don't have a great faith in fixing the federal government. The best we can do is limit and shrink it."

Both Johnson and Ryan have talked about the need to cut entitlements to help balance the budget. Baldwin said Democrats are open to making cuts, but they want to protect programs that provide retirement benefits to senior citizens.

"There are some mandatory spending cuts that can occur without cutting any benefits to seniors," Baldwin said.

Baldwin toured a University of Wisconsin-Madison lab on Tuesday to tout her support for federal funding to pay for research and development work like that done at the UW facility. She also participated in a discussion with university faculty and others about the negative effects of the budget sequestration and shutdown.

In this month's shutdown, hundreds of thousands of government workers were sent home amid the shutdown and national parks were barricaded while politicians negotiated.

A standoff between President Barack Obama and a group of Republicans over spending for the budget year beginning Oct. 1 and defunding the nation's health care overhaul led to the shutdown. Lawmakers also pushed the country to the edge of economic default by threatening the Treasury Department's authority to continue borrowing the money needed to pay the nation's bills.

Baldwin supports Obama's federal health care law and balked at Republican efforts to defund the health care law. Johnson, who staunchly opposes the health care law, nonetheless said trying to defund the law as part of the budget deal was a bad strategy because there weren't enough votes to do it.

Johnson instead supports legislation in Congress that would automatically renew funding for any regular spending bill not completed by the state of the budget year on Oct. 1. Johnson said he would like to use the conference committee to highlight the bipartisan proposal, introduced last year by Republican Sen. Rob Portman, of Ohio.

Johnson said he thought both Republicans and Democrats suffered as a result of the shutdown, although he acknowledged that polls showed the GOP shouldered more of the blame.

"Hopefully we can repair some of that poll damage that was done," he said.

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