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Capital City Sunday: Rep. Tiffany defends electoral objections, GOP split on COVID bill

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MADISON (WKOW) -- One of Wisconsin's two congressional representatives who voted to throw out votes in the presidential election argued the courts that dismissed dozens of President Trump's claims did not hear all the evidence.

The congressmen moved forward with their objections just hours after loyalists to the president stormed the Capitol while Congress certified the Electoral College vote.

Rep. Tom Tiffany (R - Minocqua) said he considered the insurrection a continuation of a larger pattern of increasing political violence in the U.S.

"It never should've happened," Tiffany said. "This is a problem we have in America at this point and it goes all the way back to when we saw mobs in Minneapolis, Madison, Kenosha that have taken over our streets and now we see it at the nation's capital."

Tiffany said said he did agree Wednesday's incident was worse because it was an attempt to violently stop the transfer of federal power.

"No doubt about it," Tiffany said. "Those people should be, just like anyone else that's been doing this, they should be brought before the law, charged, and then sent to prison for doing what they did."

Tiffany said Friday he did not initially plan on objecting to the election results but came to that decision because as one court after another rejected Trump's cases, Tiffany said it bothered him the courts were not listening to the merits of the case, particularly in Wisconsin.

"Our laws in the state of Wisconsin, with regard to absentee voting, are not being followed, and for many voters, they don't realize the law's not being followed," Tiffany said. "Because a few clerks, including the Dane County clerk are giving them inaccurate information."

Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said the congressman's words were part of an effort to "lie and lie and lie unless they win."

27 News reviewed Wisconsin Elections Commission data from the 2016 and 2020 elections and found a significant increase statewide in ballots marked 'indefinitely confined.' In some cases, there were counties with a larger rate of increase than Dane and Milwaukee Counties that voted for President Trump.

Tiffany said he still wanted lawmakers at the state level to pursue legislation that would tighten the definitions of absentee ballot processes, such as drop-off sites, indefinite confinement, and whether clerks can enter incomplete information on absentee ballot applications.

"Our laws in the state of Wisconsin need to be much more strictly enforced," Tiffany said. "Both by local officials, as well as some state officials."

View From Press Row

Those who've covered Congress for years have seen all kinds of things. Still, an event unlike any this country had seen before left Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Washington Bureau Chief concerned there would be more political violence to follow as Trump leaves office.

"Very [concerned] because you have a radicalized core which is considerably smaller than the number of people that voted for Donald Trump in 2020," Gilbert said. "But it was this radicalized core that stormed the Capitol, that's not going away."

Gilbert said he was aware of Republicans within Congress who publicly say they believe voter fraud changed the outcome of the election but in private say they do not actually feel that way.

Gilbert said it's emblematic of a larger question facing the GOP: continue to embrace Trumpian politics or attempt a return to a more moderate platform."

"On a higher political level, you have a civil war unfolding within the Republican Party about how to deal with this radicalized core," Gilbert said.

Statehouse Split

Republicans in the state legislature opened a new session Monday. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R - Rochester) said then GOP members in both the Assembly and Senate were in agreement on a coronavirus relief package.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R - Oostburg) then said Thursday senate members were not on board with the bill; some wanted tighter restrictions on local health officials' authority to issue orders that close businesses.

"There are some things that are very important to my caucus members," LeMahieu said. "Unfortunately, the bills, AB 1, that the speaker put out there, my caucus wasn't quite there yet so I continue to work with my caucus to make sure we can find a solution that addresses the COVID pandemic."

LeMahieu's office confirmed Friday the Joint Finance Committee would hold a hearing on the bill Monday with the Senate expected to take up its bill Tuesday, an indication the two sides had bridged the gap.

If indeed tighter regulations on local health departments and public school board are part of the changes, to along with legal immunity for businesses already in the assembly bill, it would almost certainly be vetoed by Democratic Governor Tony Evers.

"We're trying to find a solution everyone can get on board with," LeMahieu said. "We're still in the Senate working on that process, to find that point where us and the Assembly can put a bill on the governor's desk he's comfortable signing."

One thing GOP agrees on: election law changes

LeMahieu confirmed the pursuit of election law changes at the state level is a priority for legislative Republicans this session. LeMahieu said he did not believe widespread voter fraud, for which no evidence has been presented, occurred in the 2020 presidential election.

"I wouldn't use the word 'widespread' voter fraud," LeMahieu said. "I think there's always some minor cases of voter fraud that goes on and those need to be, if they're found, they need to be reported."

LeMahieu said legislative Republicans would seek minor alterations and clarification to election statutes. GOP lawmakers have indicated they want change in the areas of indefinite confinement -- which the state supreme court ruled last month is entirely at the voter's discretion, the ability of county clerk staff to correct or fill in incomplete absentee ballot applications, and around drop-off policies for absentee envelopes.

LeMahieu said there was also some interest in allowing clerks to begin processing absentee ballots before election day, which was a point of contention in November.

"We need to make sure there's a process in place going forward so that reporting is timely," he said.

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A. J. Bayatpour

Reporter, WKOW 27

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