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Local earmarks, foreign wars, and what comes next
Rep. Mark Pocan updates Green County constituents on a variety of topics in town Hall
mark pocan 3-26-2024
Wisconsin Representative Mark Pocan (D-2nd) stopped by in Monroe for a town hall at the Green County Historic Courthouse on Tuesday, March 26. About 50 people attended. The topics ranged from federal efforts to strengthen the economy, immigration, explaining earmarks and how the appropriations committee in congress works, ongoing foreign wars (Ukraine-Russia, Israel-Palestine), and issues involving the United States Postal Service. - photo by Adam Krebs

MONROE  — U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (D-2nd) joined about 50 constituents at the Green County Historic Courthouse on March 26 for a town hall.

Pocan told the crowd he was glad to be back in his home state and meeting with constituents again, as he and other congressional members have been stuck in Washington D.C. for several months as a variety of votes and sessions slowly roll out. He’s been able to get out to town halls in other district communities recently, like Edgerton and Sauk City.

Pocan represents Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District, which covers all of Green, Lafayette, Dane, Iowa and Sauk counties, as well parts of Rock and Richland.

Pocan also serves on the House Committee on Appropriations, and is the co-founder and co-chair of the Labor Caucus, and chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus. He is also the co-founder and co-chair of the Defense Spending Reduction Caucus with Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), which, according to his website, is dedicated to reducing the Pentagon’s bloated defense budget and reinvesting in the needs of the American people, including healthcare, housing, jobs, combating climate change, and education.

One of the items Pocan helped champion — along with Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) — was securing $1 million to help fund the Green County Family YMCA’s expansion project. The funds will go to support the facility’s expansion and construction, which will include new childcare and youth development centers, healthy living center, community kitchen, fitness classrooms and programming spaces for seniors and youth.

Among the many topics touched on in his 90 minutes in Monroe included the foreign wars in Ukraine and Palestine. 

He said he believes there are enough votes in the House of Representatives and Senate to give billions of dollars in an aid package to Ukraine in order to defend itself against Russian invaders. 

“I think every single Democrat and about 100 Republicans would vote for that, or have said they would,” Pocan said,.

Contact Congress

2nd Congressional District

Rep. Mark Pocan

Washington: 1421 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515.  

Phone: 202-225-2906

District: 10 E. Doty St., Suite 405, Madison, WI 53703. 

Phone: 608-258-9800


U.S. Senate

Sen. Tammy Baldwin

Washington: 709 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510.       

Phone: 202-224-5653

District: 30 W. Mifflin St., Suite 700, Madison, WI 53703. 

Phone: 608-264-5338.


U.S. Senate

Sen. Ron Johnson

Washington: 328 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510.       

Phone: 202-224-5323


However, the Speaker Mike Johnson and current Republican powers are hesitant to separate individual packages, instead continuing to combine aid packages to Israel, humanitarian efforts  and U.S. border together. 

A bipartisan $95.34 billion military and aid package in the U.S. Senate put together by President Joe Biden and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle passed 70-29 in mid-February. However, House Speaker Mike Johnson hasn’t brought it to a vote yet in Congress, where Republicans hold the slimmest of majorities. The bill had more than $60 billion allocated for Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel, $10 billion for humanitarian aid across the globe, plus funding for the southern U.S. border. 

Pocan said that former President Donald Trump, who is re-running for the position, signaled he was against border funding, as he would need to use the topic during stump speeches during the campaign. 

In regards to the Israel-Palestine conflict, Pocan said Israel has “every right” to respond and defend itself after the Oct. 7 attack from Hamas. However, he said that the counterattack against Hamas has been more “collective punishment” than strategic military operations. 

“I think the response has been overly broad by the Benjamin Netanyahu government,” Pocan said.

Of the 2.3 million Palestinians, only about 30,000 are estimated to be Hamas. More than 34,000 Palestinians have died in Gaza in the past six months of fighting — about 70% have been women and children. In one instance, a bombing killed 100 Palestinians in an attack targeting just one Hamas soldier.

“In my opinion, that is collective punishment of all of the citizens in Gaza,” Pocan said.

Repeatedly Pocan talked about the dysfunction of congress. Current Republican leadership now has a majority by just one, with five members announcing their early retirement from their position — including, most recently, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin's 2nd Congressional District
Wisconsin's 2nd Congressional District

“This is has been a pretty tough congress this session. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so much to get so little done,” he said. “Last year we passed I think 27 bills, which was the fewest wince the Great Depression. We had 19 votes for Speaker, which set a record. We didn’t get our appropriations bills done by Sept. 30 ... but we just got them done last week.”

He said congress has “punted on a whole bunch of bills” — including the newest farm bill, which was supposed to be done last fall but has since been punted back twice.

One of the reasons why it’s so hard to get a bill passed, he said, is because of rules put in during Kevin McCarthy’s concessions to gain the speakership at the beginning of 2023. 

“There are only two ways to get something on the floor in the house: 1. You get the leader of the majority party (Speaker of the House) to bring it, and 2. A discharge petition,” Pocan said. “So you can have 218 people — which is a majority of congress — sign a discharge petition to force a vote. The problem is, in order to have 218, you have to have enough from both parties sign it.”

Other topics Pocan and the crowd discussed included how the appropriations process and earmarks work, green energy’s future in Wisconsin and America, the United States Postal Service’s nationwide delay issues, workforce and homelessness, immigration, childcare costs, oversight of the U.S. Supreme Court and its ethics issues, interest rates and affordable housing, mental health funding, and security during the presidential transition of power process and inauguration.