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Friday, April 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 41.0° F  Fair
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Sen. Baldwin is confident Congress can avert another government shutdown

Baldwin: "I think it would be very unlikely that we will have another shutdown."
Credit:Ben Siegel
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Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) says she is confident that Congress will be able to hash out a long-term budget deal in time to prevent another government shutdown and round of sequestration cuts from straining university research.

"A lot of lessons were learned over the past few weeks," Baldwin said Tuesday while visiting with UW-Madison researchers and officials on campus. "I think it would be very unlikely that we will have another shutdown."

The first-term senator has been appointed to the bipartisan Budget Conference Committee, which has been tasked with putting together a budget agreement before Dec. 13. Wisconsin Republican delegates Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Ron Johnson also sit on the panel.

The committee is charged with finding a compromise between the Senate proposal, authored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) and the House plan (PDF), spearheaded by Ryan.

Differences between the two approaches include the funding and structure of programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, in terms of their costs to taxpayers and benefits to recipients.

"It's very important, especially in a fragile economic recovery ... that we protect these programs and help people achieve retirement security," Baldwin said.

Baldwin referenced the politics that led to the government shutdown and said that Washington needs to "stop pointing fingers and working together."

But that did not stop her from criticizing Gov. Scott Walker's decision not to create a state health care exchange for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Wisconsin. In fact, Baldwin said it's one reason Wisconsin residents are among those frustrated by the healthcare.gov, problems she called "unacceptable."

The New York Times reported that some of the state-run health insurance exchanges have been running more smoothly.

Baldwin pointed to other enrollment channels, such as a telephone hotline (1-800-318-2597) and federally contracted navigators as viable alternatives for the uninsured. (The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reported that the navigator system in this state has been slow in getting up and running.)

"Most of the states that have created state-based exchanges are not experiencing computer challenges," Baldwin said. "That said, we are where we are, and we need to work together to enroll people."

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