See also: Congressional Progressive Caucus
Born in Madison, Wisconsin in February 1962, Tammy Baldwin graduated (with degrees in mathematics and government) from Smith College in 1984 and earned a Juris Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1989. While still pursuing her legal studies, Baldwin at age 24 was elected to the Dane County board of supervisors. Six years later, in 1992, she was elected to the lower house of the Wisconsin legislature, where she served until 1998.
In 1998 Baldwin, a Democrat, ran for a seat in Wisconsin's Second Congressional District. With a $1.5 million war chest (one-fourth of which came from the feminist group EMILY's List), she won the general election with 53 percent of the vote. Upon joining the House of Representatives, she became a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
The first self-identified lesbian elected to Congress, Baldwin has consistently attracted considerable campaign money from gay activist organizations nationwide, most notably the Human Rights Campaign. Other noteworthy supporters include groups like Greenpeace International, the Council for a Livable World, and the American Association for Justice. Additional heavy backing has come from the members and political action committees of large and powerful labor unions like the Service Employees International Union, AFSCME, the National Education Association, and numerous others. Baldwin is also a favorite of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which in 2004 praised her as someone who “vocally supports equal rights, gay rights, and expanded health insurance benefits, and [whose] public posture as an out lesbian is symbolically important.”
In May 2002 Baldwin refused to vote for House Resolution 392, which affirmed that the House of Representatives “stands in solidarity with Israel as it takes necessary steps to provide security to its people by dismantling the terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian areas.”
Five months later, Baldwin voted against the resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq. Thereafter, she became a vocal critic of America's Iraq War effort and often voting against funding it.
In 2003 Baldwin served on the advisory committee of the Progressive Majority, a political networking group dedicated to electing leftist candidates to public office. In 2005 she joined the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus.
Baldwin was one of 27 Members of Congress to co-sponsor H. Res. 333, which Rep. Dennis Kucinich introduced in April 2007. This bill set forth articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney, for having “purposely manipulated the intelligence process” to “deceive” U.S. citizens and Congress alike “about a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and about an alleged relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, to justify the use of the U.S. Armed Forces against Iraq in a manner damaging to U.S. national security interests.”
In 2001, 2005, 2007, and 2009, Baldwin joined Rep. Dennis Kucinich's (failed) efforts to pass legislation calling for the creation of a federal Department of Peace and Nonviolence. She also has co-sponsored legislation (in 2005 and 2009) that would permit taxpayers to opt out of funding the Defense Department if they are "conscientiously opposed to participation in war."
An outspoken advocate of a single-payer, government-run health-care since her days as a state legislator, Baldwin introduced the Health Security for All Americans Act, aimed at creating such a system, multiple times beginning in 2000. In November 2009 she voted for the version of healthcare reform that passed in the House and included a public option, a government-run healthcare plan that would have competed with private insurers. She ultimately voted for the healthcare reform measure that became law in March 2010.
On January 27, 2010, Baldwin was one of 54 members of Congress who signed a letter imploring President Barack Obama to use diplomatic pressure to end Israel's blockade of Gaza—a blockade which had been imposed in order to prevent the importation of weaponry from Iran and Syria.
In November 2010, Baldwin and 15 other congressional Democrats met—either personally or through their respective staffers—with supporters of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack (FRSO/FB), a Marxist-Leninist group. Those FRSO/FB supporters, representing the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, expressed their condemnation of “the FBI raids and grand jury subpoenas of people doing international solidarity work and anti-war organizing.” It was reported that Baldwin and her congressional colleagues expressed "genuine concern" about the FRSO/FB complaints.
Baldwin maintains that the greenhouse gas emissions associated with human industrial activity cause potentially catastrophic global warming. To deal with that perceived threat, she supports the implementation of cap-and-trade programs. Further, she has proposed legislation to create a greenhouse gas registry that would catalogue the levels of carbon emissions associated with all manufactured products, so as to enable consumers to know the "carbon footprint" of each product. Baldwin also has co-sponsored legislation to ban oil drilling in the Great Lakes, and legislation to help reduce global population as a strategy for combating climate change.
In 2012, Baldwin defeated Republican Tommy Thompson (Wisconsin's former governor) to win a seat in the U.S. Senate.
In January 2015, the Center for Investigative Reporting released a report revealing that the Veterans' Administration (VA) facility in Tomah, Wisconsin was dispensing strong narcotic painkillers to its patients with alarming and inappropriate frequency, and that one of those patients had died of an overdose in 2014. After the story broke, Baldwin called for a federal investigation of the Tomah facility while indicating that she theretofore had been aware of the problem. But in March 2015, a former Tomah VA empoyee named Ryan Honi reported that: (a) an Inspector General report had made Baldwin’s office aware of the Tomah abuses as early as the summer of 2014; (b) Honi had repeatedly emailed and called Baldwin’s office exhorting the senator, without success, to address the problem; and (c) Honi had spoken at length with Baldwin about the problem in November 2014, only to be instructed not to take the story public, lest Honi and other VA staffers end up getting fired as a result.
In April 2015, Baldwin’s former deputy state director, Marquette Baylor, filed an ethics complaint against Baldwin alleging that she (Baylor) had been wrongly scapegoated and terminated for the Tomah VA office’s negligence. Said the complaint: “After the public outcry, Senator Baldwin immediately sought to place the blame squarely on me. She instructed her Chief of Staff, Bill Murat, to fly to Milwaukee, fire me, and offer me a severance package that required me to stay quiet. Murat then moved into damage control, meeting with individuals in Wisconsin and telling them that the inaction was my fault. When I rejected the severance package, Senator Baldwin revised her plan. She hired a high-powered law firm, paid that firm to prepare an internal report for her—at no point requesting to interview me or ask me questions—and used that report to further deflect blame toward me while protecting those truly at fault.”
Also in April 2015, the watchdog group Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) sent a letter to the Senate Ethics Committee calling for an investigation into Baldwin's apparent “attemp[t] to use taxpayer funds to hide information from those very taxpayers.” FACT director Matthew Whitaker, a former U.S. Attorney, characterized Baylor’s complaint against Baldwin as “very strong,” while a Baldwin spokesperson called it a “political hit job.”
The leftwing Americans for Democratic Action consistently rates Baldwin's voting record as 95 to 100 percent on the left side of legislation. Click here for an overview of Baldwin’s voting record on key pieces of legislation during her years in Congress.
Baldwin is a member of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, the College Democrats of America, the International Network of Lesbian and Gay Officials, the NAACP, the National Organization for Women, and Wisconsin Citizen Action.
For additional information on Tammy Baldwin, click here.