WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- Unless Congress acts soon to stop the sequester, a massive package of federal spending cuts will go into effect on Friday. It's the latest in an ongoing fiscal crisis in Washington, but for Wisconsin's newest U.S. Senator, dealing with legislative standoffs is nothing new.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin's story is one of perseverance and patience. A graduate of both Madison West High and UW law school, Baldwin went on to serve on the Dane County Board, in the state Assembly, the U.S. House of Representatives and now she's the first female U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin.
From appeasing a much bigger number of constituents, to dealing with new colleagues and sitting on new committees, Baldwin is still in a transition from congresswoman to senator.
"There's definitely a learning curve, " Baldwin says.
Baldwin and her staff are still waiting for a permanent office. For now, they're dealing with a makeshift space in a trailer. She expects to get into a permanent location by April. But Baldwin appears to be so busy, it hardly matters.
"This is a really challenging time. We know that we have enormous challenges facing our country and our state," she says.
Sen. Baldwin says people from Wisconsin are most interested to know what she is doing to help create jobs. On the day we arrived, she met with a group of Wisconsin technical college leaders on that very subject.
"We were talking about, access for students who might be non-traditional students, mid-career, needing to close skills gaps to get 21st century manufacturing or advanced manufacturing jobs and how they're playing a key role in doing that," describes Baldwin.
That work is taking a back seat in Washington right now due to the sequester and a number of other financial issues. Republicans say much of the country's fiscal woes are the result of Senate Democrats failing to pass a budget for almost four years. But Sen. Baldwin says she is in a position to help change that.
As a new member of the Senate Budget Committee, Baldwin says she is committed to writing and passing a new federal budget.
"People are really sick of us going from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis, and really want to see us getting back to a point where we look out over a year, or five years or ten years and plan in thoughtful way," says Baldwin.
But she knows the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans has stifled that possibility in the past. That's why she is trying to make in-roads with conservative senators like Roy Blunt of Missouri, who she met with while we were in town.
One thing Baldwin has in the Senate that she didn't have in the House is more time to legislate, without having to worry about running for re-election every two years.
"If you think about the challenges our state is facing and the people of our state are facing... some of them are things that can be addressed in a short period of time, but most of them are things that take work and that will take time," she says.
As she does that work, Sen. Baldwin says she will do her best to keep the people that elected her in mind.
"I'm the one who gets to walk on to the floor of the Senate and cast the vote, but I stand on so many people's shoulders, every time I do that."
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