Note: Feingold Patriot Act Remarks // Russ Feingold 01A // Wisconsin labor leaders with Senator Russ Feingold
On May 14, 2015, Feingold announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate against the incumbent, Republican Ron Johnson.
In his 2016 campaign, Feingold said he would no longer adhere to his longstanding pledge to raise the majority of his campaign funds from Wisconsin residents. Feingold said the pledge had been made on an election-to-election basis and no longer made sense. As of March 2016, Feingold had raised the most money among all U.S. Senate candidates challenging an incumbent. Nearly three-fourths of his individual contributions were from outside Wisconsin.
Groups financially supporting Feingold's election bid included Planned Parenthood, the League of Conservation Voters, American Bridge 21st Century, and the National Abortion Rights Action League. In May 2016, Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Feingold and engaged in fundraising for him.
In the November 8, 2016, general election, Feingold was defeated by Johnson. Feingold received slightly less than 47%, and Johnson received slightly more than 50%, of the vote.
- Committee on the Budget
- Committee on the Judiciary
- Committee on Foreign Relations
- Select Committee on Intelligence
During his time in the U.S. Senate, Feingold gained a reputation as a political maverick with an independent streak. When he broke with his own party, it was often because he was taking a more liberal or populist position than other Democrats. Throughout his congressional tenure, several ranking systems placed Feingold among the nation's most liberal or progressive senators.
Feingold was the only Democratic senator to vote against a motion to dismiss Congress's 1998–1999 impeachment case of President Bill Clinton. Feingold ultimately voted against conviction on all charges.
On December 21, 2004, Feingold wrote an article for the website Salon about a golfing trip to Greenville, Alabama. After noting how friendly the people were, and that Wisconsin had many similar places, he expressed his sorrow that such a poverty-stricken area was "the reddest spot on the whole map" despite Republican policies that Feingold considered destructive to the well-being of the poor and middle class. Alabama Governor Bob Riley and Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon, both Republicans, were perturbed at Feingold's description of "check-cashing stores and abject trailer parks, and some of the hardest-used cars for sale on a very rundown lot." McLendon invited Feingold back for a more complete tour of the city, and Feingold agreed. He visited the city on March 28, 2005, making amends and increasing speculation about his presidential plans for 2008.
In May 2006, Feingold voted in favor of bill S.2611, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, an immigration reform bill that was designed to give most illegal immigrants a chance to become legal citizens.
Feingold co-sponsored a number of failed bills calling for the abolition of the death penalty.
In 2009, Feingold voted against confirmation of Timothy Geithner to be United States Secretary of the Treasury, citing Geithner's personal tax issues. Also in 2009, Feingold announced that he was planning to introduce a constitutional amendment that would prohibit governors from making temporary Senate appointments instead of holding special elections.
Feingold cosponsored the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, which was signed into law in October 2009.
Campaign finance reform
Feingold is perhaps best known for his work with Senator John McCain on the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as the McCain-Feingold Act. The legislation, which took seven years to pass, became defunct in the wake of several U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
Wall Street reform
On May 20, 2010, Feingold was one of two Democratic senators to vote against the Dodd–Frank Wall Street reform bill, citing his belief that the measures did not go far enough. On July 15, 2010, he became the only Democratic senator to vote against the bill when it was brought up again; it passed by a 60-39 vote.
When the bill was up for renewal in late December 2005, Feingold led a bipartisan coalition of senators – including Lisa Murkowski, Ken Salazar, Larry Craig, Dick Durbin, and John Sununu – to remove some of the act's more controversial provisions. Feingold led a filibuster against renewal of the act. In February 2006, the Senate voted 96-3 to break the filibuster and to extend the Patriot Act.
In 2009, when the act was again up for reauthorization, Feingold introduced the JUSTICE Act (S. 1686) "To place reasonable safeguards on the use of surveillance and other authorities under the USA PATRIOT Act." Senator Patrick Leahy then introduced an alternative bill, about which Feingold later said "...while narrower than the JUSTICE Act that Senator Durbin and I have championed, [it] did contain several important and necessary protections for the privacy of innocent Americans." After what Feingold saw as the further watering down of civil liberty protections in the bill, it passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 8 by a vote of 11-8 with Feingold voting against it.
War in Iraq
On August 17, 2005, he became the first senator to call for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and urge that a timetable for that withdrawal be set. He called other Democrats "timid" for refusing to take action sooner, and suggested December 31, 2006, as the date for total withdrawal of troops. On the subject of Bush's assertion that a deadline would be helpful to Iraqi insurgents, Feingold said, "I think he's wrong. I think not talking about endgames is playing into our enemies' hand."
On April 27, 2006, Feingold announced that he would move to amend an appropriations bill granting $106.5 billion in emergency spending measure for Iraq and Hurricane Katrina relief to require that troops withdraw completely from Iraq.
Call for a vote of censure against President Bush
On March 14, 2006, Feingold introduced a resolution in the Senate to censure President Bush. This was a result of allegations of illegal wiretapping under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA), which mandates use of a surveillance court for approval of wiretaps on Americans. Feingold made a 25-minute speech on the Senate floor, declaring that Congress must "hold the president accountable for his actions". It received support from Senators Tom Harkin of Iowa and Barbara Boxer of California, but most Democratic senators avoided expressing an opinion on it. Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Patrick Leahy of Vermont expressed support for the bill, but Feingold was able to find only three co-sponsors.
Feingold again called for Bush's censure in July 2007 for his management of the Iraq war, accusing him of mounting an "assault" against the United States Constitution.
Health care policy
Feingold supports the creation of a system of universal health care in America. During his first run for the Senate, he endorsed the single-payer model, in which the government pays for all healthcare costs.
On July 24, 2006, at a press conference at the Martin Luther King Heritage Health Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Feingold announced that he had authored the State-Based Health Care Reform Act, a bill to create a pilot program for a system of universal healthcare under which each U.S. state would create a program to provide its citizenry with universal health insurance and the federal government would provide the funding. The bill would create a nonpartisan "Health Care Reform Task Force," which would provide five-year federal grants to two or three states. The program was expected to cost $32 billion over 10 years.
Feingold voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that passed the Senate on December 24, 2009.
Feingold has voted in favor of certain gun-control legislation while also voting to expand certain gun rights. He signed the congressional amicus brief in District of Columbia v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court case that overturned a handgun ban in Washington, D.C.
Feingold has voted in favor of bills to require background checks for handgun buyers, to require background checks for firearms purchases at gun shows, and to require that handguns be sold with trigger locks. He supported President Barack Obama's 2016 executive orders to expand background checks and strengthen enforcement of existing gun laws.
Feingold supports abortion rights.
In 1996, Feingold was in a minority of legislators who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, which President Bill Clinton signed into law. In an April 4, 2006 interview, Feingold announced that he favored the legalization of same-sex marriage.
On May 18, 2006, Feingold walked out of a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee shortly before a vote on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Feingold objected to both the amendment and decision of Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA at the time) to move the meeting to an area of the Capitol Building not open to the public. Later that day, the committee voted to send the amendment to the full Senate.
2008 possible presidential bid
In late January 2005, Feingold told the Tiger Bay Club of Volusia County, Florida that he intended to travel around the country before deciding whether or not to run in 2008. In March 2005, his Senate campaign staff registered the domain www.russfeingold08.com, as well as the .org and .net versions. On June 1, 2005, Feingold launched a political action committee (PAC), the Progressive Patriots Fund. A "draft Feingold" movement was established independently of his campaign.
On August 17, 2005, Feingold became the first U.S. Senator of either party to suggest a firm date for American withdrawal from the Iraq war, saying that he favored a complete withdrawal by no later than December 31, 2006.
On September 22, 2005, during the hearing on Judge John Roberts's nomination for Chief Justice of the United States, Feingold was one of three Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote in favor of sending Roberts's nomination to the floor for a full vote. He also announced that he would vote to confirm Roberts. Feingold graduated from Harvard Law School the same year as Roberts, 1979. Feingold voted against Samuel Alito in committee and voted against cloture of debate regarding Alito's nomination on the Senate floor.
Feingold, considered a long-shot contender for president, announced in November 2006 that he would not seek his party's nomination in 2008. He said that running for president would detract from his focus on the Senate, and the resulting scrutiny "would dismantle both my professional life (in the Senate) and my personal life." In his parting comments, he warned his supporters against supporting anyone for the presidency who voted for the Iraq War, whether they later regretted it or not, saying his first choice for president in 2008 was someone who voted against the war, and his second choice is someone who was not in Congress but spoke out against the war at the time.
On February 22, 2008, he stated that he had voted for Obama in Wisconsin's Democratic Party presidential primary election.