Herb Kohl was elected to the Senate in 1988 and re-elected to a fourth six-year term in 2006. Kohl was born and raised in Milwaukee, where he attended public school. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1956 and a master's degree in business administration from Harvard University in 1958. Kohl served in the Army Reserve from 1958 to 1964.
Before coming to the Senate, Kohl helped build his family-owned business, Kohl's grocery and department stores. He served as President from 1970 through the sale of the corporation in 1979. In 1985 he bought the Milwaukee Bucks to ensure the basketball team remained in Milwaukee and he is recognized as an avid sportsman.
During his time in office, Senator Kohl has been recognized as a strong advocate for children's issues. Kohl was the author of legislation to expand the school breakfast program and a strong supporter of child nutrition programs. In 2003, he received the "Distinguished Service Award" from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), a leading organization that works to eradicate domestic hunger. He sponsored legislation to increase child support enforcement, a bill based on Wisconsin's system to ensure that more child support payments go to the families they are designed to help. Kohl also sponsored the "Child Care Infrastructure Act," a law to encourage private companies and institutions to build on- or near-site day care centers to meet the rapidly growing demand for child care. The bill has been featured in "Working Mother" and "Parents" magazines.
Additionally, Kohl has received acclaim as a strong defender of Wisconsin's farming tradition. Kohl led the effort to extend the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program, which has provided $414 million to Wisconsin dairy farmers struggling with plummeting milk prices. Kohl helped establish the MILC program as part of the 2002 Farm Bill to end regional fighting over milk pricing policies. The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation awarded Kohl with the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award - the highest individual honor given by the Bureau Federation -- for his continued representation of Wisconsin farmers. The Council on Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching (CARET), a national organization of agricultural colleges and extension programs, has also recognized Kohl for leadership in support of U.S. agriculture and research programs.
Senator Kohl also has focused on anti-crime legislation, especially crimes related to kids. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he has helped fund an array of juvenile crime prevention and after-school programs, including Boys & Girls Clubs and the Families and Schools Together (FAST) program. He has secured $7.9 million in funding for the Wisconsin Methamphetamine Law Enforcement Initiative, a statewide project addressing the increase of methamphetamine and clandestine laboratories in Wisconsin. Kohl helped reauthorize juvenile justice programs in the federal government and authored laws which prevent the sale of handguns to minors and prohibit handguns from being brought into a school zone. The Senate also passed Kohl's bill to require that handguns be sold with separate child safety locks. The legislation is designed to protect children from some of the thousands of shootings each year that involve children and teenagers.
Senator Kohl serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Judiciary Committee. Kohl is the Chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the budgets of USDA, the FDA and other agencies which include many programs important to farmers and consumers. He also serves as the Chairman of the Judiciary's Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights.
Senator Kohl is the Chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, the Senate's principal committee charged with examining the many issues affecting older Americans, like Medicare, retirement security and protection from fraud and abuse. Kohl has led efforts to improve the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, urging the Administration to negotiate lower drug prices for seniors and close the "donut hole" in coverage that is leaving many beneficiaries with unexpectedly high drug costs. Senator Kohl also authored the bipartisan Older Worker Opportunity Act, which would expand opportunities for older Americans to work longer if they so choose in order to secure a more comfortable retirement. He has also successfully pushed for increased funding for nursing home inspections, and has introduced legislation to require background checks for long term care employees to ensure that people with abusive and criminal histories do not prey on vulnerable patients.
Senator Kohl has made lowering health care costs a top priority for the 110th Congress. Noting how prescription drug costs are a drain on seniors, families and businesses, he has authored two important bills to expand access to affordable generic drugs. His "Preserve Access to Affordable Generics Act" stops brand-name drug manufacturers from using pay-off agreements to keep cheaper generic equivalents off pharmacy shelves and his "Citizen Petition Fairness and Accuracy Act" prohibits brand name drug companies from abusing the Food and Drug Administration's "citizen petition" review process to delay generic drugs from reaching the market.
Senator Kohl remains active in Wisconsin charitable activities. In 1990 he established the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation Achievement Award Program, which provides annual grants totaling $400,000 to 200 graduating high school seniors, 100 Wisconsin teachers, and 100 schools throughout Wisconsin. In 1995, Kohl donated $25 million to the University of Wisconsin for a new sports arena.
Courtesy Kohl's Senate website.