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By: York Dispatch Editorial Board

In 2014, there were no deaths in York County that involved fentanyl.

In 2018, there were 129.

York County has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic, and the introduction of the synthetic drug that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine has ratcheted up the stakes. 

That's one reason Sen. Pat Toomey's new bill to ensure consequences for nations where fentanyl is illicitly produced needs to get on the books as quickly as possible.

The bill from the Pennsylvania Republican would let the government gather information about illicit fentanyl production in foreign countries and cut off foreign aid and Export-Import Bank loans for countries that illegally produce the drug.

The exceptions are for countries that have emergency scheduling procedures for new illicit drugs, prosecute criminals for the manufacturing or distribution of the drugs and require the registration of machines that make tablets and capsules.

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., is co-sponsoring the bill. A partner bill is also in the House, sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and co-sponsored by six others including Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster County.

Data from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol shows that China is the main source of fentanyl, and in June 2018 the CBP seized 110 pounds of the drug — worth $1.7 million on the streets — from China at the Port of Philadelphia. 

In January, officers at the border crossing in Nogales, Arizona, found 254 pounds of fentanyl, more than $3 million in value, being smuggled across the border along with 395 pounds of methamphetamine in a produce truck, the largest seizure of the drug in this country.

This is a smart way to address the problem of illegal drugs coming into our country, by putting some of the impetus on countries where those drugs are manufactured.

It's certainly a better strategy than pouring billions of dollars into a border wall when the vast majority of illegal drugs that are seized are coming in through legal ports of entry.

There are the websites that allow people to order fentanyl through the mail, and President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the International Postal Union has made it more difficult for Washington to push for better control of international mail, which in turn would make shipping fentanyl more risky, according to Foreign Affairs.

In December, Trump announced during the G-20 summit that China will tighten its controls over the manufacture of fentanyl, which is purely chemical and therefore easy to make.

But China has more than 400,000 chemical manufacturers, and its regulatory system just can't keep up. 

Toomey's bill would force China and Mexico, the second greatest source of fentanyl, to take more responsibility for the chemical manufacture of the highly potent and deadly drug.

The bipartisan support for the bill is just an added bonus.

While previous versions of this legislation haven't made it out of the Senate Foreign relations Committee, we hope that this is the one that will complete the process and become law.

With the number of overdoses continuing to rise, there's no time to waste.

Gripes pepper meeting

April 16, 2019

By: Steve Sharp of the Watertown Daily Times

JOHNSON CREEK -- Although the fireworks were nowhere near what they have been in past years, a visit by U.S. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, to several Jefferson County town and village halls Monday offered moments of confrontation.

The fiery veteran congressman has never been known to back down during these town hall meetings he uses to make contact with his constituents. Likewise, certain members of the citizenry are usually armed with a few strategic political jabs and questions of their own.

State Rep. Barbara Dittrich, R-Oconomowoc, of the 38th Assembly District, accompanied Sensenbrenner on his visit to the Johnson Creek Village Hall.

Sensenbrenner is recovering from hip replacement surgery he underwent early this year and told his audience of 18 with a laugh that he will be able "to kick some behinds again thoroughly in about a month."

The Johnson Creek meeting began with questions regarding immigration into the United States by people from Mexico and other parts of Central America.

Sensenbrenner said he favors the building of a wall to keep out illegal immigrants, along with the substantial funding of such a physical barrier.

Sensenbrenner said there also needs to be changes in asylum laws to make verification systems tighter. He said if people can make it into the country illegally and get amnesty, they can often bypass those who are trying to enter the United States legally.

"And most Americans are in favor of legal immigration," Sensenbrenner said.

He said if people want asylum, they should stay in Mexico, apply for it, get it and then come north legally.

Sensenbrenner said the Mexican government is to be congratulated for offering opportunities for those from other Central American countries to locate there for at least a year, but most do not accept the invitation and want to move straight up and into the U.S.

"I give the Mexican government credit for its efforts," he said.

One woman at the Johnson Creek meeting suggested putting chips in those people coming into the U.S. from Mexico illegally, so after they come in, if they disappear, they can be found and deported.

Sensenbrenner said he felt this was too "Big Brother-ish."

"Once we do that, then we will all have chips put in us," he said.

One member of the audience said he wanted to see taxes that are put on dealings made by FFA and 4-H students in Wisconsin related to county fair meat animal sales made simpler. He said the taxes are too complicated for the youths and for the committees that govern these events.

"The IRS has a knack for finding ways to tax good things," Sensenbrenner said.

The congressman said President Donald Trump's recent approaches toward "emergency declarations" as they relate to controlling the U.S. border with Mexico irritate him at times. He said if the Trump declarations would have been enacted in a full-blown manner, they would have taken money from the military that, in Sensenbrenner's estimation, deserves it more for construction projects and improving soldiers' living conditions.

"Congress directed this money to the military. Congress controls the purse strings and (Trump) wanted something different," Sensenbrenner said.

Medicare, Medicaid, gerrymandering and redistricting were also brought up in Johnson Creek Monday before Sensenbrenner headed to a meeting with 10 more constituents in Helenville.

There, one audience member asked why the U.S. does not do away with foreign aid and pay off the country's deficit.

Sensenbrenner said foreign aid comprises only a small portion of the U.S. budget and the goodwill it engenders worldwide is very much worth the expenditure.

"Doing away with foreign aid would have little effect on our debt," he said. "Foreign aid allows us to show the world what America is really like."

When asked if the American public should have better access to the tax returns of Donald Trump, Sensenbrenner said he did not believe such an option would shed much light on the current president's financial dealing beyond what the public already knows.

"I don't think these should be released for political reasons," Sensenbrenner said. "You can see if a president is lining his pockets as it is already. The information is there. A tax return will not allow you to do that ... The Mueller report came back and said there is 'nothing.' It was an independent counsel that found nothing."

Under further questioning from an audience member, Sensenbrenner said he would "never be able to convince" this visitor to the town hall session that Trump had not been aided in the election by Russia. He said he and his assistants watch some of the television networks that are considered by most to be left-leaning and suggested this person, a self-described Democrat, to watch Fox News.

"That way you can balance things out," he said.

Sensenbrenner said the U.S. economy is booming at present and there are more jobs available than people willing to fill them. In response to a question, he said the country's debt and deficit are due, in part, to Congress spending too much, but he would not take the blame for that, saying he has the strongest record on the congressional panel for voting against excessive spending.

The remainder of Sensenbrenner's day in Jefferson County, as scheduled, included visits to Sullivan and Palmyra.

By: NBC 26

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin lawmakers have introduced a bill that seeks to elevate the status of two trails, therefore providing access to more funding to expand and maintain the routes.

The legislation seeks to designate the Ice Age and North Country national scenic trails as units of the National Park Service, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner are sponsoring the bill.

"The Ice Age Trail is a beautiful part of Wisconsin's natural wonders and also a significant contributor to our state's economy. According to a study by the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, the trail has an annual economic impact of $113 million, drawing roughly 1.2 million visitors," Sensenbrenner said in a news release.

The trails are currently administered by the National Park Service in cooperation with other local, state and federal partners. But Baldwin said the trails don't have full trail status.

The bill would allow the trails to access funding that is only available to trails that are designated as a unit of the National Park Service, said Kevin Thusius, the director of land conservation with the Ice Age Trail Alliance.

"The Ice Age Trail Alliance and its partners at the National Park Service and other partners are working to close the gaps in the Ice Age National Scenic Trail by acquiring additional properties or additional trail rights between segments that are currently on the ground," he said.

There are 670 miles (1,080 kilometers) of the trail open for use. The trail is expected to stretch more than 1,200 miles (1,930 kilometers) once the project is complete, Thusius said.

The North Country National Scenic Trail runs across seven states: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota. It's expected to stretch across 4,600 miles (7,400 kilometers) once finished, an effort that could be aided if the bill passes, said Peter Nordgren, a volunteer with the Brule-St. Croix Chapter of the North Country Trail Association.

"It is the longest scenic trail in the United States, and there's still plenty of work to be done on it," Nordgren said.

By: Door County Pulse

Ice Age Trail Could Get Elevated Status

A bill introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers would elevate the status of the Ice Age Trail, which includes 22 miles running through southern Door County.

It would also elevate the status of the North Country National Scenic Trail, possibly bringing in more funding to maintain and expand them. The legislation seeks to designate the Ice Age and North Country National Scenic Trails as units of the National Park Service, as well as the New England National Scenic Trail.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner are sponsoring the legislation. The two introduced the bill last session, but it never made it to the floor for a vote.

The two trails are administered by the National Park Service in cooperation with other local, state and federal partners. However, Baldwin told Wisconsin Public Radio they don’t have full trail status. She said the bill would put the Ice Age and North Country National Scenic Trails on a level playing field with others in the National Park Service that receive funding.

Kevin Thusius, director of land conservation with the Ice Age Trail Alliance, said the bill would allow them to access funding that’s available only to trails designated as a unit of the National Park Service.

There are 670 miles of Ice Age Trail open for use. Once complete, the trail is expected to stretch more than 1,200 miles.

Baldwin: Flood-Prone Communities Need More Help

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other programs need to invest more in helping Wisconsin communities endure repeated flooding.

During a visit to La Crosse on April 5, Baldwin met with regional mayors, emergency responders and weather researchers to talk about repeated flooding in western Wisconsin. Flash floods continue to hit the same communities as the region sees more frequent severe storms.

Baldwin said federal recovery programs have to stop limiting people to rebuilding the same buildings or infrastructure that was lost.

“We’re averaging about five inches more per year of rainfall,” said Dan Baumgardt, science and operations officer at the National Weather Service in La Crosse. “The disturbing thing is since about 2015, we’re on even a higher trend of extreme events: ’15, ’16, ’17 and ’18 are some of the wettest years on record.”

Wisconsin Fully Removed from ACA Lawsuit

A federal appeals court has granted Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul’s request to leave a multi-state lawsuit that seeks to overturn the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The move means Wisconsin is now out of the case at every level, fulfilling a promise Kaul and Gov. Tony Evers made repeatedly during their 2018 campaigns. A federal district court granted a similar request last week.

Evers and Kaul were initially blocked from leaving the case by a law Republicans passed during December’s lame-duck session of the state Legislature.

That law required Wisconsin governors and attorneys general to get the permission of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee before leaving federal litigation. Republicans who run that committee have shown no willingness to take that step, saying they support the ACA lawsuit.

“If the challenge to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is successful, people with a pre-existing condition will lose critical protections,” Kaul said. “The state of Wisconsin will no longer be using tax dollars to support this lawsuit, which is contrary to interests of Wisconsinites.”

Eight Wisconsin Nursing Homes in Receivership

Dycora Transitional Health and Living Center, which operates eight skilled nursing facilities – or nursing homes – in Wisconsin is under new management as it goes through receivership.

Nursing-home operators are struggling with Wisconsin’s current Medicaid reimbursement system. Menominee River, an affiliate of nursing-home operator Golden Living, will operate the facilities during the transition.

Washington, D.C.—This week, the American Conservative Union Foundation (ACUF) released its 2018 Congressional Ratings, naming Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) a recipient of the “Award for Conservative Excellence.” Congressman Sensenbrenner received a 96% score in 2018—the highest among the Wisconsin Delegation.

Rep. Sensenbrenner: “My constituents sent me to Washington to cut red tape, defend individual liberty, and support our national security, and my voting record has reflected these principles throughout my career in public service. I am proud to be one of the most consistently conservative voices for Wisconsin and honored to be presented this award.”

Background:
Since 1971, the ACUF has tracked votes on key legislation and provided an annual report to inform the public of how well each lawmaker has upheld conservative principles. You can view these reports here. Congressman Sensenbrenner has 90.05% lifetime rating from the ACUF. 

By: the Waukesha Freeman

SUSSEX — Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, RMenomonee Falls, is hosting a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Sussex Civic Center, N64-W23760 Main St.

Throughout his career, Sensenbrenner has held more town hall meetings than any other member of Congress and has conducted more than 650 in-person meetings since 2011, according to a press release. Sensenbrenner said now that he’s recovering from a recent hip replacement surgery, he’s ready to resume his practice of open town hall meetings.

“These events are an important way for me to

engage with constituents and get direct feedback that informs my decision-making in Congress,” Sensenbrenner said. “Open and honest dialogue between elected officials and their constituents is crucial for a representative government, and I look forward to these upcoming meetings.”

Sensenbrenner will hold more meetings across Waukesha County, including at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 16, New Berlin City Hall, 3805 S. Casper Drive; 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 17, Elm Grove Village Hall, 13600 Juneau Blvd.; 9 a.m. Monday, May 6, Nashotah Village Hall, N44- W32950 Watertown Plank Road; 9:45 a.m. Monday, May 6, Merton Village Hall, N67 W28343 Sussex Road;

10:30 a.m. Monday, May 6, Lannon Village Hall, 20399 W. Main St.; 11:30 a.m. Monday, May 6, Butler Village Hall, 12621 W. Hampton Ave.; 7 p.m. Sunday, June 2, Brookfield Town Hall, 645 N. Janacek Road; 7 p.m. Sunday, June 30, Delafield Town Hall, W302N1254 Maple Ave.; and 7 p.m. Sunday, July 14, Menomonee Falls Village Hall, W156- N8480 Pilgrim Road.

Brookfield, WICongressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) today announced the first round of his town hall meeting schedule, beginning Thursday, April 11 in Sussex, WI.

In the 115th Congress, Congressman Sensenbrenner held more town hall meetings than any other member of Congress, and has conducted more than 650 in-person meetings since 2011.

Rep. Sensenbrenner“Throughout my career, I have consistently held town hall meetings that are open to the public, and I’m pleased to resume this practice now after recovering from a recent hip replacement surgery. These events are an important way for me to engage with constituents and get direct feedback that informs my decision-making in Congress. Open and honest dialogue between elected officials and their constituents is crucial for a representative government, and I look forward to these upcoming meetings.” 

Opening Event Details:

Thursday, April 11 
Sussex Civic Center
N64W23760 Main Street
Sussex, WI 53089
7:00pm


This event is free and open to all constituents of Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District as well as members of the press.

Constituents who are unable to attend are encouraged to share their feedback HERE.

NOTE: All interview requests must be made to Congressman Sensenbrenner’s press office prior to the start of a meeting.  Additionally, if you plan to cover any of these events, please contact our office as soon as possible so we are able to accommodate your spacing needs. All television cameras must be on site 30 minutes prior to the beginning of the meeting or will not be guaranteed entry.

Full Schedule: 
Thursday, April 11th 
Sussex Civic Center
N64W23760 Main Street
Sussex, WI 53089
7:00pm 

Friday, April 12th 
Lowell Village Hall
105 N. River Street
Lowell, WI 53557
9:00am 

Reeseville Village Hall
206 S. Main Street
Reeseville, WI 53579
9:45am 

Hustisford Village Hall
201 S. Lake Street
Hustisford, WI 53034
10:45am 

Iron Ridge Community Center
205 Park Street
Iron Ridge, WI 53035
12:15pm 

Saturday, April 13th 
Fort Atkinson Public Library
Dwight Foster Public Library
209 Merchants Ave.
Fort Atkinson, WI 53538
10:00am 

Sunday, April 14th 
Greenfield Public Library
5310 W. Layton Avenue
Greenfield, WI 53220
1:30pm 

Monday, April 15th 
Johnson Creek Village Hall
125 Depot Street
Johnson Creek, WI 53038
10:00am 

Helenville Fire Hall
N4737 N. Helenville Road
Helenville, WI 53137
10:45am 

Sullivan Village Hall
500 Madison Avenue
Sullivan, WI 53178
11:30am 

Palmyra Village Hall
100 W. Taft Street
Palmyra, WI 53156
1:00pm 

Tuesday, April 16th 
New Berlin City Hall
3805 S. Casper Drive
New Berlin, WI 53151
7:00pm 

Wednesday, April 17th 
Elm Grove Village Hall
13600 Juneau Blvd.
Elm Grove, WI 53122
7:00pm 

Thursday, April 18th 
Newburg Village Hall
620 W. Main Street
Newburg, WI 53090
9:00am 

Kewaskum Village Hall
204 First Street
Kewaskum, WI 53040
10:00am 

Addison Town Hall
127 First Street
Allenton, WI 53002
11:00am 

Jackson Village Hall
N168W20733 Main Street
Jackson, WI 53037
11:45am 

Friday, May 3rd 
Waterloo Municipal Building
136 N. Monroe Street
Waterloo, WI 53594
9:00am 

Lake Mills City Hall
200 Water Street
Lake Mills, WI 53551
10:15am 

Ixonia Town Hall
W1195 Marietta Avenue
Ixonia, WI 53036
11:30am 

Sunday, May 5th 
West Bend City Hall
1115 S. Main Street
West Bend, WI 53095
1:00pm 

Monday, May 6th 
Nashotah Village Hall
N44W32950 Watertown Plank Rd.
Nashotah, WI 53058
9:00am 

Merton Village Hall
N67W28343 Sussex Road
Merton, WI 53056
9:45am 

Lannon Village Hall
20399 W. Main Street
Lannon, WI 53046
10:30am 

Butler Village Hall
12621 W. Hampton Avenue
Butler, WI 53007
11:30am 

Thursday, May 30th 
Whitewater City Hall
312 W. Whitewater Street
Whitewater, WI 53190
7:00pm 

Friday, May 31st 
Rubicon Town Hall
N3864 County Road P
Rubicon, WI 53078
9:00am 

Neosho Village Hall
210 S. Schuyler Street
Neosho, WI 53059
10:00am 

Lebanon Town Hall
N1738 County Road R
Lebanon, WI 53047
11:00am 

Sunday, June 2nd 
Brookfield Town Hall
645 N. Janacek Road
Brookfield, WI 53045
7:00pm 

Sunday, June 23rd 
Richfield Village Hall
4128 Hubertus Road
Hubertus, WI 53033
7:00pm 

Sunday, June 30th 
Delafield Town Hall
W302N1254 Maple Ave.
Delafield, WI 53018
7:00pm 

Monday, July 1st 
Wauwatosa Public Library
7635 W. North Avenue
Wauwatosa, WI 53213
7:00pm 

Monday, July 8th 
Watertown Municipal Building
106 Jones Street
Watertown, WI 53094
7:00pm 

Sunday, July 14th 
Menomonee Falls Village Hall
W156N8480 Pilgrim Road
Menomonee Falls, WI 53051
7:00pm 

Sunday, July 21st 
Slinger Village Hall
300 Slinger Road
Slinger, WI 53086
7:00pm 

By: Australian AP

A trip to Ireland by a high-powered US congressional delegation, led by House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, could be the death knell for Australia's monopoly on a highly-attractive US work visa.

Ireland has aggressively lobbied US President Donald Trump and senior members of US Congress to break Australia's stranglehold on the E3 visa and allow Irish citizens to apply for it.

The E3 was high on the agenda last month when Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar visited Mr Trump at the White House and congressional leaders on Capitol Hill for St Patrick's Day celebrations.

The E3 is a coveted two-year visa allowing Australian professionals and their spouses to work in the US with no limit on the number of additional two-year extensions.

"The congressional delegation visiting Ireland is an important step in continuing that process," Ireland's envoy to congress John Deasy told the Irish Times.

Ms Pelosi, Richard Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and other members of the US delegation will land in Ireland on April 15 for meetings with Mr Varadkar.

The Australian government, led by Ambassador to the US Joe Hockey, successfully staged its own lobbying effort late last year to thwart Ireland's previous bid.

Each year 10,500 E3 visas are made available to Australians but only about half are snapped up.

Ireland has pushed for access to the visas Australians do not take up.

"It was clear from our meetings around St Patrick's Day that both the Republican and Democratic leadership offices want to continue to pursue the E3 Bill," Mr Deasy said.

"Both speaker Pelosi and president Trump told us they are behind efforts to get this finished and congressman Neal is one of its driving forces in the House."

Mr Neal, a Democrat, and Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican, are expected to reintroduce the bill into the House in coming weeks.

Australia was first rewarded with the E3 in 2005 following its support for the US during the Iraq War and the signing of the US-Australia free trade agreement.

By: Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times

One House committee chairman officially fired off a request Wednesday for six years of President Trump’s tax returns, as another won the authority to issue subpoenas to demand special counsel Robert Mueller’s full investigative file of Mr. Trump.

The twin moves marked escalations in Democrats’ scrutiny of the president, and both threatened to spark legal battles.

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal, Massachusetts Democrat, sent his demand to the IRSfor the president’s tax returns from 2013 through 2018. He also asked for returns from eight Trumpentities, including his revocable trust and his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Mr. Neal said his committee is thinking about passing legislation on government audits of presidents and therefore has the right under its oversight powers to demand to see the information.

He set an April 10 deadline for the IRS to comply.

Mr. Trump, saying he is under audit, has repeatedly rebuffed calls to make his tax returns public. He signaled Wednesday that he is likely to battle Mr. Neal’s demand.

“Until such time as I’m not under audit, I would not be inclined to do it,” he told reporters at the White House.

Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to give Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, the power to issue a subpoena to demand that the Justice Department turn over the special counsel’s report into Mr. Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well as all investigative files that Mr. Mueller developed.

That expansive subpoena was joined by other subpoenas for five former Trump White House officials, including onetime chief of staff Reince Priebus, former top attorney Donald McGahn and former chief strategist Steve Bannon.

The 24-17 committee vote did not issue the subpoenas, but it gave permission to send them at any time to Mr. Nadler, who would oversee any impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump.

The subpoena would demand access to classified documents and to information that stemmed from the grand jury that Mr. Mueller relied upon during his investigation.

Under the law, grand jury proceedings are supposed to be sealed, though a court can unseal them.

“We need these materials to fulfill our constitutional obligation,” said Mr. Nadler, adding that Congress received classified data and grand jury information during impeachment-style investigations into President Nixon in the 1970s and President Clinton in the 1990s.

Republicans said the demand was premature.

Attorney General William P. Barr said he is planning to release as much of Mr. Mueller’s final report as possible this month.

The materials he isn’t releasing are supposed to be kept secret under the law, they said, and if Mr. Nadler wants to see those, he will have to go through a long legal battle in the courts asking them to unseal grand jury information.

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin, one of the Republican impeachment managers against Mr. Clinton in the 1990s, said he would join Mr. Nadler in making that request to the courts but added that approving the subpoena now would make no sense.

“Go to court and let the judge make the decision,” he said.

Mr. Nadler, though, said he wanted to have the subpoena in hand first and then go to court if necessary.

Mr. Nadler was on the other side of the debate in the 1990s, arguing that the Clinton investigation information should not be provided to Congress. He lost then and now says that precedent holds today for the Mueller investigation into Mr. Trump.

“Our chief constitutional obligation is to hold the president accountable, especially in an instance where the Department of Justice says it cannot hold the president accountable,” he said. “Those judgments must be made by Congress, not by a political appointee, the attorney general.”

If Mr. Nadler’s subpoena powers are challenged in court, then they are likely to be joined by Mr. Neal’s request.

Although Mr. Trump joked about the request for six years of returns — “is that all?” he said to reporters — the power to demand a taxpayer’s information is due to be tested.

The power rests in Section 6103 of the tax code, which orders that tax returns be kept private under federal law but includes a provision giving the heads of the tax-writing House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees the ability to request “any return or return information.”

Although information that can be traced back to an individual is supposed to be viewed only in closed session by the committee, the expectation on Capitol Hill is that the information will quickly find its way into the public sphere, possibly through a vote by the full Ways and Means Committee.

Mr. Neal said Mr. Trump’s information is needed to write better laws, but fellow Democrats made clear that they plan to expose the president politically.

“For much of his adult life, Trump has used his power to shield himself from scrutiny or accountability. Subjecting his tax records to sunlight can finally hold him to both,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., New Jersey Democrat.

Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on Mr. Neal’s committee, urged the Treasury Department and the IRS to refuse the request.

“This particular request is an abuse of the tax-writing committees’ statutory authority, and violates the intent and safeguards of Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code as Congress intended,” he said in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said he doubts Mr. Mnuchin will be able to resist complying with Mr. Neal’s request.

“The law is crystal clear,” he said. “I expect the Treasury Department to comply in a timely manner.”

He said he wants the Republican chairman of the Finance Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, to make the same request for the Senate.

Mr. Grassley has criticized requests for Mr. Trump’s tax returns as an effort to “weaponize” the tax law for political purposes. But he also has said that if the House did it, then he would make the same request to prevent any mischief on Democrats’ part.

On Wednesday, a representative for Mr. Grassley said he takes a dim view of Mr. Neal’s move.

“Those seeking an individual’s personal tax returns to exact political damage would be opening the door to future abuses of power and would poison the public trust in the ability of the IRS to keep personal information private. That’s an outcome every taxpayer and their elected representatives should want to avoid.”

By: Leandra Bernstein of NBC 15

The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to authorize subpoenas so members of Congress can read the unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report.

In a party-line vote, the committee gave the chairman the authority to subpoena the Justice Department for the report and all of the underlying evidence gathered during the two-year investigation into the Trump campaign.

Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. did not pull the trigger, yet. The subpoenas from the House Judiciary will likely come later this month after Attorney General William Barr is expected to release a redacted version of the report.

Barr indicated last week that he will not release the full 400-page report, prompting Democrats to dig in their heels for a lengthy political and legal fight.

In a letter to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, Barr said he planned to redact classified information, grand jury materials, information related to ongoing investigations and information that could violate the privacy and reputation of individuals named in the report.

Democrats argued the redactions were unacceptable and unprecedented. "The department is wrong to try to withhold that information from this committee," Nadler stated. "Congress is entitled to all the evidence."

Nadler said he is currently negotiating with Attorney General Barr to produce the documents. If those talks fail, he will bring the issue before a judge in the hopes of compelling the release of the redacted materials.

"We're going to work with the attorney general for a short period of time in the hope that he will reveal to us the entire Mueller report and the underlying materials. And we'll go to court to get permission to have the [grand jury] material," Nadler told reporters after the vote. "But if that doesn't work out in a very short order, we will issue the subpoenas."

In addition to the Mueller report, the Judiciary Committee is prepared to subpoena five former Trump White House figures, Don McGahn, Steve Bannon, Hope Hicks, Reince Priebus and Ann Donaldson.

Submitting a redacted report to Congress would be a departure from previous investigations where lawmakers were given full access to reports, underlying evidence and grand jury materials. In the Ken Starr independent counsel investigation of Bill Clinton and Leon Jaworski's special counsel investigation of Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal, Congress was provided all of the information.

However, the special counsel law changed after the 1999 Clinton impeachment and Starr report.

Under the revised statute, the special counsel is only required to provide the attorney general with a confidential report explaining any decisions to prosecute or decline prosecution. There is no obligation to provide Congress or the public with a full account. In his January confirmation hearing, Barr pledged to make public as much of the Mueller report as he could "consistent with the law."

Doug Collins of Georgia, the Republican ranking member on the Judiciary Committee argued that the Justice Department has the right to withhold its evidence from Congress, unless the chairman was willing to launch an impeachment investigation, as with Clinton or Nixon.

"If the chairman truly wanted to get at this information, then he can go to what I believe many in their heart desire, is open the impeachment inquiry," Collins said.

Leading Democrats have resisted calls for impeachment from their base and some of the party's more left-leaning members.

Chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Mark Meadows of North Carolina, told SBG that the Democrats subpoena threat was "political theater."

"This is a 2020 subpoena. It's not a transparency subpoena," he argued. "This is all about politics. It really has nothing to do with getting to the truth."

WHAT COMES NEXT?

Congress could receive the redacted Mueller report as soon as next week. But that will be the beginning, not the end of the fight.

On Wednesday, both Republicans and Democrats signaled that they are prepared to take the next step and fight the Justice Department in court.

Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin stated he would be "happy" to be a co-plaintiff in a case demanding the release of grand jury material gathered in the Mueller investigation.

Sensenbrenner, who voted against subpoenaing the Justice Department, argued the resolution was "toothless" and that an attempt to enforce the subpoena would inevitably be tied up in litigation for years.

"The thing to do to put teeth into a subpoena is for Congress and this committee to go to court and ask for an order allowing for the release of the grand jury material," the congressman stated.

Otherwise, the Justice Department will quash the subpoena, Sensenbrenner continued, "and it will be in court for months and maybe years until the Supreme Court decides this issue because it's a dispute between the legislative and executive branches of government."

Democrats on the committee indicated they were open to Sensenbrenner's suggestion but hoped to negotiate with Attorney General Barr outside of court first and then move to issue subpoenas.

"This is the first step of the Judiciary Committee making certain we get the Mueller report and all the supporting documents," Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., told Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Both parties in Congress have expressed a strong desire to see the full report on the Trump campaign and alleged Russian collusion.

Last month, the House passed a resolution unanimously, 420 - 0, supporting the public release of the Mueller report. Many in the Senate hoped to pass a similar resolution but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blocked it from coming to the floor.

Among the general public, recent polls show the overwhelming majority of Americans want to see the full report and a majority (66 percent) want to see Robert Mueller testify before Congress.

President Donald Trump originally supported the full release of the report after Barr issued a 4-page memo essentially clearing the president and the Trump campaign of conspiring with the Russian government. Trump claimed he was "totally exonerated."

This week, Trump appeared to change his tune, tweeting that Democrats' demands for full documentation were an attempt to relitigate the two-year investigation.

Even though the attorney general is not obligated to give lawmakers the underlying documents in the Mueller investigation, Congress does havevirtually unlimited authority to subpoena information from the executive branch.

House Republicans regularly exercised that authority and issued hundreds of subpoenas—with limited success—when they held the majority during the Obama and early Trump administration. In 2017, a handful of Republicans went so far as threatening to hold the deputy attorney general in contempt of Congress for failing to produce documents related to Hillary Clinton's email investigation.