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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) offered the following statement after voting against H.Res. 965 – Remote Voting by Proxy in the House of Representatives:

“The House Democrat proposal to allow for a system of proxy voting on the floor of the House of Representatives is not one I can support. This is the most consequential change to House rules in decades. These changes are advertised as short term and limited to the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Likely, they would create a rules precedent that will be followed in the future. A precedent that can easily be construed as unconstitutional and subject to legal challenges.

By allowing each member to represent up to 10 proxies, Democrats could unilaterally pass legislation with only 22 of their members present. Just like the balance needed between the health of our citizenry and the health of our economy, balance is needed in the function of the House of Representatives. We are in unprecedented times that require unprecedented action from Congress. Appropriate steps must be taken to ensure the safety of members and staff. But we must not abandon the rules of the House. Members of Congress must still debate and vote in person.

Necessary precautions are needed to ensure congressional hearings are run securely & efficiently. Extending the length of time votes are held open and allowing members to vote in staggered blocks are just some of the steps the House has taken to deal with the current crisis. The subtle nature of bi-partisan policy making cannot be replicated remotely.

The House of Representatives has withstood the events of the Civil War, the Spanish Flu, World War II, and 9/11 just name a few. Through all these monumental events, the House met in person, debated, and passed important legislation to get this nation back on track. While the House should adhere to the guidelines of social distancing, we must also conduct our essential duty.”

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) offered the following statement after voting against a $3 trillion COVID-19 Democrat spending package:

“Nancy Pelosi has decided to present a grab bag of Democrat priorities in this latest piece of coronavirus relief funding. I view this as Democrats unabashedly and carelessly spending taxpayer money. While I have supported the previous relief packages that have assisted our businesses and families during this pandemic, this $3 trillion package is not a responsible way to provide assistance. 

It is now time lawmakers focus on opening up our economy while keeping citizens safe.  Programs like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) have helped get businesses and workers through this unprecedented time; however, the bill before us today is just throwing money at the pet projects liberals have always wanted.  I will not be a part of it. I want to ensure Congress addresses the needs of our current economic crisis and provides commonsense help so we can move forward.”

Washington, D.C.— Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) sent a letter to United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Charles P. Rettig, asking him to address the numerous barriers the residents of Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District are encountering in determining the status of their economic impact payments and tax refunds.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “I have been made aware of several concerns as it relates to the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) ability to meet the needs of my constituents during the Coronavirus pandemic. Every day, people from Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District contact me searching for help regarding their economic impact payments or tax refunds. With the economic uncertainty plaguing the nation, I expect the IRS to do everything it can to assist and serve the American people.”

The full text of the letter is available below:

Dear Commissioner Rettig:

I have been made aware of several concerns as it relates to the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) ability to meet the needs of my constituents during the Coronavirus pandemic. Every day, people from Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District contact me searching for help regarding their economic impact payments or tax refunds. With the economic uncertainty plaguing the nation, I expect the IRS to do everything it can to assist and serve the American people.

I appreciate the need to maintain the health and safety of the IRS workforce. But with no immediate end to the pandemic in sight, it is vital that the IRS adapt to meet the demands and needs of taxpaying Americans. For instance, I am troubled by the current lack of phone assistance available to taxpayers and tax professionals.[1] Not having live people answering questions exacerbates the confusion and frustration with the IRS. Additionally, the loss of Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TAC) has limited American’s ability to get answers to their tax questions.[2]

For most tax questions, the IRS has directed individuals to use the tools available at IRS.gov. This includes searching for answers like “Where’s My Refund” and “Get My [Economic Impact] Payment.” However, my constituents have encountered problems with this system as well. 

A specific problem in using the website seems to be due to certain postal addressing practices that are unique to Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. Many areas of my district use an alphanumeric address (e.g. N6W23001 Bluemound Rd).[3] In order to access the tools at IRS.gov, a taxpayer is required to first verify their identity by entering several pieces of information, including their address. Because of the numerous possible combinations for inputting an alphanumeric address, many taxpayers are being locked out from the website after only three failed attempts. This leaves them unable to check their payment status and to provide their direct deposit information in order to most quickly receive their Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act economic impact payments. 

The lack of clear guidance from IRS on how to input these addresses, as well as the unavailability of any telephone assistance, has added to the confusion and frustration faced by citizens in desperate need of the money provided by Congress.

While only part of Congress’s overall approach to addressing the damage caused by the Coronavirus, the economic impact payments are a very visible piece of our response.  Millions of Americans, upon hearing the news that these checks were included in the CARES Act, have been eagerly awaiting their payments to ease the burden caused by the pandemic.

I encourage you to resolve any outstanding issues related to serving the American people during this trying time.  There cannot be any undue delays in getting the economic impact payments and refunds out the door.  But just as important, taxpayers need to be able to access accurate information and have their tax questions answered. It is up to you to ensure the IRS is adequately meeting the needs of the American people.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

Sincerely,

F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, JR

Member of Congress



[1] https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-operations-during-covid-19-mission-critical-functions-continue (accessed 5.12.2020)

[2] Id.

[3] https://pe.usps.com/text/pub28/28apd_004.htm

Washington, D.C.— Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) and Congressman David Cicilline (RI-01) are leading more than 120 members of both parties in providing for access to funding for local news publishers and broadcasters in the next COVID-19 relief package.

Rep. Sensenbrenner: “The nation is at war with COVID-19 and America’s local media has not been immune to the effects of the virus on local communities. Local newspapers, radio stations, and television broadcasts play a pivotal role in connecting communities with vital information. I am proud to lead a group of more than 120 House members in bipartisan support of local news publishers and broadcasters in the next COVID-19 relief package. Local news employs thousands of workers in addition to reporters and photographers. Newsroom support staff, technical support operators, and printer publishers are just a few of the examples of hardworking Americans that keep local journalism in motion. Now, more than ever, local news provides essential information regarding public health and safety, local events, and democracy. Accurate, reliable, and trustworthy sources of information are vital in this time of need.”

The full text of the my letter to House leadership and a list of signers is embedded below. A PDF copy of the letter, as delivered, can be downloaded by clicking here.




Dear Madam Speaker and Minority Leader McCarthy:


We write to ask that any future stimulus package to address the coronavirus pandemic include immediate improvements to existing lending programs to protect local news publishers and broadcasters.

Reliable local information and reporting in our communities is more important than ever—newspapers and broadcasters are working “around the clock, often in dangerous conditions, to consistently get critical and timely information to the public.”1 Local news publishers and broadcasters employ thousands of journalists—including reporters, photographers, newsroom staff, and others—to provide timely and accurate news to keep people informed about their communities.2 Under ordinary circumstances, this work is essential to public health and safety, local businesses, and our democracy. But it is more important than ever as our country responds to and recovers from the COVID-19 crisis.

In recent years, local news sources have been in an economic freefall. From 2006 to 2017, advertising revenue has fallen from $49 billion to $15.6 billion, combined with a changing online landscape, resulting in mass layoffs or news sources folding altogether.3 In the past several years alone, thousands of journalists that work in our communities have lost their jobs. For example, last year, the Cleveland Plain Dealer announced another round of layoffs due to advertising losses, reducing its staff by 80% from employment levels just seven years ago.4 Just last week, the Cleveland Plain Dealer announced that it has reduced its staff to fourteen employees, who were notified that “most will no longer be covering news in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County or for the state of Ohio.”5

This economic crisis has accelerated in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. According to a coalition of news organizations—including the News Media Alliance, National Newspaper Association, National Association of Broadcasters, and America’s Newspapers—there has been a steep decline in advertising revenue from local businesses shuttering such as retail, restaurants, and more.6 Broadcasting alone estimates a minimum loss of at least $3 billion in advertising thus far.

The small business provisions enacted as part of the recent stimulus bill provided some relief for select news publishers and broadcasters and many small stations or newspapers have been able to apply for Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, but many have not because the eligibility requirements were not inclusive enough to capture them. Hundreds of individual broadcasters and news publishers were not eligible for loan relief because they were affiliated with larger groups whose total employee count was more than 500 spread across various stations or newspapers.

We therefore urge you to protect local journalism by clarifying that local news publishers and broadcasters that meet the SBA’s size standards and primarily serve a single community or metropolitan area qualify for the newly established Paycheck Protection Program regardless of their affiliation. Congress established the Paycheck Protection Program—or the appropriate small business spending program in an upcoming stimulus package—to provide small businesses with a direct incentive to keep their workers on the payroll during this crisis. Many local news publishers and broadcasters, however, may sometimes consist of a small team of local journalists, personalities or sales staff that are part of larger ownership groups. Nevertheless, these publishers and broadcasters operate almost entirely locally. In light of this, it is essential that Congress clarifies that loans that are provided under the Paycheck Protection Program are determined on a local and individual basis for news publishers and broadcasters.
Importantly, these funds should support local newsgathering—there should be clear guardrails and oversight to ensure they are spent locally.

Accurate, reliable, and trustworthy sources of information are vital in this time of need. Congress must do everything possible to protect local news sources during this crisis to safeguard our democracy and keep our communities informed as our nation responds to the crisis. We respectfully urge you to address this issue as part of the appropriate stimulus package.


Sincerely,

David N. Cicilline
Chairman
House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law

James Sensenbrenner
Ranking Member
House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) offered the following statement on House passage of the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act:

"I applaud the passage of the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act today by the House of Representatives. This bill now goes to the President’s desk for his signature. Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy and need immediate assistance during this unprecedented time. 

I have always held the line on government spending. However, these are extraordinary times that require extreme measures. America is at war with this virus and war requires decisive action. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is saving jobs and must be replenished. This legislation provides an additional $310 billion in PPP loans.  

The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act also provides additional resources for hospitals and testing. Hospitals and health care providers will receive an additional $75 billion to support the need for COVID-19 related expenses. $25 billion is allocated to provide for expenses to research, develop, validate, manufacture, purchase, administer, and expand capacity for COVID-19 tests. 

The impact of COVID-19 on our community has caused devastating disruptions. Every facet of American life has been impacted immensely by this crisis. The disturbance of daily life is not the fault of the American people. No one is immune to the disease or its impact on our everyday lives. I want to ensure Congress keeps working to get small businesses the resources they need to address our current economic crisis.”

 

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) offered the following statement on House passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act:

"I applaud the passage of the CARES Act today by the House of Representatives. This bill now goes to the President’s desk for his signature.  While I have been a watchful eye of government spending throughout my career, I recognize these are unprecedented times that require extraordinary and decisive action.

The impact of COVID-19 on our community has caused devastating disruptions. Every facet of American life has been impacted immensely by this crisis. The disturbance of daily life is not the fault of the American people. No one is immune to the disease or its impact on our everyday lives.

Earlier this week, Speaker Pelosi attempted to insert funding for a variety of liberal programs on her party’s wish list that have no relation to the crisis at hand. Thankfully, her tactics were rejected and most of these outrageous items were omitted from the final bill.

The CARES Act prioritizes the safety and care of the most vulnerable of members of our society. While the bill is not perfect, this vital bipartisan investment is sure to aid in the recovery of the nation. Citizens will receive direct relief. State and local governments will receive desperately needed health care resources. It removes regulatory barriers so small businesses can get people the help they need during this time of crisis and stabilizes key industries to avoid massive layoffs.

Time is of the essence. We need to get our country back on track as soon as possible. Americans need help now and I am pleased that the House has come together to pass this immediate relief package. The CARES Act will provide much needed assistance to Wisconsin’s families, workers, and small businesses."

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) offered the following statement on coronavirus supplemental funding:

“Last week, I voted for $8 billion in supplemental funding to fight the coronavirus. Yesterday, President Trump declared a national emergency, freeing up $50 billion in order to address this crisis. Early this morning, the full text of H.R. 6201 was presented to House members with less than 30 minutes to review 100-plus pages of bill text. We do not know the full cost of this legislation. I am not a fan of passing bills to find out what is in them. I hope the United States Senate is able to review and address the issues with this bill on Monday. We must deal with this outbreak in a measured and responsible way.”

Washington, D.C. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) offered the following statement regarding Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ request for a Major Disaster Declaration for southeastern Wisconsin, following the severe storms and flooding that occurred in January 2020. Congressman Sensenbrenner joined his colleagues from the Wisconsin delegation in sending the following letter to President Donald Trump:

“Today, I joined my congressional delegation colleagues in requesting that the White House approve Governor Evers’ request for a Major Disaster Declaration in Wisconsin. This declaration would bring much needed federal assistance to the southeastern part of our great state. I hope that this request will be reviewed and considered promptly, and that FEMA will continue to work with the state and local governments to facilitate the recovery and rebuilding necessary.”

Washington, D.C. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) offered the following statement after making numerous points of order on the House Floor during today’s House debate on the so-called “Equal Rights Amendment.” 

“I was amazed by the ruling of the Chair during today’s House debate on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). I made two specific points of order that were both rejected out of hand and without a vote of the House. The majority’s outrageous disregard for the Constitution was on a full display. I am both disappointed and dismayed. The snap ruling of the Chair does not supersede the authority of the Constitution. Three-quarters of the states failed to ratify the ERA by the deadline set by Congress. House Democrats voted to retroactively revive a failed constitutional amendment. A two-thirds vote is vote is required to amend the Constitution and I believe a two-thirds vote of the House of Representatives is necessary for removal of the deadline.

Washington, D.C.– Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) joined several of his colleagues to introduce HR 5769, the Statement of Harm to the American Majority (SHAM) Act in the House of Representatives. This legislation requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct an audit of the use of funds, and loss of government productivity, due to the impeachment inquiry and trial of President Trump. The audit must include costs, time spent, and estimations on loss of productivity.

“Now that President Trump has been acquitted of this sham impeachment by the United States Senate, it is imperative that a full autopsy of wasted funds and loss of government productivity is ordered. I am pleased to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Statement of Harm to the American Majority (SHAM) Act.”