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By: Christian Schneider of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

In the past handful of years, it has appeared as if notable Wisconsin Republicans were falling from the sky. In 2011, Reince Priebus became chair of the Republican National Committee; the following year, Gov. Scott Walker fought off a nationally-publicized recall attempt. And Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan became the 2012 Vice Presidential candidate, eventually ascending to Speaker of the House.

With all these flashy new youngsters making news, Wisconsin's decades-long conservative standard bearer watched quietly from the wings. When Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner first took his seat in 1979, Ryan was 9 years old and America still couldn't conceive of the idea of "President Ronald Reagan."

But if Sensenbrenner harbors any envy towards the new crop of state conservatives, he doesn't show it. "I've backed and mentored Paul and Scott and (U.S. Rep.) Sean Duffy right from the time they decided they were going to run," he told me this week. Sensenbrenner says he considers them all close friends and often serves as a "sounding board" when they want to work through issues.

"Some would refer to me as the political 'Godfather,'" he jokes.

And while some view the 74-year old as the state's resident conservative curmudgeon, he delights in trading humorous birthday gifts with Ryan, which he believes demonstrates "the depth of our friendship." Recently, the Speaker gifted Sensenbrenner an empty water cooler bottle, telling him to use it to go out and trap cow flatulence in an attempt to reduce climate change. In return, Sensenbrenner has sent Ryan a talking toilet paper dispenser, a small reindeer that defecated brown jelly beans, and some men's hair coloring gel.

Given that Sensenbrenner won his first election to the state legislature before both Woodstock and Neil Armstrong's moon landing (as a law student in the late 1960s, he roamed the UW-Madison campus with the likes of fellow students Tommy Thompson and Dick Cheney), he has seen the Republican Party undergo numerous identity crises. When I asked him how to keep the party from fracturing in the Era of Trump, he pointed to Wisconsin as an example of how to keep coalitions strong.

"In both 2010 and 2016, we really did a good job of keeping the different elements of the Republican Party that have been very divisive in other states together in Wisconsin," he said. He added that unity within the party requires "different pitches for different groups of people," and that candidates in Wisconsin have been able to bridge that gap in a way missing in other states.

The old-school Sensenbrenner does, however, decry what he calls the cable news "24-second news cycle," which he thinks spawns negativity and political extremism. "I've never had as contentious town hall meetings as I've had this year," he said, accusing "hateful and spiteful" Sanders Democrats of "shouting down anyone who they disagree with." 

Of course, Sensenbrenner's nearly half-century in Congress hasn't been without its low points. At a town hall meeting in 2011, he made a crack about the size of First Lady Michelle Obama's posterior, for which he quickly apologized. On the job, Sensenbrenner thinks the toughest time he's had was in the mid-2000s, when he tried to crack down on illegal immigration well before Donald Trump had publicly considered the issue.

Yet four decades in office certainly haven't dulled Sensenbrenner's partisan edges. When I asked him about the Senate health care bill unveiled on Thursday, he immediately chastised Senate Democrats for opposing the bill so soon after it was made public.  "Good question to ask of Senator (Tammy) Baldwin," he said, taking aim at his Wisconsin colleague who faces re-election in 2018, "whether she read it before she decided to vote against it."

Speaking of 2018, Sensebrenner tells me is definitely going to be on the ballot again. Given that he represents one of the most Republican districts in the nation, generations of young conservative stars have come and gone waiting for him to retire or run for higher office.

When I asked him what he would say to those Republicans patiently waiting to run for his seat when he's done, he answered in his trademark gruff manner.

"Wait longer."

You can view this piece online here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner sent the following letter to United States Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross compelling him to limit the scope of an ongoing investigation of steel products used for national security applications in order to avoid unnecessarily impacting manufacturers producing non-security related steel products:

 

Dear Secretary Ross,

I am writing in regards to the Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Commerce, dated April 20, 2017, which directs an “investigation under section 232(b)(1)(A) of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (the "Act") (19 U.S.C. 1862(b)(1)(A)) to determine the effects on national security of steel imports and the Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Commerce, dated April 27, 2017, which directs an “investigation under section 232(b)(1)(A) of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (the "Act") (19 U.S.C. 1862(b)(1)(A)) to determine the effects on national security of aluminum imports.

I appreciate the President’s commitment to America’s security and his commitment to assuring a level playing field for American manufacturing.  However, I am concerned that the scope of this investigation could include steel and aluminum that has no national security application, such as tinplate steel, rolled can sheet, and the primary aluminum and ingot that is milled into rolled can sheet, food and beverage containers, lids, and closures.  These products are principally produced outside of the United States because the remaining U.S. smelters largely make more profitable aluminum and steel products domestically.  Because of this, companies that use these products largely depend on imports in order to make aluminum cans and bottles. Our dependence on the imports of these products is not recent.  In fact, the U.S. has been in this deficit trade position with these products since the end of World War II.

I am concerned that if these products are included within the scope of the Section 232 investigation, it will result in the loss of good paying manufacturing jobs, both in Wisconsin and in other states around the nation, along with higher prices for the American consumer.

I understand that this consequence would be unintended.  Not all aluminum and steel is the same, and the distinction of tinplate steel, rolled can sheet, and primary and ingot used for food and beverage containers, lids and closures versus other aluminum is very important.  I hope that your investigation under Section 232 will be limited in scope to only products that are used for national security applications and not include the products listed above. 

Thank you for your attention, and I look forward to working with you on this matter.  Should you have any questions regarding this letter, please contact Mark O’Neil in my office at Mark.O’Neil@mail.house.gov.

Sincerely,

F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.

Member of Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner and Senator Ron Johnson sent the following letter to United States Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, urging him to consider the unintended ramifications of a Department investigation into the effects of steel imports on national security, and its potential negative impact on U.S. manufacturing – mainly increased, unnecessary, and burdensome restrictions:

Dear Secretary Ross,

Re: Section 232 National Security Investigation of Imports of Steel

We write to you regarding the Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Commerce, dated April 20, 2017, which directs an “investigation under section 232(b)(1)(A) of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (19 U.S.C. 1862(b)(1)(A)) to determine the effects on national security of steel imports, and its potential negative impact on manufacturing in the United States.

We are greatly concerned that an investigation by the Department of Commerce may not distinguish between the different types of products produced from electrical steel and therefore unnecessarily place restrictions on the importation of electrical steel and components used to manufacture electric distribution transformers.  

Grain Oriented Chemically or Mechanically Etched Domain Refined Electrical Steel is a critical component in producing Wound Core Electrical Transformers. This specific grain oriented electrical steel is sought after in the developed world due to its very high performance in electrical distribution systems. As such, there are no producers that supply this type of electrical steel in North America.  Additionally, this precise grain oriented electrical steel allows power producers to meet and exceed the 2016 Department of Energy efficiency standards placed on electrical distribution transformers.

We believe that a potential quota placed on Grain Oriented Chemically or Mechanically Etched Domain Refined Electrical Steel could have unintended consequences that leave producers without a supply of this vital material, ultimately jeopardizing the domestic production of electrical transformers and potentially impacting hundreds of jobs in the state of Wisconsin.

Therefore, we ask that the Department of Commerce considers the lack of domestic supply of specific Grain Oriented Electrical Steel and request that Grain Oriented Chemically or Mechanically Etched Domain Refined Electrical Steel not be subject to action under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act.

Sincerely,

F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.

Member of Congress

 

Ron Johnson

United States Senator

On Wednesday, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield announced it would pull out of Wisconsin’s health insurance market, making it the fifth health insurer to leave the state’s marketplace since the implementation of President Barack Obama’s disastrous health care law, ironically coined the Affordable Care Act.

This devastating development will leave thousands of Wisconsinites without their preferred health insurance at the end of this year — another blow to a state that’s been hit repeatedly with a string of knocks dealt by the repercussions of Obamacare.

Since Obamacare went into effect, Wisconsin health care consumers have seen a 93% premium increase on the individual market. In fact, the average premium costs nearly $3,000 more today than it did in 2013, and the average deductible costs $830 more today than in 2014.

Furthermore, approximately 115,000 Wisconsin families paid $22 million in penalties to the Internal Revenue Service in 2014 because the cost of insurance plans under Obamacare was so high that it was more financially prudent to pay the fee than purchase insurance. Sixteen counties have two or fewer choices of health insurance providers in 2017.

Obamacare doesn’t work. It’s failing before our eyes. And as bad as it has been in Wisconsin, some other states have seen even higher price increases and more limited options.

Throughout the country, Obamacare has more than doubled premiums for health care consumers, who are facing double-digit premium hikes heading into next year. National deductibles under Obamacare are jumping higher than $6,000 on average for a basic health insurance plan, and roughly 6.5 million Americans paid approximately $3 billion in penalties to the IRS rather than signing up for Obamacare.

During a recent visit to Milwaukee, Vice President Mike Pence highlighted these figures and spoke to the severity of the problem Wisconsin, and the nation, faces under Obamacare.

He noted that next year, most of Tennessee will only have one insurer under Obamacare. In Iowa, almost the entire state could have no insurance plans to choose from. This is likewise true for 25 counties in Missouri.

These are more than just devastating statistics — they affect the lives of real people. They took President Obama at his word when he said that health insurance costs would go down under this new plan.

President Obama broke his promises to the American people. Thankfully, the Republicans have put forth a plan to make good on those promises and give hope back to those who have been let down by the failures of Obamacare and those who continue to peddle it.

Last year, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan published his Better Way agenda, which served as the blueprint for what would become the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Through the AHCA, Speaker Ryan and House Republicans outlined a solution that provides Americans with more choices at lower cost. It expands Health Savings Accounts and a new tax credit to help buy insurance at an affordable price. It protects access for individuals with pre-existing conditions, allows children ages 26 and younger to remain on their parents’ insurance plans, and it reforms and strengthens Medicaid to help those who need it most.

Most importantly, the AHCA put Americans — not government — in control of their health care. That means that despite recent and ongoing reports of the breakdown of Obamacare in Wisconsin and nationwide, there is room for hope and optimism, both of which I have in the Republican plan and the abilities of Congress to pass and sign into law by the end of this year.

Jim Sensenbrenner is a Republican congressman representing Wisconsin’s fifth district.

You can view this piece online here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released a statement in response to Milwaukee’s missed opportunity to work with Attorney General Sessions and a new U.S. Justice Department program aimed at curbing violent crime, drug trafficking, and gang violence.

Under the new DOJ program, consultants will work with local law enforcement officials to help develop new ways to fight violent crime in 12 cities with exceedingly high crime rates. Although Milwaukee has one of the highest crime rates in the nation, it was not chosen for the program due to its status as a sanctuary city.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Milwaukee has one of the highest crime rates in the country, yet it was overlooked for an opportunity to receive assistance under this new DOJ program because of city leaders who want to put politics before the safety of their citizens. Milwaukee residents deserve better – they deserve leaders who will stand up for them rather than political interests. If Milwaukee rescinds its sanctuary status, it will be eligible for consideration in the next round of cities.”

Cities chosen for the program include: Birmingham, AL; Indianapolis, IN; Toledo, OH; Cincinnati, OH; Houston, TX; Buffalo, NY; Memphis, TN; Baton Rouge, LA; Jackson, TN; Kansas City, MO; Lansing, MI; and Springfield, IL. The program is expected to expand to include additional cities later this year.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement on the devastating news that Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield will be dropping out of the Wisconsin health insurance market:

 

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Today’s announcement that Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield will be dropping out of the Wisconsin health insurance market is devastating to thousands of families in our state. It’s another unfortunate example of the ongoing failures of the disastrous Obamacare law and further proof that Congress must come together to pass serious health care reform for the sake of all Americans.” 

By: Brittany Seemuth and Erik S. Hanley of Northwest NOW

The shooting at a Republican congressional baseball practice during the morning of Wednesday, June 14, has local congressmen responding. 

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, representative for Wisconsin's 5th congressional district, said the shooting that injured Rep. Steve Scalise and two members of Capitol Police won't change his views on security, nor how his activity in the public sphere. 

Despite, the shooting, Sensenbrenner will maintain his town hall schedule through the end of this month; his next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Sunday, June 25, in West Bend.

"Sadly, we live in a time where everyone must practice situational awareness, but the Congressman believes strongly in being available to his constituents and the most

recent shooting won’t change that," said Nicole Tieman, communications director for Sensenbrenner. "While we will always try to take reasonable security precautions, the Congressman intends to practice the ultimate act of defiance against terrorists and evildoers—living his life and representing his constituents as he always has."

Sensenbrenner has held the most town hall meetings out of any other member of Congress with 81; that's nearly twice as many as Sen. Ron Wyden, who comes second to Sensenbrenner on the record list. 

Congressman Glenn Grothman, representative for Wisconsin's 6th congressional district, said he will still have law enforcement at his town halls, but that is "standard practice."

As the third-ranking member of the House of Representatives, Scalise had a security detail while out and about.

“Other members of Congress do not, and I think extensive security is cost prohibitive and would limit the way we interact with our constituents,” Grothman said.

Grothman said he is continuing to think about his friend, Scalise, who is still in the hospital.

“I’m thankful that the Capitol Police officers were there so that this horrific incident wasn’t as bad as it could have been,” Grothman said. “I just pray everyone makes a full recovery.”

View this artilce online here.

Yesterday, multiple people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, were shot during a congressional baseball practice in Virginia. Reports show that prior to this terrible event, the gunman specifically asked whether the practice was for Republican or Democrat players.

This is an extremely disturbing example of just how bad the political atmosphere in America has become, but it’s certainly not the only example. The flames of hate are fanned every single day on social media and in the news, and there’s no denying that the toxicity of this rhetoric feeds into the unspeakable actions of those such as yesterday’s shooter, and countless others over the years.

As Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner’s (R-Wis.) communications director, I personally monitor his social media accounts every day. That includes Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. On average, the Congressman receives dozens of comments per day, sometimes hundreds.

I read every single post and tweet, and I often wish that this disheartening task didn’t fall to me because each day, I’m faced with message s like these:

 

  

 

A profession in politics is not for the faint of heart. You need to have a thick skin and a healthy sense of humor to maintain a positive and optimistic perspective. I, like many communications professionals, am often on the receiving end of similar hate-filled messages. But there must be a line somewhere that separates legitimate criticism and excessive hate mongering.

At what point should politicians say enough is enough? What has to happen before our political leaders can stand together and denounce extreme and dangerous rhetoric? 

Unfortunately, it usually takes a terrible act of violence, such has yesterday’s shooting.

It was uplifting to see Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) come together before the full House of Representatives and share expressions of unity while condemning the cowardly actions of a disturbed and deadly individual.

But their message of optimism and strength is one that shouldn’t be reserved for days of tragedy. Admonishment of hate should resonate from the halls of Congress to the far-reaching corners of this country every single day.

In recent months, we’ve seen too many words and examples of violence against our political leaders promoted in the national news. Whether it’s Snoop Dogg’s video depicting the shooting of a clown resembling President Trump, Kathy Griffin’s photo illustrating a decapitated President Trump, or the most recent Shakespearean play featuring a Trump-like Julius Caesar being violently murdered, these visual representations of violence are not only offensive, but they lower the standard of what is acceptable in the public arena. They also further deteriorate the national political climate and promote threatening societal norms.

The degradation of political civility is not exclusive to supporters or opponents of any one party. I’m confident that any Democratic member of Congress would be able to produce appalling examples of social rhetoric similar to those I’ve highlighted from Mr. Sensenbrenner’s account. This is a wide-ranging symptom of our polarized and explosive political climate that must be addressed for the safety of our people and the continued success of this country.

And while Americans have the right to say what they want under the First Amendment – no matter how vulgar, profane, or inflammatory, as a society, we don’t have to condone it.

If we truly hope to stop these horrific acts of violence and begin to heal our deep political divides, we all need to denounce hate speech and the sharing of false or misleading information, particularly online.

It’s not easy to find a silver lining in tragedy, but if there’s one to garner from yesterday’s events in Virginia it would be this: an opportunity to hit the reset button on a disconcerting political climate and bring some light and optimism back to America.

Tieman is Rep. James Sensenbrenner’s (R-Wis.) communications director.

You can view this piece online here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner introduced the Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2017

The Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2017 builds on the success of the original Second Chance Act of 2008 and continues to authorize funding for both public and private entities to evaluate and improve academic and vocational education for offenders in prison, jails, and juvenile facilities.

Congress passed the original Second Chance Act with strong bipartisan support and President George W. Bush signed it into law in 2008. This legislation provides non-profit faith and community-based organizations with mentoring grants to develop support programs such as drug treatment, housing, job training, medical care, and education.

Re-entry services have been improved, which has resulted in a reduction in recidivism and helped ensure a successful return to society for prisoners who have completed their sentence. More than 100,000 men, women, and youth returning home from prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities have benefited from Second Chance grants providing career training, mentoring, family-based substance abuse treatment, and other evidence-based reentry programs. 

This investment has also paid public safety dividends. A report from the National Reentry Resource Center highlights how numerous states have experienced drastic reductions in statewide recidivism rates as a result of robust reentry services made possible in part through Second Chance.

The outcomes are impressive, but state and local governments as well as non-profit organizations need resources in order to ensure that the millions of individuals returning from prison, jail, and juvenile facilities each year continue to receive coordinated evidence-based reentry services.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The Second Chance Reauthorization Act is an important component of my ongoing efforts to reform and improve our federal criminal justice system, save taxpayer money, and strengthen American families. While prisons are important deterrents in our fight against crime, they remain one part of the solution to a complex problem. Rehabilitation efforts, such as the ones in the Second Chance Act, will help prisoners who have paid their debt to society get back on the right path and become successful, contributing members of their communities.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced the No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017 in the House of Representatives.

In their never-ending quest for new revenues, states are growing increasingly aggressive in imposing regulatory burdens on out-of-state businesses. The No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017 will stop such overreaches by states and help out-of-state businesses defend themselves against overly burdensome tax obligations.

This legislation prohibits states from regulating beyond their borders by imposing sales tax collection requirements on businesses with no physical presence in the taxing state, and no vote in the representation that would implement such a tax.

Prohibited activities include:

  • Telling an out-of-state business how to make or dispose of its products
  • Imposing income tax or sales tax collection burdens on out-of-state businesses

The No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017 does not prohibit states from regulating businesses within their borders. States remain free to insist that products entering their borders comply with national standards.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Over-taxation and regulatory burdens weigh heavy on American businesses. These practices prohibit economic growth, stunt hiring, and make it harder for businesses to expand. The No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017 helps alleviate these burdens, promotes entrepreneurial endeavors, and is an ally of small business. It reduces overregulation, keeps government overreaches in check, and ensures that only businesses within a state are subjected to state tax obligations.”

The No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017 is supported by various organizations, including: Council for Citizens Against Government Waste; Net-Choice; National Taxpayers Union; Software Finance and Tax Executives Council; Overstock; Electronic Retailing Association; Americans for Tax Reform; American Catalog Mailers Association.