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By: Taylor Millard of Hot Air

Civil libertarian(ish) groups on both sides of the aisle aren’t happy with the House’s approval of the new FISA authorization. FreedomWorks heaped loads of criticism on the House, with Vice President of Legislative Affairs Jason Pye saying the Constitution doesn’t matter to supporters.

SEE ALSO: DeVos casually announces funeral for Common Core

It’s a dark day for the Bill of Rights. Sadly, a majority of the House Republican Conference and many Democrats chose to ignore the Fourth Amendment in today’s votes. The erosion of the civil liberties protected by the Bill of Rights is clearly a bipartisan problem. We thank Reps. Justin Amash, Andy Biggs, Jim Jordan, Thomas Massie, Jim Sensenbrenner, and others who took a stand today for the Fourth Amendment.

Pye is also promising FreedomWorks will do all it can to support Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee in their fights to rein in the NSA. The ACLU is also promising to help kill the FISA bill in the Senate because they believe it gives the presidency too much power. Cato Institute policy analyst Patrick Eddington, who was heavily featured in my piecelast Sunday looking at the bill, emailed me to say he’s still hopeful there will be Senate reform.

[T]he House of Representatives voted to not only reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Section 702 mass surveillance program, but to effectively expand it. It’s literally no stretch to say that the bill the House just approved effectively gives greater privacy protections to criminal suspects than to innocent Americans. It allows the federal government to continue to collect, store, and search the communications of Americans with no connection to criminal activity. This program has never been properly audited for its constitutionality, effectiveness, or costs, and the House leadership clearly has no interest in doing so. The surveillance reform battle now moves to the Senate, where the issue is very much in doubt.

It appears the focus on killing the bill will be in the Senate, where Paul, Lee, and Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden have been fighting for reforms for years. Paul and Wyden have promised to filibuster, while Lee is teaming up with Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy on the USA Liberty Act. The latter are hoping Mitch McConnell will let them offer amendments to the bill, including their bill.

Ed pointed out this morning that Senate leadership may do their best to avoid another messy fight on FISA by connecting it with the omnibus spending bill. It’s good strategy but shows just what’s wrong with Washington by using cheap tactics to get something passed. Before people say, “Drain the swamp! Only Trump can save us!”, it should be pointed out the president endorsed the bill this morning despite an earlier tweet suggesting he wasn’t in favor of it. My guess is Chief of Staff John Kelly got in Trump’s ear and told him how “important” the bill was to Trump’s campaign promise of keeping terrorists out, even if it’s debatable whether NSA spying has really saved America from attack.

I understand why the spying bill has support from defense hawks but they’re misguided in their belief that it’s worth sacrificing a little bit of the Constitution to keep America safe. The problem with watch lists, data collection, and spying is the fact that innocent Americans get caught up in the very flawed system. The government doesn’t go after individuals but the telecom industry, and it doesn’t behoove the industry to actually fight the government because they’re dependent on various different cronyistic pieces of legislation to help their bottom line (and, no, I’m not talking about lowering corporate tax breaks, I’m talking about specific pieces of “stimulus” legislation). Then there’s the fact that the list is sitting in some government database, leaving it open to attack from hackers. No server is every truly “safe” and the hacks from the last few years have proven it.

The big issue with the FISA bill is the fact that it violates the Constitution, specifically the Fourth Amendment. Supporters point out federal courts have ruled before that “third party data” doesn’t violate the Constitution, but the courts erred in their thinking (which, frankly, isn’t surprising given that petitioners are asking the government to rule the government broke its own rules). There actually is a case on the issue making its way through the courts right now. It’ll be interesting to see what happens at the Supreme Court.

The good news: The fight over FISA isn’t over, and there’s a chance the reauthorization bill will die in the Senate.

The bad news: It’ll probably pass anyway.

But this is another example of what happens when the government decides it needs to get its sticky fingers into everyone’s business. Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” He may have been talking about a tax dispute but he’s still right.

The House on Thursday approved 256-164 a bill to reauthorize provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for another six years, putting the measure in the Senate’s hands.

The bill, backed by the Trump administration and all the U.S. intelligence agencies, would preserve the FBI and the intelligence agencies’ ability to search a surveillance database for information on Americans with minimal warrant requirements.

The approval of the legislation, backed by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes and the panel’s top Democrat Adam B. Schiff, both Californians, marks a defeat for a large bipartisan group of lawmakers who proposed an amendment that would have imposed tough warrant requirements before the FBI could begin searching the surveillance database for information on Americans.

The amendment, sponsored by Reps. Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican, and Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, would also have ended incidental collection of information on Americans. It was rejected, 183-233, moments before final passage of the bill.

The votes on the Amash-Lofgren amendment and the bill itself followed an hour of debate that underscored that the surveillance legislation blurred the usual partisan boundaries. In an unusual alignment, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi opposed the Amash-Lofgren amendment, saying that it would weaken intelligence agencies’ ability to stop terror plots in a timely fashion.

President Donald Trump appeared to muddy the House debate when he tweeted early Thursday that the “House votes on the controversial FISA ACT,” and mused that the surveillance law could have been used by the Obama administration to spy on the Trump campaign in 2016. An hour later, he tweeted again, this time arguing that the bill “is about foreign surveillance on foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it!”

The White House also issued a statement of policy backing the House bill and sent Chief of Staff John F. Kelly to the House to monitor the vote.

The Nunes-Schiff bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has said he would filibuster legislation that does not require stronger warrant requirements for searches of the surveillance database. Paul is joined by Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and GOP Sens. Steve Daines of Montana and Mike Lee of Utah. But a contingent of senators led by North Carolina Republican Richard M. Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the panel’s top Democrat, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, would likely back the House-passed measure.

“The House-passed bill does absolutely nothing to defend the vast majority of law-abiding Americans from warrantless searches, and in many ways, it expands the federal government’s ability to spy on Americans,” Wyden said in a statement, while calling on the Senate to “allow real debate and amendments, and not push this legislation through in the dark.”

Shortly after the House action, the Senate agreed, 69-26, to a motion to proceed to the expected legislative vehicle for FISA amendments reauthorization.

Following the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made a motion to concur in the House amendment to the bill, and filed cloture on that motion. He then filled the amendment tree, which limits amendments from being offered to the legislation.

Current law allows U.S. spy agencies to conduct electronic surveillance on foreign persons located outside the United States. Section 702 of FISA empowers the National Security Agency under a special court order to collect and analyze emails and other digital communications of foreigners living overseas, but the agency also ends up collecting data on an unknown number of U.S. persons, which it can later search without a warrant.

The agency had also been conducting so-called upstream searches of electronic communications and phone calls but ended up collecting information about Americans who were neither senders nor receivers of information from foreign targets. In April 2017, the NSA said it was suspending such “about collection” because it could not separate the communications between foreign targets and communications purely between Americans.

Backers of the Nunes-Schiff bill said it was a compromise measure between the current law and the demands of privacy advocates who said the FBI should not begin any query of the surveillance database without obtaining a probable cause warrant.

The bill would allow the FBI and intelligence agencies to search the FISA Section 702 database for information on Americans, but would require the law enforcement agencies to obtain a judicial warrant only if any of the information they find is to be used in a criminal proceeding. The bill would also allow the NSA to resume about collection after giving Congress a 30-day notice for review.

Supporters of the Nunes-Schiff bill also argued that requiring the FBI to obtain a warrant may impede fast-moving terror plots.

Backers of the Amash-Lofgren amendment said they wanted to restore the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful searches.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner said the Nunes-Schiff bill “puts the James Madison legacy into the trash bin of history,” referring to the author of the Fourth Amendment.

The Wisconsin Republican is also the author of the Patriot Act that was passed in 2001 in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and gave U.S. intelligence agencies vast powers in an attempt to stop further attacks. But in the years after the law was passed, U.S. intelligence agencies were found to be snooping on Americans’ phone calls and in 2015, Sensenbrenner authored the USA Freedom Act that sharply curtailed the NSA’s ability to collect phone meta-data on Americans.

By: Susan Ferrechio of the Washington Examiner

House Republicans on Thursday will try to reauthorize a key but controversial counterterrorism tool, despite a split among lawmakers that could end up sinking the bill.

Dozens of members are expected to vote for a bill-gutting amendment to underlying legislation reauthorizing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows intelligence officials to spy on communications of non-citizens outside of the U.S.

The amendment, sponsored by Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich. and Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., is named the USA Rights Act, and it would strictly limit the way intelligence officials can collect communications involving Americans, going far beyond the moderate limitations to the program included in the underlying bill.

For example, Amash's plan would end “abouts” collections, which go beyond searches based on the sender fields in emails and allow searches of the contents of messages. It would also stop so-called reverse targeting of Americans who are caught up in the surveillance of foreign communications, and bolster requirements for search warrants.

Passage of the amendment would essentially kill the underlying bill, which reauthorizes the spy tool with more moderate changes written by the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. Procedurally, passing Amash's language would morph the bill into a version he and his supporters like, at which point GOP leaders would probably yank the bill from the floor, or if it somehow passed, the Senate would be unlikely to take it up in that form.

The House Freedom Caucus and other Republicans have endorsed the Amash amendment, thus splitting the GOP on the bill. And many Democrats are also expected to back the Amash provision.

“There is a big divide on our side,” Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who backs the Amash amendment, said Wednesday. “And certainly on [the Republican] side. It puts the bill in jeopardy. I think it falls short.”

The House voted to advance the legislation on Wednesday by approving debate rules, but the real battle comes Thursday, when the House votes first on the Amash amendment, and if that fails, the underlying bill.

Republicans and Democrats who back the underlying bill say the Amash amendment is unnecessary because reforms have been added to boost privacy protections, including stronger requirements for search warrants. The Amash amendment is simply an attempt to kill the bill, proponents of the underlying legislation said Thursday.

But the reforms offered in the underlying legislation were not enough for many lawmakers, who are also receiving pressure from outside groups including FreedomWorks and the ACLU, which have declared the spying tool unconstitutional.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., a senior member of the Judiciary Committee and its former chairman, said the underlying bill includes new warrant requirements that excludes many of the kinds of searches performed by intelligence officials, sweeping in millions of innocent emails sent by Americans.

“The loopholes in this bill are too great to ensure proper protection,” Sensenbrenner said.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said that while his faction endorses the Amash amendment, he expects Republicans will provide enough votes to pass the legislation.

Republican leaders spoke out against the Amash amendment in a closed-door meeting with rank and file lawmakers on Tuesday.

“In the end, I’m not seeing a whole lot of nervousness on behalf of the whip team,” Meadows said. “The whip team is probably giving them pretty good assurances that they are going to get a FISA reauthorization without changes.”

If the House kills the Amash amendment and passes the underlying bill, Senate Republicans said they’ll move it to the floor ahead of a Jan. 19 deadline.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in that case, the Senate is likely to pass the measure, which would clear it for President Trump’s signature. The Senate may consider the measure as a standalone bill or attach it to a bill to temporarily fund the government, which is expected next week ahead of a Jan. 19 government funding deadline.

But there is also opposition in the upper chamber. About two dozen lawmakers in both parties have signed onto legislation offered by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., which mirrors the Amash bill.

“Politicians who support broad, unchecked government surveillance authorities are once again rushing to approve a sweeping program at the expense of Americans’ personal liberty and constitutional rights,” Wyden said of the House underlying measure in an opinion piece published on thecipherbrief.com.

Brookfield, WI—Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner announced the nominations of students from Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District for appointments to the U.S. service academies.

Rep. Sensenbrenner: “These students have exceptional records, strong character, and great potential. They deserve commendation for choosing to pursue a career of service to our nation as future military leaders. I congratulate them on this achievement and have full confidence that they will make their families, communities, and country proud.”

He also offered: “I’d like to thank the volunteers on the Academy Selection Committee for all their time and efforts in selecting the most qualified candidates from an incredibly competitive field of applicants.”

Nominees are designated as “principal” or “alternate.” Principal nominees who meet academic, physical, and medical standards set by each academy are guaranteed an appointment to that academy. Alternate nominees compete for available slots should any principal nominees choose not to accept or fail to qualify for their appointment. Additionally, alternate nominees are part of a pool of applicants from which the academies select the incoming class.

The United States Merchant Marine Academy does not differentiate between principal and competing alternate nominations.

This year, Congressman Sensenbrenner nominated thirty-four students, including four principal nominees. They are as follows:

Principal Nominees:

William Kitzhaber of Watertown has been named a principal nominee to attend the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. William, son of Peter and Michelle Kitzhaber, attends Watertown High School.

Sophie Tasker of Elm Grove has been named a principal nominee to attend the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Sophie, daughter of Harold and Sibylle Tasker, attends Brookfield East High School.

Michael Kahler of Brookfield has been named a principal nominee to attend the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. Michael, son of Russell and Susan Kahler, attends Marquette University High School.

Joseph Meier of Pewaukee has been named a principal nominee to attend the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. Joseph, son of Frederick and Amy Meier, attends Arrowhead High School.

Competing Alternate Nominees and United States Merchant Marine Academy Nominees:

Jared Albrecht of Waukesha has been named a nominee to the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY. Jared, son of Chad and Dawn Albrecht, attends the Kettle Moraine School for Arts and Performance.

Sabrina Andringa of Waukesha has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. Sabrina, daughter of Timothy and Robin Andringa, attends Waukesha South High School.

Isaac Barta of New Berlin has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO, the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, and the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. Isaac, son of Jeffrey and Melissa Barta, attends Catholic Memorial High School.

August Beyer of Slinger has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. August, son of Paul and Julie Beyer, attends Slinger High School.

Alexander Carter of Oconomowoc has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Alexander, son of Paul and Angelique Carter, attends Oconomowoc High School.

Thomas Cullen of West Bend has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. Thomas, son of Stephen and Sherry Cullen, attends Living Word Lutheran High School.

Nicholas Frigerio of Brookfield has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Nicholas, son of Joe and Liz Frigerio, attends Lake Country Lutheran High School.

Zachary Hastings of Hartland has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. Zachary, son of Charles Hastings and Laura Lien, attends Arrowhead High School.

Camille Herman of Brookfield has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Camille, daughter of Timothy Herman and Janet Perrie, attends Brookfield Central High School.

Jonah Hestetune of Menomonee Falls has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. Jonah, son of Marlon Hestetune and Jeanette Prince-Hestetune, attends Menomonee Falls High School.

Andrew Hruz of Wauwatosa has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD and the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY and a nominee to the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY. Andrew, son of Benjamin Hruz and Ann Torcivia-Hurz, attends Marquette University High School.

Samantha Kruk of Menomonee Falls has been named a nominee to the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY. Samantha, daughter of Mark and Kristin Kruk, attends Menomonee Falls High School.

Abbey Lippold of Nashotah has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD and the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. Abbey, daughter of James and Shannon Lippold, attends Arrowhead High School.

Arianna Mansavage of Jefferson has been named a nominee to the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY. Arianna, daughter of Michael and Rosemarie Mansavage, attends Fort Atkinson High School.

Katya Miller of West Allis has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. Katya, daughter of Dominic and Michelle Miller, attends West Allis Central High School.

Troy Nachtigal of Fort Atkinson has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. Troy, son of Terry and Julie Nachtigal, attends Fort Atkinson High School.

Michael Naze of Oconomowoc has been named a nominee to the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY. Michael, son of Scott and Richelle Naze, attends Catholic Memorial High School.

Joseph Neimon of Delafield has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. Joseph, son of Michael and Kerry Neimon and graduate of Kettle Moraine High School, attends the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Joseph Nunez of Greenfield has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD and a nominee to the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY. Joseph, son of Edmund and Patricia Nunez, attends Marquette University High School.

Emma Oleniczak of New Berlin has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. Emma, daughter of Michael and Karin Oleniczak, attends New Berlin Eisenhower High School.

Brandon Prevo of Delafield has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY and a nominee to the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY. Brandon, son of Tim Prevo and Amy SoHang Choi, attends St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy.

Timothy Prevo of Delafield has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY and a nominee the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY. Timothy, son of Tim Prevo and Amy SoHang Choi, attends St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy.

John Reardon of Oconomowoc has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. John, son of Kevin and Christine Reardon, attends Mukwonago High School.

Bret Scarpaci of West Allis has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. Bret, son of James Scarpaci and Janet Dewey and graduate of Nathan Hale High School, attends Marquette University.

Daniel Schulz of Brookfield has been named a nominee to the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY. Daniel, son of Peter and Michelle Schulz, attends Brookfield East High School.

Jessica Steger of Iron Ridge has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO and the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. Jessica, daughter of Steve Steger and Kristine Kanitzer, attends West Bend East High School.

Max Stergiades of Brookfield has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. Max, son of Nicholas and Peggy Stergiades and graduate of Brookfield East High School, attends the United States Air Force Academy Preparatory School.

Bryce Texeira of Waukesha has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Bryce, son of David and Lisa Texeira, attends Waukesha West High School.

Austin Walsh of West Bend has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO and the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. Austin, son of Gary Walsh and Camie Williams-Walsh and graduate of Slinger High School, attends Iowa State University.

Noah Zenker of Hartland has been named an alternate nominee to the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. Noah, son of Kurt and Natalie Vitchar Zenker, attends Arrowhead Union High School.

Congressman Sensenbrenner is currently accepting applications for students seeking a nomination to attend a service academy in the fall of 2019. More information about the process can be found HERE. Additional questions can be directed to Congressman Sensenbrenner’s Brookfield office at (262) 784-1111.

By: Scott Anderson of the Madison Patch

MADISON, WI —The U.S. Air Force said Thursday that Wisconsin's Truax Field Air National Guard base in Madison will be one of two sites to station next-generation F-35 aircraft, beginning in 2023.

In a news release, Air Force officials said that deployment of the F-35 is "critical to the family of systems" needed to penetrate enemy air defense systems.

"Putting F-35s at these two Air National Guard bases continues our transition into the next generation of air superiority," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein in a prepared statement on Thursday. "It helps ensure we can always offer the Commander-in-Chief air power options and be ready to penetrate any enemy air defenses, hold any target at risk and go when and where the president tells us to go. We're the options folks. The F-35 is critical to the family of systems we need to accomplish this mission for the nation now and in the future."

In an undated letter submitted to General David L. Goldfein, Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin, congressmen Paul Ryan, Mark Pocan, Reid Ribble, James Sensenbrenner, Ron Kind, Gwen Moore, Sean Duffy and Glenn Grothman stated that "The capabilities and assets of the 115th Fighter Wing and Truax Air National Guard Base include in their unique ability to provide tremendous airspace, that it schedules and controls, over its network of integrated ranges and its unencumbered Military Operational Airspace."

The Air Force expects the F-35s to begin arriving at Truax Field in early 2023. The Air Force also evaluated Gowen Field Air Force Base in Idaho, Selfridge Air Force Base in Michigan and the Jacksonville Air Guard Station in Florida. The Air Force said those bases were reasonable alternatives, but not preferred.

"This is a big day for Wisconsin's military community and the whole region. The Air Force agrees that the great men and women of the Wisconsin Air National Guard are uniquely prepared to host the F-35," Speaker Paul Ryan said in a prepared statement. "This decision boosts the Truax base, which is already such an integral part of the area and contributes a great deal to our national security. I want to congratulate all the people in the community who worked tirelessly to make this possible, but most importantly the men and women of the 115th Fighter Wing, who represent us with integrity and excellence every single day."

By: Cara Spoto of the Freeman

BROOKFIELD — The head of the Brookfield-based Independent Business Association of Wisconsin hailed the passage of the federal tax reform bill on Tuesday, saying it will put more money in the pockets of small businesses and their employees.

The Republican-drafted legislation, which slashes the corporate income tax rate — taking it from 35 to 21 percent — passed the House of Representatives largely along party lines by a 227-203 vote Tuesday afternoon. Senate Democrats, however, invoked a parliamentary procedure, arguing that three provisions in the bill violated Senate rules and must be removed. After that action, the Senate approved the bill early this morning on a 51-48 party-line vote.

Therefore, the measure must return to the House today, where it is virtually certain to be approved again.

“Any time you can put more money back into corporate hands, that’s going to trickle back down to not only workers, but expansion of equipment and research and development,” said Steve Kohlmann, executive director of the Independent Business Association of Wisconsin, which represents businesses with 50 or more employees.

Kohlmann was joined in his praise for the legislation by U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls.

“Today’s action by Congress is a huge step toward relief from the burden of an over-reaching government,” wrote Sensenbrenner, who represents Waukesha, in a statement. “Individuals, families, and businesses across Wisconsin and across the country are in a better place than they were yesterday.”

Criticism and praise

The massive $1.5 trillion tax package is expected to touch every American taxpayer and every corner of the U.S. economy, providing tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy, as well as for middle- and low-income families. The top tax rate for individuals would be lowered from 39.6 percent to 37 percent. Many analysts have argued that the legislation will also increase the national debt. Proponents, however, have suggested its positive impact on the economy will offset the increased deficit.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, said the results of the legislation, which doubles both the child credit and the standard deduction used by most families, would make it popular.

While individual tax cuts would expire in 2026 in order to comply with Senate budget rules, tax cuts for corporations would be permanent.

Democrats have called the bill a giveaway to corporations and the wealthy, arguing that there is little likelihood that business owners will use their gains to hire more workers or raise wages.

But Kohlmann said Tuesday that businesses will use the money they pocket to reinvest in their companies, including human resources.

“It’s not only research and development, but it’s being able to hire workers, pay benefits to those workers, and then offer higher wages to retain those workers, and attract more workers,” he said. “There are three things businesses are constantly fighting with: taxes, excessive regulations, and health care. So we have chipped away at a big one.”

Waiting on details

Tom Fotsch, a part owner and chief operating officer at Waukesha-based computer and software manufacturer EmbedTek, said he wasn’t yet sure what the what law might mean for his company, but said he believed the “overall economic impact of the legislation” was positive.

EmbedTek is a closely held corporation and it hasn’t been clear what changes will be in store for those types of corporations, because the Senate and House bills have different proposals, Fotsch said.

“It’s one of those things where the devil is in the details,” he said. “It makes it very difficult to try and plan, when we really don’t know what was in the legislation. That’s a little frustrating, but, generally the things that they are saying are positive.”

On a personal note, Fotsch said he’s glad to see what he called “major steps toward trying to simplify the tax code” for individuals, noting it could pave the way for more people being able to do their own taxes.

“I think that’s great,” he said.

By: Dr. Susan Berry of Breitbart

A coalition of 67 national and state pro-life groups is warning Congress that a vote for the Alexander-Murray Obamacare “stability” bill is a vote for taxpayer-funded abortion on demand.

In a joint letter to members of Congress, the leaders of the coalition asserted their opposition to any spending bill that includes cost-sharing reduction payments that are not protected by the Hyde Amendment, a longstanding provision that prohibits taxpayer funds from being used for most abortions.

The pro-life groups state:

We are strongly opposed to Obamacare stabilization funding unless amended so such funds cannot be used for plans that include elective abortion. In addition, we will oppose any larger legislative package that includes stabilization funds for abortion-covering plans. …Any Member voting for the Alexander-Murray proposal, or other Obamacare stabilization legislation not covered by the Hyde amendment, would not only be voting to sustain what many have called the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade, but would also be voting to directly appropriate taxpayer dollars for insurance that includes elective abortion.

Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) proposed one stabilization fundthat would appropriate monies for the Obamacare subsidies known as the “cost-sharing reduction (CSR) program.” CSRs provide additional funds to health insurance companies which, they claim, are required to keep health insurance costs low.

Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) also offered a “stabilization” bill that would make payments to abortion-covering insurance plans to reduce health insurance costs.

“Both Alexander-Murray and Collins-Nelson payments are in the Obamacare funding stream and should not underwrite plans that cover abortion,” the pro-life groups write.

“For decades, the Hyde amendment and other funding limitation amendments such as the Smith Federal Employee Health Benefits Program amendment prevented federal taxpayer funding for abortion or for insurance coverage that included abortion,” they add. “In stark contrast, enactment of Obamacare ushered in a new era of abortion funding unleashing federal subsidies for insurance coverage that includes abortion on demand.”

Politico, in fact, notes this week:

The Alexander-Murray bill doesn’t have the prohibitions on federal funding of abortion commonly known as the Hyde amendment, which has angered a key anti-abortion group, the Susan B. Anthony List, and House Republicans.

But Democrats in the Senate, who will be needed to help pass the bill, are already frustrated that the GOP has twisted the intent of the bipartisan compromise in order to repeal the mandate. It’s hard to see how they’ll be eager to enact new Hyde language.

The Politico report states Senate Republicans are now rationalizing that Obamacare already prohibits use of federal funds for abortions, and that additional restrictions are not necessary.

“That claim might sound nice now, but it’s not what Republicans have argued since Obamacare passed, nor is it consistent with the facts,” writes policy analyst Christopher Jacobs at the Federalist. “To claim otherwise insults the intelligence of the pro-life community, and voters at large.”

Jacobs observes that both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Vice President Mike Pence have previously stated unequivocally that Obamacare forces taxpayers to fund abortions.

Secondly, he notes Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) stated in December 2009 that Obamacare’s abortion funding restrictions are “significantly weaker” than the Hyde Amendment.

To those Republican senators who say President Donald Trump can always boost enforcement of so-called Obamacare restrictions on abortion funding with executive orders, Jacobs responds with the words of Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who said in March 2010:

This bill expands abortion funding to the greatest extent in history. I have heard that the President is contemplating an executive order to try to limit this. Members should not be fooled. Executive orders cannot override the clear intent of a statute … If an executive order moves the abortion funding in this bill away from where it is now, it will be struck down as unconstitutional because executive orders cannot constitutionally do that.

“Senate Republicans have already attempted to claim that the insurer ‘stability’ bill will bring benefits to taxpayers, even though the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office believes the bill will give a windfall directly to insurance companies,” Jacobs writes. “They should not worsen the spectacle of rationalizing bad policy by attempting to render seven years of arguments they made to the pro-life community meaningless—for they only beclown themselves in the process.”

The letter to members of Congress was signed by Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, National Right to Life President Carol Tobias, March for Life Education and Defense Fund President Jeanne Mancini, Concerned Women for America President and CEO Penny Young Nance, Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins, and more than 60 other pro-life leaders.

Washington, DCCongressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) offered the following statement after voting to advance the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act:

“This historic tax reform package is a great win for the American people. For the first time in a generation, there will be real relief for struggling families. Under Speaker Ryan’s leadership and his “Better Way Agenda”, we are focused on making our economy stronger and expanding opportunities for all Americans. Today’s action by Congress is a huge step toward relief from the burden of an over-reaching government. In fact, the average family of four in my district will see a $2,700 tax cut. Individuals, families, and businesses across Wisconsin and across the country are in a better place than they were yesterday.”

He also offered, “We are at a turning point and I am pleased we have chosen to move forward in the name of the American people. This is about making things better for all Americans and I am proud to be part of it.”

Background:

The accompanying conference report to the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act reduces the tax rates on individuals and businesses, doubles the standard deduction, and preserves the mortgage interest deduction. It also maintains state and local tax deductions on property, income or sales taxes up to $10,000. Additionally, it expands both the Child Tax Credit and deductions for charitable donations.

CLICK HERE to view more policy highlights of the conference report.

CLICK HERE to view the full text of the conference report.

By: Christopher Jacobs of the Federalist

As Yogi Berra would say, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Once again, Senate Republicans are preparing to flip-flop on taxpayer funding of plans that cover abortion. In June, I discussed how unnamed Senate Republican sources claimed that their “repeal-and-replace” legislation would preserve Obamacare’s “restrictions on abortion funding,” even though Republicans have spent the past seven years arguing that the law provides taxpayer funding of plans that cover abortion.

Those same unnamed sources are now trying to claim that the Obamacare “stability” bill does not need additional restrictions on abortion funding. As Politico reports:

[Senate Republicans are] stressing that Obamacare already has prohibitions on using federal funds for abortions that are not because of rape or incest or to save the mother’s life. Anti-abortion groups didn’t trust the Obama Administration to enforce those prohibitions. That prohibition could carry more weight now. ‘We have a pro-life Administration that has agreed to more stringently enforce the life protections,’ a Senate Republican source said.

That claim might sound nice now, but it’s not what Republicans have argued since Obamacare passed, nor is it consistent with the facts. To claim otherwise insults the intelligence of the pro-life community, and voters at large.

Let’s Go Down Memory Lane

In June, I cited several floor speeches during the Obamacare debate where congressional leaders argued that Obamacare includes taxpayer funding of abortions. For instance, here’s Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), as the House prepared to vote on Obamacare: “Democrats over in the House want to approve the Senate bill without actually voting on it. These Democrats want to approve a bill that rewrites one-sixth of the economy, forces taxpayers to pay for abortions, raises taxes in the middle of a recession, and slashes Medicare for seniors, without leaving their fingerprints on it” (emphasis mine).

Astute observers might notice the wording of McConnell’s remarks. The Senate majority leader did not say that “Obamacare might force taxpayers to fund abortion coverage, depending upon how the administration implements the law.” He did not say that “We need to elect a pro-life administration to prevent Obamacare from providing taxpayer funding of abortion coverage.” He flatly stated that Obamacare “forces taxpayers to pay for abortions”—period, end of story.

The current vice president, Mike Pence, said the same thing. While serving in the House, he delivered a floor speech that unequivocally equated Obamacare with taxpayer funding of abortion coverage:

Mr. Speaker, the bill before us tonight doesn’t fix anything. It doesn’t fix the fact that this is a government takeover of health care that’s going to mandate that every American buy health insurance whether they want it or need it or not. It doesn’t fix the fact that it includes about $600 billion in job-killing tax increases in the worst economy in 30 years. It doesn’t fix the fact this bill provides public funding for elective abortion for the first time in American history (emphasis added).

Law Trumps Executive Action

McConnell, Pence, and many others had good reason for their statements. As Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) noted in December 2009, Obamacare’s abortion funding restrictions are “significantly weaker” than the Hyde Amendment—a provision designed to prevent taxpayer funding of abortion since 1976—making them “completely unacceptable” in Hatch’s view, and in the view of most pro-lifers.

As to Republican staffers’ claims that the Trump administration can “fix” the flawed statutory language through executive orders or more robust enforcement, here’s what pro-life Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) had to say about that in March 2010:

This bill expands abortion funding to the greatest extent in history. I have heard that the President is contemplating an executive order to try to limit this. Members should not be fooled. Executive orders cannot override the clear intent of a statute….If an executive order moves the abortion funding in this bill away from where it is now, it will be struck down as unconstitutional because executive orders cannot constitutionally do that.

Other House members made the same argument in March 2010, including Dan Lungren(R-CA) and Joe Pitts (R-PA). Their argument applies just as equally to Republican presidents and administrations as it does to Democratic ones.

Moreover, conservatives who believe in limited government should not ask President Trump to exceed his executive authority, and a blanket funding on Obamacare’s abortion coverage would do just that. As I wrote in January, “a Republican Administration should not be tempted to ‘use unilateral actions to achieve conservative ends.’ Such behavior represents a contradiction in terms.” Not only can the Trump administration not stop funding of abortion coverage unilaterally, it should not attempt to try, if doing so would exceed its legal authority.

Don’t Insult Voters’ Intelligence

Just as the Trump administration should not try to exceed its authority in shutting down federal funding of abortion coverage, Senate Republicans should not attempt to insult voters by pretending that those efforts will succeed legally, or that the “completely unacceptable” abortion “protections” Hatch described in 2009 are now sufficient.

As I noted in October, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) failed even to understand the need for pro-life protections when crafting his “stability” bill earlier this fall. Leadership claiming pro-life protections are unnecessary when Alexander never bothered to consider them literally adds insult to injury.

Senate Republicans have already attempted to claim that the insurer “stability” bill will bring benefits to taxpayers, even though the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office believes the bill will give a windfall directly to insurance companies. They should not worsen the spectacle of rationalizing bad policy by attempting to render seven years of arguments they made to the pro-life community meaningless—for they only beclown themselves in the process.

Mr. Jacobs is founder and CEO of Juniper Research Group, a policy consulting firm based in Washington. He is on Twitter: @chrisjacobsHC.

By: National Pork Producers Council

Led by the state of Indiana, the attorneys general for 13 states this week filed a lawsuit against Massachusetts over its ban on the sale of out-of-state meat and eggs from animals raised in certain housing. Massachusetts voters in November 2016 approved a ballot initiative that banned certain housing for pigs, egg-laying hens and veal calves.

The AGs are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that the ban on the sale of meat and eggs from animals raised in housing systems prohibited by the state, which is set to take effect in 2022, violates the U.S. Constitution and the Commerce Clause’s original goal of preventing states from enacting barriers to interstate commerce and regulating commercial activities that take place beyond their borders.

The lawsuit, filed directly with the high court based on its original jurisdiction over disputes between states, follows a similar suit. That suit also was filed by 13 states – led by the attorney general of Missouri – challenging a similar law restricting access to retail markets in California.

NPPC fought both the Massachusetts and California initiatives and now is supporting the “No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017” (H.R. 2887), legislation introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., that would prohibit states from imposing regulatory burdens on businesses, including pork operations, not physically present in the state.

Earlier this year, NPPC CEO Neil Dierks testified on the bill before a House Judiciary subcommittee, saying: “Several states – most with little pork production – have banned gestation stalls, either through ballot initiatives or legislation. That was their prerogative, however ill-advised or uninformed their motives were. What NPPC and pork producers object to is one state adopting a law or regulation that dictates the practices of the other 49 states.”