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Interest in the health of our nation’s economy is universal to every American. Political ideology aside, the state of our economy directly affects our ability to provide for our families, grow our businesses, and save for the future. As the debate on tax reform continues in Washington, I think it’s important to talk about why it matters here in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin is home to nearly 450,000 small businesses that employ 1.2 million people —roughly 50% of the private workforce in our state. Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-led Legislature have worked hard to implement common-sense reforms that have allowed our businesses to grow and expand. Over the last 12 months, Wisconsin added about 25,000 jobs and the unemployment rate stands at 3.4%, which is lower than the national average.

Our state was once one of the worst states to do business. Now, thanks to the reforms enacted since 2010, Wisconsin has attracted global businesses such as Amazon, Haribo, and most recently tech manufacturing giant Foxconn to invest here, creating thousands of new family-supporting jobs and enticing Wisconsin’s next generation to stay and begin their careers here.

But there’s a limit to what can be done on the state level unless Congress can pass tax reform legislation. Businesses in Wisconsin and nationwide carry the heavy burdens of an onerous and convoluted federal tax code. In fact, it has increased so much in length and complexity that hundreds of pages of instructions are necessary to file even the most basic returns.

The current federal tax system is unworkable for small businesses, which incur between $15 billion and $16 billion in tax compliance costs, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. But small businesses aren’t alone; they share the painful repercussions of an outdated and unfair tax code with everyday taxpayers. Data provided by the Internal Revenue Service’s Taxpayer Advocate Service shows that American taxpayers spend more than 6 billion hours annually complying with our monstrous tax code.

I remember the impact bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform had on our nation’s economy when President Ronald Reagan signed it into law more than 30 years ago. Those reforms gave a jumpstart to our economic climate and reignited Americans’ faith in the national economy. Similar reforms are long overdue. The time is now to move forward with a comprehensive overhaul of our federal tax system, which has hampered economic growth and bankrolled the bloated federal bureaucracy.

Taxpayers in Wisconsin and throughout the country deserve a fairer tax code that will allow them to keep more of their hard-earned money by streamlining the process and closing special interest tax deductions and loopholes. Business owners deserve a flatter, simpler tax code that will reduce the amount of time and money they spend on compliance and allow them to invest more of their capital back into their businesses. America deserves a tax code that doesn’t incentivize its companies to relocate overseas in order to avoid massive tax obligations that crush growth and kill American jobs.

We all deserve more from our federal tax code. That’s why my congressional colleagues and I — led by House Speaker Paul Ryan — are proposing a plan for long-term, comprehensive tax reform. We want to jumpstart the American economy and restore hope to the millions of businesses and individuals who have come to accept an anemic economic growth rate as the “new normal.”

President John F. Kennedy famously said that a rising tide lifts all boats. That’s exactly what state-level reforms have done here in Wisconsin, and that’s what it will do for our national economy and all Americans when Congress passes comprehensive federal tax reform legislation.

Wisconsin is leading the way, and Congress must now follow suit by passing tax reform legislation that will deliver results to improve the lives of citizens here and around the country, while giving a much needed hand up to our businesses.

View this piece online here.

WASHINGTON, DC: Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement on the passing of Wisconsin Congressman Jerry Kleczka:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: "Congressman Jerry Kleczka was first and foremost a public servant. He fought his entire career for his beliefs and cared deeply for his district and for the state of Wisconsin. Although we often disagreed on policy, it was an honor to serve with someone so committed to making life better for his constituents. He will be missed my many."

BROOKFIELD, WI – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement on the passing of Wisconsin State Representative Bob Gannon:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Bob was an ardent and unapologetic conservative who never shied away from a tough conversation and who always stood up for his principles. He was a fighter who continually held himself accountable to his constituents and was always transparent about his beliefs. He worked every day to make his district, and the state of Wisconsin, a better place, and it was an honor to work beside him as we traveled our districts together for town hall meetings. His presence will be missed, but he will never be forgotten.”  

By: Lindsey McPherson of Roll Call

House Republicans want to ensure any legislation replacing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, would have the support of the majority of their conference before it goes to the floor.

That’s why Speaker Paul D. Ryan formed a task force featuring a cross section of Republicans who serve on committees with jurisdiction over immigration and border security to come up with a plan the conference can support.

The group is just one of several moving parts in the House effort to find a legislative solution to DACA, according to a GOP aide. Discussions with other lawmakers, including Democrats, are underway and will continue, the aide said.

Rank-and-file Republicans have insisted for years that border security is a crucial piece of any immigration compromise, and that aspect may prove easier for the GOP conference to solve than DACA. There are numerous bills they could use as a framework for that effort. Some Republicans may also seek changes to the legal immigration system.

Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing for any measure to include the language of the so-called DREAM Act, which would let certain undocumented immigrants obtain legal status and eventually citizenship. And they’re refusing to negotiate on President Donald Trump’s border wall, “sanctuary cities,” and more U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

When the House voted on a version of the DREAM Act in 2010, all the GOP task members serving at the time voted against it, except for Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart. (Reps. Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, Martha McSally of Arizona and Will Hurd of Texas were not in Congress at the time.)

Diaz-Balart was also the only task force member to vote against a 2014 measure to defund the DACA program; he was among 11 GOP “no” votes in the run-up to that year’s midterms.

McSally and Hurd were still not in Congress for that vote, but the House voted to defund DACA again in early 2015, this time as an amendment to a Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill. McSally joined Diaz-Balart and 24 other Republicans in voting “no,” while Hurd joined the remaining task force members in voting “yes.”

The task force members do not share identical views on immigration, so their road to compromise is a long one. Their individual stances and past positions may offer some insight.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan

Of all the task force members, Ryan’s immigration positions are probably the most varied.

While he voted against the DREAM Act in 2010 and has supported House efforts to defund DACA, he has also supported the concept of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and was a key House member involved in seeking support for a comprehensive immigration measure in 2013.

Since becoming speaker, the Wisconsin Republican has toned down his rhetoric on immigration, saying he supports providing undocumented immigrants with a way to “get right with the law.” Ryan also recently expressed support for moving to a skills-based merit system.

The speaker has said Congress needs to pass protections for DACA recipients but has not specified how, other than to say that it cannot be addressed without a solution for the larger border security problem.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

House majority leader

Like Ryan, the House’s No. 2 Republican has a mixed record on immigration.

McCarthy voted against the 2010 DREAM Act and for efforts to defund DACA. But in 2014, as majority whip, he expressed support for providing undocumented immigrants with a path to legal status and co-sponsored legislation that would grant young undocumented immigrants permanent residence if they enlisted in the military.

The California Republican has largely avoided talking about how to deal with the country’s undocumented population since he became majority leader. After all, it was his predecessor Eric Cantor’s support for a path to citizenship that contributed to his 2014 primary loss to hard-line conservative David Brat.

Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va.

Chairman, Judiciary Committee

The former immigration lawyer may not share the hard-line views of other Republicans on his committee, but he’s no slouch on enforcement and has sponsored bills to aid the Trump agenda.

Goodlatte supports mandatory use of the E-Verify program and changes to the legal immigration system. And because Judiciary holds jurisdiction over immigration laws — meaning any deal to grant legal status to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S as children, or Dreamers, must go through him — the Virginia Republican will carry serious weight on the task force.

Rep. Raúl R. Labrador, R-Idaho

Chairman, Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee

Another former immigration lawyer, Labrador is one of the few House Freedom Caucus members who openly backs allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain some kind of legal status.

Labrador was a member of the House “Group of Eight,” a bipartisan group of lawmakers that tried in 2013 to develop an immigration overhaul but failed. (The measure by the Senate “Gang of Eight” cleared that chamber.)

Labrador later left the group, citing disputes over a previously agreed position that undocumented immigrants should be responsible for their own health care costs.

Now the Idaho Republican, who is running for governor, backs the House Republican piecemeal approach to immigration that the Group of Eight was supposed to counter. He has said recently that border security and enforcement measures, including funding Trump’s proposed wall, should be passed before any DACA fix.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.

Chairman, Judiciary Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations Subcommittee

Sensenbrenner has a long history on immigration. In 2005, as Judiciary chairman, the Wisconsin Republican sponsored a border enforcement bill that set off nationwide protests by immigrant communities.

Like the majority of Republicans, Sensenbrenner opposed the DACA program and has voted against the DREAM Act. He has said any compromise on DACA must “not give amnesty to illegal immigrants,” so he could be a tough voice in the room.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas

Chairman, Homeland Security Committee

If the final deal to offer legal protections to Dreamers includes a hefty border security package, it will likely be the brainchild of McCaul. The Texas Republican introduced a sweeping border security package this summer that authorized the hiring of additional Border Patrol agents and $10 billion for a border wall and surveillance technology.

McCaul is also a potential candidate to replace John F. Kelly — now the White House chief of staff — as the Homeland Security secretary, so his time on the task force may be brief. 

Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz.

Chairwoman, Homeland Security Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee

McSally, a former Air Force fighter pilot and a member of the moderate Tuesday Group, is a unique voice on the task force because of her combined border security chops and support for young undocumented immigrants.

Days before Trump announced the end of the DACA program, the Arizona Republican led party members in asking Ryan to take up legislation, saying it “would be wrong to go back on our word and subject these individuals to deportation.”

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas

Hurd serves on the Homeland Security Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee.

While one of his first votes after joining Congress in 2015 was to defund DACA, the Texas Republican has since sponsored legislation to grant permanent residence to young undocumented immigrants who enlist in the military. He has also co-sponsored a bill to eliminate employment-based visa caps and to increase the caps on family-sponsored visas.

Hurd, whose 2018 re-election race is currently rated a Toss-up, according to Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, has said he does not support Trump’s border wall proposal. That’s significant coming from a Republican whose Latino-majority district spans 40 percent of America’s border with Mexico.

As a counterproposal, Hurd introduced the so-called SMART Act to direct the Department of Homeland Security to use high-tech resources to secure the border, which Hurd says can be done at a fraction of the cost of building a wall.

Rep. John Carter, R-Texas

Chairman, Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee

Whatever border security package the task force comes up with, it’ll fall to Carter to find a way to pay for it. The former judge has already shown he can deliver the goods on hot-button issues — he ushered through the House $1.6 billion to begin building Trump’s wall — but he’s held his cards close on DACA.

In a statement following Trump’s DACA announcement, the Texas Republican only said he supported a solution that “provides for the pursuit of the American dream.” Like Labrador, he participated in the 2013 Group of Eight but left soon after negotiations collapsed.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.

Diaz-Balart, an Appropriations Committee member, is one of the House GOP’s strongest proponents for overhauling the immigration system. He was the last remaining Republican member of the 2013 Group of Eight, after three of his colleagues left the group and effectively made it a “Group of Five.”

While the Florida Republican has never personally stopped pushing for an immigration overhaul, his GOP colleagues have shown no interest in reviving the failed 2013 effort. This Congress, he has co-sponsored the so-called Recognizing America’s Children Act, which is similar to the DREAM Act but has slightly different conditions under which young undocumented immigrants can obtain legal status and eventually citizenship.

You can view this article online here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) honored Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner with its “Taxpayers’ Friend Award” for his strong voting record on supporting lower taxes, limited government, and economic freedom.

Sensenbrenner has received this award every year since he came to Congress and is one of only 15 total House Members to receive it for their outstanding voting record during the 2016 congressional session.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “I have worked my entire career to help lower taxes and reduce onerous government regulations on businesses because ensuring our country has a thriving economic environment in which bureaucratic overreaches are put in check is critical to our success here in Wisconsin and throughout the nation.

“I want to thank the National Taxpayers Union for this recognition and for their ongoing work to hold Members of Congress accountable. I also want to assure my constituents that I will continue to work on behalf of comprehensive tax reform and initiatives that will promote economic freedom and growth.”

NTU has recognized Members of Congress since 1979 who annually earn high voting scores to qualify them for the “Taxpayers’ Friend Award.” See NTU’s full 2016 congressional scorecard and further analysis here.

Many Americans have gotten sick and tired of the partisanship and dysfunction they see in government. They feel that rather than working together to find real solutions to issues facing hard-working Americans, elected officials seize every opportunity to disparage their political counterparts. Instead of being accountable to their constituents, they stay in Washington to attend high-profile parties and events and are consumed by D.C. squabbles.

While that might be accurate for some members of Congress, some of us still work hard to take the responsibility of public service seriously. Bipartisanship and accountability not only still exist in Congress, but are the keys to political and legislative success.

Despite today’s hyper-partisan political climate, we have made cooperation a priority. Earlier this year, The Lugar Center, in cooperation with Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, released its annual report on bipartisan Members of Congress. We ranked 19th and 65th out of 435 Members in the 114th Congress; 18th and 59th in the 113th Congress.

Between the two of us, we have sponsored more than 20 pieces of bipartisan legislation so far this year, including the AFFIRM Act and the National Scenic Trails Parity Act, which we sponsored together. We’ve also held close to 100 town hall meetings to date in 2017 and can be found in our districts nearly every day we’re not voting in Washington.

Wisconsin is a unique place. Our people are hardworking, pragmatic and kind. Our state is neither politically blue nor red — it is purple with a long history of formative leaders representing both parties. Wisconsin is a political anomaly. It makes sense, then, that its leaders should have a common-sense, bipartisan approach to problem-solving. Together, residents of the Badger State have created a culture of respect and appreciation for one another. That’s the tradition that we — as Wisconsin Representatives — strive every day to honor and continue.

The people of Wisconsin are our No. 1 priority and the driving force behind our work in Congress. And although we each hold different ideological beliefs, we understand that to pass legislation that will solve the problems facing our constituents — and all Americans — we must find ways to bridge the political divide and compromise. 

Disagreements over legislation, implementation and fundamental beliefs will never change. But despite such differences, it is possible to find common ground, because at the heart of every issue is the desire to find solutions that make life better for every American.

We believe that good policy requires input from all sides, and continuing open discussions on the problems we face will enable us as a nation to find real solutions. The process is never easy — sometimes it’s contentious — but if we listen and respect one another, we’re confident that at the end of the day, we will find ourselves in a better place than where we began.

That’s what we’re working toward every day, and it’s what we hope our colleagues —both in the Wisconsin delegation and in the Congress as a whole — will work toward as well. Bipartisanship isn’t dead, and if we embrace it with clear eyes and full hearts, there’s no limit to what we can achieve.

Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican, represents Wisconsin's fifth district in Congress. Ron Kind, a Democrat, represents the state's third district.

View this piece online here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner submitted the following statement to the congressional record in recognition of Dr. Kenneth K. Lee, a combat-injured Operation Iraqi Freedom and Army veteran. Lee, a native of Brookfield, WI, was named the 2017 Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year by the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

Photo courtesy of DAV (Disabled American Veterans)

Full text provided below:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor Dr. Kenneth K. Lee, a combat-injured Operation Iraqi Freedom and Army veteran, who has been named by Disabled American Veterans (DAV) as its 2017 Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year.

Dr. Lee, who deployed as the commander of the Army's Company B, 118th Area Support Medical Battalion, was injured in November 2004 by a suicide car bomber in Iraq. The explosion resulted in an open head traumatic brain injury and severe shrapnel wounds to his legs, leading to his evacuation back to the states, where he would later be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

While recovering from his injuries, Dr. Lee, a rehabilitation specialist, saw how long and difficult recovery could be, often leaving lasting changes. Dr. Lee, who resides in Brookfield, Wisconsin, is a volunteer physician at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, which the Department of Veterans Affairs and DAV co-host, so he was no stranger to using adaptive sports as therapy.

Through his own recovery, Dr. Lee propelled himself into the world of adaptive sports to help him deal with the psychological and physiological effects that can often times cause an individual to hit bottom.

Within a year of Dr. Lee's retirement in 2013, he formed the Milwaukee Wheelchair Lacrosse team and is now the president of the Wisconsin Adaptive Sports Association, which runs numerous adaptive sports programs.

On July 29, 2017, DAV National Commander David W. Riley presented Dr. Lee with the Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year award at the organization's 96th National Convention. In his statement, Riley praised Dr. Lee as a shining example of everything that is good about our nation and its veterans. He noted that the compassion Dr. Lee shows for other veterans and his work to help them find success is truly the hallmark of the award, and DAV is very proud of what he's doing for this community. Given the importance and therapeutic effectiveness of adaptive sports, it is vital to have experienced leaders like Dr. Lee involved and carving out a path forward.

Despite his injuries and the constant pain in his lower extremities, Dr. Lee speaks with gratitude about his time in the Army. He will tell you that he got a lot more from the Guard than he put into it, and that he joined the military with his eyes wide open and has no regrets.

Dr. Lee and his wife Kate currently live in Brookfield with their two children. In 2014, his daughter Leah earned a $10,000 scholarship by volunteering for the DAV at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. On the same day that Dr. Lee was honored as DAV's Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year, his son Jonathan earned the charity's largest scholarship of $20,000, and was honored the same morning. They both hope ultimately to serve veterans as physicians through the VA.

You can view the statement online here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement on the anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Sixteen years ago, radical terrorists attacked our nation and killed thousands of our fellow Americans. The devastating repercussions of September 11, 2001 are still felt, but from tragedy rose strength, compassion for our fellow man, and a bond that washed away our differences and united us all as American citizens. Today, we continue to mourn the lives lost and pray for their families and friends who are struggling, and support our service men and women who answered the call of duty in defense of our nation. We unite in remembrance and move forward together because that is the American way.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) released its 7th annual “No-Brainers” list, which highlights common sense, bipartisan legislation that solves real problems facing the American taxpayer. Among the 10 bills highlighted is H.R.2887, the No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017.

Introduced by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner earlier this year, the No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017 would codify the principle that businesses must be physically present in a state before it is lawful to tax or regulate them.

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. My bill helps alleviate these burdens by reducing overregulation and keeping government overreaches in check. I want to thank the National Taxpayers Union for highlighting this legislation, which would be a strong ally of small businesses and the American taxpayer.”

In addition to the National Taxpayers Union, the No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017 is supported by: 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.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement regarding the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The Obama administration overstepped its authority when it enacted the DACA program. I believe the proper way to address our nation’s immigration policy is through the legislative process. It is important that we get our immigration laws right.

“The complex challenges faced by DACA beneficiaries will not be solved overnight, and they certainly won’t be solved by executive order. When the Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi was unable to solve the immigration problem unilaterally. This led to the Obama administration’s DACA program, which Obama himself said was temporary.

“The President has given Congress six months to act, and I believe that we must not only take serious action to address the complicated issues surrounding the DACA program, but also border security and enforcement of our laws. Nothing will be done without compromise from both sides of the immigration debate.

“Moving forward, I will continue to work with my congressional colleagues to enact long-term immigration reform through the legislative process, which does not give amnesty to illegal immigrants.”