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BROOKFIELD,WI – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner held three town hall meetings throughout Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District this past weekend, meeting with constituents of all political ideology in Germantown, Brookfield, and Hartford. Despite repeated calls for civility, a number of meetings were marred by disruption and antagonistic antics from some participants. 
        

Congressman Sensenbrenner holds more than 100 such events annually. Since the beginning of the year, he has held more than 40 meetings in communities throughout Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District, and although there has been a significant increase in attendance in recent weeks, for the most part, these gatherings have been civil, despite political and policy differences.
 
However, the mutual respect that has helped make these events successful seems to be deteriorating thanks to crowds of agitators, who rather than participating to discuss legitimate concerns, instead used disorderly tactics which brought meetings to a halt on several occasions. There is a recurring pattern of the same attendees showing up at each meeting to ask the same questions they already posed at previous town halls. It’s clear they are well-aware of the Congressman’s position on the issues, and unfortunately their repeated questions rob others in attendance of their opportunity to have their questions answered.
 
Coarse tactics, such as yelling “shut up” at the Congressman while he responded to questions, and exaggerated and needlessly loud yawning during his answers forced repeated pauses during meetings and took time away from other constituents hoping to speak to the Congressman. They transformed the atmosphere of the room into one more akin to a middle school classroom than that of a town hall meeting.
 
These tactics have been seen at other Republican town hall meetings nationwide, but have not been as intense at Congressman Sensenbrenner’s meetings until recently. They come on the heels of weeks of meetings that operated under feelings of general respect, where many constituents with opposing viewpoints took time to thank the Congressman for being accessible, even though they disagreed with him on policy matters.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Over the years, there have been contentious national issues that brought passionate constituents to my meetings, but I have rarely seen the type of blatant disruption that I saw this past weekend. I have always run my meetings on the basis of mutual respect, and everyone who openly broke that did a great disservice to their fellow constituents who came to honestly discuss an issue with me. We can disagree without being disagreeable; this is not how democracy is supposed to work.” 
 
Many of the agitators at the past weekend’s town hall meetings belong to a national protest group, whose core mission is to resist the Republican agenda and disrupt civil discourse at Republican town hall meetings throughout the country.
 
Despite these efforts, Congressman Sensenbrenner has continued to speak directly to his constituents at town hall meetings. He will hold six more town hall meetings this month in the communities of West Bend, West Allis, Richfield, Newburg, Kewaskum, and Addison. For information on these, and other upcoming meetings, you can visit his official website at http://sensenbrenner.house.gov/contact
Since I was elected to Congress, I have been accessible to my constituents through a variety of mediums. I hold more than 100 in-person town hall meetings and office hours annually. My Brookfield and Washington, D.C. staff field many calls each day, and every constituent who would like individual responses to specific questions submitted by phone, email, or standard mail receive one in a timely manner.

Lively conversations also occur on my social media accounts, which are monitored each day. Questions, comments, and opinions are passed along to me and I take them into account as I review and introduce legislation. Although I don’t respond directly on social media, it’s important for my constituents to know that I see their post.

In that spirit, I have compiled a sample of posts from the past few weeks and addressed them below. Thank you to every constituent who takes the time to contact my office and/or speak to me directly at any of my many town hall meetings and office hour events. I look forward to continued discussions on important legislation and issues that affect the people of our communities and our nation.


“@JimPressOffice but you cannot call Sensenbrenner. Constituents cannot reach him.”
Posted on Twitter March 6, 2017 

My Brookfield and Washington, D.C. staffs answer phone calls from 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday. Maybe I’m “old school,” but I want constituents to speak to a live person when they reach out to my offices. In fact, we do not utilize a voicemail system for this very reason. I think a two-way dialogue is a much more effective way to communicate. Sometimes all of the incoming lines are busy and a caller might hear a busy signal. When this happens, I encourage you to hang up and try again.

Additionally, I am easily accessible by email and standard mail, as well as my many in-person town hall meetings. Or, you are always welcome to visit my Brookfield office to leave your comments.

“Could you hold the majority of your meetings after working hours so that more people can attend?” 

Posted on Facebook March 3, 2017 

The majority of town hall meetings are held on Saturday and Sundays – often two on Saturdays at 9am and 1pm, and one on Sunday at 1pm. On occasion, such as this upcoming week, I will also host a town hall meeting on a Monday night at 7pm (March 13 in Wauwatosa.)

In addition to town hall meetings, I hold public office hours. These are often on Fridays in smaller communities throughout the district. They provide constituents extra opportunities to speak with me directly if they are unable to make a town hall meeting in their area.

“You need to hold meetings in larger venues. Your constituents can’t get in.”
Posted on Twitter February 27, 2017

My town hall meeting schedule is often set months ahead of time, allowing for the meetings to be publicized and worked around my duties in Washington. We work with the U.S. Capitol Police and local law enforcement to determine the safest venues for all participants. All meetings are held in public buildings, and we defer to law enforcement to advise us about safety. Additionally, larger venues, such as middle schools or high schools, are not easily secured and are typically booked with student activities.

I also don’t believe that tax dollars should be expended to secure venues, so if a facility requires a fee, we will not schedule our meeting there. I’ve been doing these meetings for 38 years and our venues have been more than adequate for the most part. Given the new challenges we are experiencing with larger crowds, I think we are doing a good job of addressing all the factors that go into a location selection.

“I do appreciate you com[ing] out to listen, does it ever make you change your mind on policy matters?”

Posted on Facebook February 22, 2017 

I listen to different viewpoints from constituents and take them into consideration when voting for legislation. One recent and relevant example of this is my support for allowing individuals aged 26 and under to remain on their parents’ health insurance and ensuring individuals with pre-existing conditions are not barred from coverage. Initially, I did not support this provision, but after hearing the personal stories of many of my constituents, I changed my position. 

When it comes to legislation I introduce, I know it is most effective to reach across the aisle and work with a Democratic colleague to ensure all ideas and solutions to problems are considered. The majority of the time, a piece of legislation cannot become law without bipartisan support, and I believe that’s the best way to legislate on behalf of my constituents and the American people.

“Please hold [town halls] more often.”
Posted on Facebook February 12, 2017

I hold more than 100 public meetings annually. In fact, I hold more in-person meetings than any Member of Congress. All my upcoming meetings are posted on my official website, and I encourage anyone who wishes to speak to me directly to attend any of my upcoming events.
 
“What’s the point in posting a statement on FB if you can’t be bothered to respond to comments?”
Posted on Facebook February 5, 2017 

Facebook, Twitter, and other social media avenues are a great way to share information, and quickly and efficiently inform my constituents about the work I’m doing on their behalf. However, I don’t believe it would be an effective use of taxpayer dollars for me to watch social media accounts all day, every day. 

That’s why members of my staff diligently monitor conversations and comments on my social media accounts and pass along productive comments and opinions. I encourage every constituent who wishes to receive a response from me to reach out by phone, email, or standard mail, or attend one of my many in-person town hall meetings and office hours. 

“Whitewater is not on the list [of town hall meetings], even though we are in your district. I guess our voice doesn’t matter.”

Posted on Facebook January 22, 2017 

The views and concerns of all my constituents matter, and I make it a point to visit communities in every part of my district. I will be hosting a town hall meeting in Whitewater in my upcoming round of meetings in April, and I have held various meetings in neighboring communities in order to provide a forum for constituents in that area of my district. 

In addition to my many in-person meetings, I am easily accessible by phone, email, and standard mail.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner reintroduced H.R. 1424, bipartisan legislation that would make the Ice Age Trail, which spans most of the state of Wisconsin, a unit of the National Parks System. 

The Ice Age Trail is one of only eleven National Scenic Trails. It is one of Wisconsin tourism and travel industry’s biggest draws. More than 1 million people from across the country use the Ice Age Trail each year, and a 2012 study by the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater quantified the economic impact of the Trail at more than $113 annually.

If passed, this legislation would provide parity in the resources available to the trail for management and promotion, all within the existing National Park Service budget. Without unit status, the Ice Age Trail does not have equal participation in National Park Service funding.

The designation as a unit is an administrative decision made by the National Park Service that was applied inconsistently as the National Scenic Trails were established. The National Park Service has recognized that there is no significant difference between the unit and non-unit trails that would merit such distinction. However, despite Congressional pressure, they have not resolved the disparity.

In addition to Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail, this legislation would also designate the North Country and New England National Scenic Trails as units under the National Park Service. Co-sponsors of this bill include Wisconsin Representatives Glenn Grothman, Ron Kind, and Gwen Moore. 

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The Ice Age Trail not only provides beauty and recreational opportunities for those who use it, but it also is essential to Wisconsin’s economy and tourism industry. This bipartisan legislation would ensure that it is preserved and maintained under the National Parks Service at no additional cost to the taxpayers.”
 
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner reintroduced H.R. 1424 on March 8, bipartisan legislation that would make the Ice Age Trail, which spans most of the state of Wisconsin, a unit of the National Parks System, according to a news release from the congressman's office.

The Ice Age Trail is one of only eleven National Scenic Trails. It is one of the Wisconsin tourism and travel industry’s biggest draws. More than 1 million people from across the country use the Ice Age Trail each year, and a 2012 study by the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater quantified the economic impact of the Trail at more than $113 annually, according to the release.

If passed, this legislation would provide parity in the resources available to the trail for management and promotion, all within the National Park Service budget. Without unit status, the Ice Age Trail does not have equal participation in National Park Service funding.

You can view this article online here.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – After another successful weekend of town hall meetings throughout Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District, Congressman Sensenbrenner continues to be recognized for the frequency in which he holds town hall meetings. In fact, here’s what people are saying about Congressman Sensenbrenner and his ambitious town hall schedule…


Sensenbrenner not afraid of town hall meetings– WISN
“Wisconsin Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner has never been afraid of a debate."

“[Sensenbrenner] is undeterred by the tough questions he’s getting these days…”

“Representative Sensenbrenner says that no matter how heated people may get, he will keep being accountable to the voters.”

Wyden, Sensenbrenner lead February town halls– The Hill
“Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) held 16 town hall meetings last month, more than any other member of Congress. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) led the House with 12 events, according to data collected by the independent site Legistorm."

GOP lawmakers lead way in holding town halls – The Hill
“The 10 lawmakers who have held the most in-person town hall meetings over the last two years are all Republicans. Since the beginning of the 114th Congress in 2015, four Republicans – Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (Wis.), Sens. Mike Crapo (Idaho) and Jerry Moran (Kan.) and former Rep. Tim Huelskamp (Kan.) – held more than 100 in-person town hall meetings.” 

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner faces opposition at town hall gathering– Wisconsin State Journal
“Many Republican members of Congress have avoided town hall meetings since Trump’s election but Sensenbrenner has a history of holding town halls – he said he has averaged about 100 every year since taking office.”

Jim Sensenbrenner holds feisty town hall – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Some politicians are wary of holding contentious town hall meetings. But not U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the dean of the Wisconsin delegation.”

Wisconsin Rep. Sensenbrenner On Not Shying Away From Town Halls –
NPR
“So members of Congress have skipped or canceled planned meetings but not Representative Jim Sensenbrenner… He’s responsible for a quarter of all town halls held by the 289 Republicans in Congress this term.”

“Making Sense of Washington: Congressman’s town hall events in Sussex, Lannon get contentious –
Northwest NOW
“U.S. Rep James Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls) is no rookie when it comes to town hall meetings; i
n fact, he has held more in-person meetings than any member of Congress with more than 525 town hall events since 2013.”
“Since the start of the year alone, he’s already held nearly 40.”

Rep. Sensenbrenner holds well-attended Lake Mills Town Hall – WKOW
“Even as some lawmakers are skipping or canceling town halls, Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner spent Saturday afternoon with people in Jefferson County at the Lake Mills City Hall.”

A list of upcoming meetings is available on Congressman Sensenbrenner’s official website.
BROOKFIELD,WI – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner held 8 town hall meetings and office hour events throughout Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District over the past three days, meeting with constituents with views spanning the ideological spectrum. 


Healthy crowds, consisting largely of constituents from the Congressman’s district, gathered to express their views and were recognized one by one during the time allotted for public discussion. As always, constituents experiencing individual problems with federal government agencies were also given time after the public portion of each meeting to speak with Congressman Sensenbrenner about their specific situations.

While not everyone had an opportunity to speak in the time allotted, those who were unable to voice an opinion or concern were encouraged to contact the Congressman by phone, email, standard mail, or attend another of his many upcoming in-person meetings.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “I hold frequent town hall meetings because I’ve always believed the people deserve to see who represents them, and to have an open forum to voice concerns and discuss the issues. Whether or not we agree, it’s productive to have these conversations – it’s how we grow as a community and a nation.”

Differences in policy positions and beliefs aside, many constituents took the time to thank the Congressman for holding in-person meetings, as well as express their appreciation for his willingness to speak to them directly and answer tough questions during a time when many Members of Congress opt to hold tele-town hall meetings or none at all:

“Many were grateful Rep. Sensenbrenner came as other Congressman avoid their citizens. ‘We respect that so much about him,’ – Fifth District Constituent 
 
“We love Rep. Sensenbrenner’s dedication to traveling all over his district. He held 3 town halls this weekend, and has 7 more this month!” – Town Hall Project 

“He’s been very helpful, and he does a fantastic job. I’m always amazed at his memory; he knows all these facts and figures. I give him a lot of credit.” – Village of Lannon Trustee Jerry Newman
 
LAKE MILLS — Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner had to bang a gavel several times to bring order to a raucous crowd at a town hall meeting Saturday.

But the gathering didn’t draw the level of protests that have accompanied other recent town hall meetings by Republican lawmakers across the country.

Sensenbrenner, of Menomonee Falls, and about 200 constituents gathered in the Lake Mills Community Center for one of two town meetings he held on Saturday. The other was in Delafield, and another is planned Sunday in Juneau. Sensenbrenner has held more than 40 such gatherings since Jan. 1.

While Sensenbrenner spoke and others asked him questions, attendees held signs reading “agree” or “disagree” as a way to make their positions known without disruption. But the meeting was not without its share of commotion.

Sensenbrenner banged a gavel on a folding table when cheering or booing disrupted his responses.

Question topics ranged from climate change to health care and from military spending to Social Security, but most of Sensenbrenner’s answers circled back to the federal government’s fiscal responsibility and deficit reduction.

He told the crowd:

     - Environmental protections should not become so restrictive on businesses that they cut jobs.
     - The Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, is not economically sound and will “crash and burn.”
     - Military spending will be more successfully negotiated by President Donald Trump.
     - Social Security, along with other entitlement programs, should be redeveloped to cut back spending.

As Sensenbrenner answered questions on the most controversial topics, specifically the Affordable Care Act and the Trump administration’s alleged involvement with Russia, some members of the crowd booed or jeered.

Ann Tharp, who moved to Lake Mills from Madison more than a year ago, said she attended Sensenbrenner’s town hall meeting because she “wanted to make sure he was still standing by Trump.” Tharp said it wasn’t a fair town hall because most of the comments and questions had a liberal bias.

“I think that a lot of people were going from one town hall to another to say the same things,” Tharp said.

Sensenbrenner called the names of constituents who indicated on a sign-in slip that they wanted to ask a question. The topic of the question was not indicated on the slips.

Russia was on the minds of many attendees amid reports of Russia’s efforts to interfere with the presidential election and Trump’s alleged ties with the country.

Sensenbrenner said he is “outraged” by any foreign nation’s interference with another nation’s elections, but he does not believe Russia’s involvement had any impact on the results of the election.

“I have yet to find a person who changed their vote from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump because Vladimir Putin told them to,” Sensenbrenner said.

Many Republican members of Congress have avoided town hall meetings since Trump’s election but Sensenbrenner has a history of holding town halls — he said he has averaged about 100 every year since taking office.

“Just because there are controversial issues that come up is no reason for me to discontinue that,” he said. “I think people should be able to come and have a two-way conversation with their elected officials.

“People who disagree with me, I think, are entitled to have an explanation of why I take the position I do.”

Some legislators have opted for telephone town halls — including U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh. While telephone town halls can reach thousands of people at once, critics say handlers vet and screen questions.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, has not held a town hall this year.

You can view this article online here.

NPR's Scott Simon talks to Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner. He's held more town halls this term than any other member of Congress, many of whom have canceled events in the wake of protests.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Constituent town halls have long been a staple for members of Congress. Lately, though, those meetings have become hotbeds of protest. Democratic groups have organized people in Republican-controlled districts to pack several town halls and speak out against changes to the Affordable Care Act. So members of Congress have skipped or canceled planned meetings but not Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican from southwest Wisconsin. He's responsible for a quarter of all town halls held by the 289 Republicans in Congress this term. Mr. Sensenbrenner joins us on the line from Delafield, Wisc., which I happen to know is a beautiful suburb of Milwaukee. Thanks very much for being with us.

JIM SENSENBRENNER: Well, thanks for having me, Scott.

SIMON: You're holding your 41st town hall of the term later today, right?

SENSENBRENNER: Yes, we'll start in about a half an hour.

SIMON: Why are they so important to you?

SENSENBRENNER:
Well, I've had over 100 town hall meetings face to face every year since I was first elected to Congress in 1978. These are important to me because I'll be able to hear what my constituents have to say, but I will also have to explain to somebody who disagrees with me why I am taking the position I am. And I think having an explanation is a matter of respect when I fall on the other side than someone who is speaking to me would vote and take a position if they occupied the seat that the voters have entrusted to me. And I've gotten two or three ideas at town meetings that I have brought out to Washington, introduced legislation, and they actually passed both houses and were signed into law.

SIMON: Mr. Sensenbrenner, have you had people get to their feet and say, Congressman, if the Affordable Care Act is rolled back, me and/or my family lose our health care coverage, and I don't want that.

SENSENBRENNER: I've heard that quite often. However, my response is is that health insurance will be available to everyone under the replacement plan that, beginning next week, is going to start its way through congressional committees. And the devil is in the details and don't be so hasty in saying that the Affordable Care Act ought to stay the way it is until you see the details of what the replacement will be. What I have said consistently, and the president said it last Tuesday in his address to Congress, is that any replacement plan will prohibit insurance companies from excluding people with preexisting conditions from coverage. That has been the major concern that people have expressed if the Affordable Care Act goes. And I tell them that Speaker Ryan, myself and now the president of United States have said that you don't have to worry about that issue. And...

SIMON:
Can - well, let me just ask, Mr. Sensenbrenner, though, could you - can you understand the anxiety of people who, you know, don't know that until the plan is proposed and, you know, for that matter something becomes law? It strikes a lot of people that there's much more concentration on overturning the act than replacing it with something concrete.

SENSENBRENNER: Well, this has been a debate in the campaign, and the voters elected Donald Trump and returned a Republican majority in both houses of Congress. One of the things that I think is sacred is that we live up to our campaign promises. The president is doing it, Speaker Ryan is doing it, and I am doing it. And the people voted for us to repeal and replace Obamacare because there are people that are saying that the plans that are available to me, I've got $500 to $800 a month in premiums, then I've got $5,000 in deductibles, and I have to spend almost $10,000 to $15,000 a year to get coverage before I can collect a penny.

And the problem with that is that middle-income people who don't get any kind of subsidies or tax credits, you know, end up finding that under Obamacare this is unaffordable. And then if they don't have insurance, they get fined by the IRS. All of this is bad. All of this is government controlled and bureaucratic. And what Republicans want to do is to put doctors and patients and patients' families back in charge of people's health care rather than having pencil pushers of the government or in some insurance office doing that job.

SIMON: Let me ask you this - it's reported that some of your constituents yesterday voiced their concern about contact between President Trump's team and Russian officials before the election. Are you concerned?

SENSENBRENNER: Well, if - I think that the Russians tried to meddle in our election, and we ought to get to the bottom of exactly how they did it and make that public. You know, on the other hand, I don't know one person who has changed their vote from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump because Vladimir Putin wanted them to do that. So I don't think that any Russian meddling was outcome determinative. You know, the Obama administration was meddling in foreign elections. You know, the Senate found out that the Obama administration was taking (ph) people on and maybe financing with public money a campaign against Benjamin Netanyahu in the last Israeli election. Foreign meddling elections is bad whether it's done by the Russians here or by us or anyplace else.

SIMON: Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, a 38-year veteran of the House of Representatives, thanks so much for being with us, sir.

SENSENBRENNER: Thank you.

You can view this article online here.