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Which members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation play well with others?

According to the Lugar Center and Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, it’s U.S. Reps. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, and Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls.

They were the state’s only current representatives in either house of Congress to rate well for working across party lines in a serious way.

Kind ranks 15th best in the 435-member House of Representatives, while Sensenbrenner is a respectable 65th.

The main activity the researchers tracked was how often each member of Congress sponsored or co-sponsored proposed legislation with members of the other political party.

“What we are measuring in this index is not so much the quality of legislation,” former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, explains in his center’s report, “but rather the efforts of legislators to broaden the appeal of their sponsored legislation, to entertain a wider range of ideas, and to prioritize governance over posturing.”

Former U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood, who retired from Congress this year, also did well in the Lugar and Georgetown analysis. He ranked 90th out of 435 House members for collaboration across party lines.

And we have high hopes for his successor, U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, who has shown flashes of independence in recent weeks. Gallagher hasn’t been rated yet for his willingness to work on bipartisan solutions because he has only been in office five months.

But the former Marine has drawn national attention for seeking answers from his own president’s White House about what Donald Trump disclosed during meetings with Russian officials. Gallagher also has questioned Trump’s abrupt firing of James Comey, just as the FBI director was overseeing a probe into whether Trump’s campaign worked with Russia to influence the outcome of last fall’s presidential election.

Gallagher’s willingness to question the leaders of his own party suggests he won’t be afraid to cooperate across the partisan divide on workable solutions. We sure hope that’s the case.

The rest of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation rated poorly for cooperating in Congress. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wausau, ranked 250th; Mark Pocan, D-Black Earth, was 265th; Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, came in at 355, and Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, was nearly last at 426th.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, wasn’t rated because he is the House Republican leader whose job is inherently partisan, according to the researchers. Yet when the Lugar Center and Georgetown first compiled its list more than a year ago, Ryan ranked poorly at 338th.

On the Senate side, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, was slightly below average, ranking 52nd out of 100 senators, while Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, was far back at 75th.

Wisconsin deserves more leaders in Washington who can work together to solve the nation’s problems.

View original piece online here.

As many of you know, my wife Cheryl was injured in a car accident when she was 22 years old. The injuries she sustained from that incident have shaped her life ever since. She became a tireless advocate for the disabled and served as a board member of the American Association of People with Disabilities. Despite the pain and daily struggles she endures, she has never let those challenges slow her down or damper her spirit.

She has been a powerful force for good, and has inspired my efforts to fight on behalf of the disabled.

I supported and helped pass the original Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and introduced the ADA Restoration Act of 2007. I later sponsored the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which President George W. Bush signed into law.

Congress passed the ADA to break down the physical and societal barriers that kept disabled Americans from fully participating in the American Dream. From creating standards for wheelchair accessibility in places open to the public to requiring 911 phone lines to be equipped to respond to hearing-impaired callers, the ADA has transformed the lives of millions of Americans. The progress we’ve made is remarkable, and I’m proud to have been part of these efforts. But there is still more than can be done to improve the lives of America’s disabled citizens.

That’s why this week I introduced the Disability Integration Act. This legislation would help assure the full integration of Americans with disabilities into communities nationwide, and would amend the ADA to make it clear that every individual eligible for long term services and support (LTSS) has the right to choose how they receive support. It would also assure that the states and other LTSS funders provide services in ways that allow beneficiaries to live as independently as possible. 

Additionally, the Disability Integration Act establishes a comprehensive state planning requirement comparable to the transition planning processes required under the ADA and would require them to address the need for affordable and accessible integrated housing, as well as establish targeted enforcement measures.

This legislation, along with the Ensuring Access to Quality Complex Rehabilitation Technology Act – which I introduced earlier this year – would add to the successes of the ADA and improve the lives of millions of Americans living with disabilities.

Our nation is stronger when all of its citizens are given the opportunity to succeed, and the bipartisan efforts of Congress to help individuals with disabilities are powerful reminders of the good work we can do in government when we put aside our differences to achieve a common goal. 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner gave the following statement on the House floor in support of H.R. 510, the Rapid DNA Act.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: Rapid DNA is a promising new technology that allows for the almost immediate DNA analysis of an arrestee. Unlike standard DNA practices which require sending DNA samples from arrestees out to labs with a result taking weeks to ascertain, Rapid DNA results take only a few hours and can be done right at the booking station. Like fingerprinting, photographing, and other booking procedures which at the time were novel but have now become routine, Rapid DNA will soon be standard procedure in police stations throughout the country.

There is only one problem with Rapid DNA technology--- Federal Law. Our law, written in 1994 when DNA technology was still in its infancy, prohibits the use of Rapid DNA technology in booking stations. This is not because of any limitation in Rapid DNA technology, but simply because at the time, Rapid DNA technology was not even contemplated. Similar to the transformation of musical devices – records leading to cassette tapes, cassette tapes leading to CDs, CDs leading to MP3, and now iPods and online music hosting services, -technology moves quicker than we can legislate. Now is the time to change the law to permit Rapid DNA technology.

Rapid DNA machines are compact, approximately the size of copy machines, and can provide a DNA analysis from a cheek swab sample of an arrestee within 2 hours. This has two profound implications. First, arrestees may be exonerated of crimes in 2 hours, rather than waiting for up to 72 hours for release, or months for more standard DNA testing. Second, those arrested for a crime, can quickly be matched to other unsolved crimes where there was forensic evidence left at the crime scene, but for which there is no identified suspect.

The Rapid DNA Act updates current law to allow DNA samples to be processed using Rapid DNA instruments located in booking stations and other approved locations.  The bill will require the FBI to issue standards and procedures for the use such instruments and their resulting DNA analyses to ensure their integrity and the accuracy of results. It will permit those results to be included in the DNA Index if the criminal justice agencies taking Rapid DNA samples comply with the standards and procedures that the FBI approves. In this way, the bill would permit this new category of DNA samples to be uploaded to the index with the same protections and quality standards as current DNA samples.

Not only does Rapid DNAhave the potential to reduce crime and help expeditiously exonerate the innocent, but also to positively impact the current backlogs for rape kits and other DNA sample analysis. This committee has spent a great deal of time and significant work to try and reduce the forensic DNA backlog, especially in rape kits.  Rapid DNA could not at this time be used for rape kits, but the implementation of Rapid DNA will allow forensics labs to focus on forensic samples, not on identification samples which can easily be handled by Rapid DNA machines. I hope this will reduce the rape kit backlog which will also prevent future rapes from happening.

I am pleased that the House is taking a significant step in furthering the use of this technology. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation and yield back the balance of my time. 

Watch here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced the Disability Integration Act, legislation which would help assure the full integration of Americans with disabilities into communities nationwide.

America has come a long way in ensuring that individuals with disabilities have equal rights and opportunities, particularly with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 – legislation Congressman Sensenbrenner strongly supported and fought on behalf of alongside his wife, Cheryl. Despite these advancements, there are still lingering issues that need to be resolved to ensure true integration and freedom for our nation’s disabled.

The Disability Integration Act would amend the ADA to address many of these issues by making clear that every individual eligible for long term services and support (LTSS) has the right to choose how they receive support and assure that the states and other LTSS funders provide services in ways that allow beneficiaries to live as independently as possible.

Among other things, the bill establishes a comprehensive state planning requirement comparable to the transition planning processes required under the ADA and would require them to address the need for affordable and accessible integrated housing, as well as establish targeted enforcement measures.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The passage of the ADA was a significant step forward in the fight for equal rights for Americans with disabilities, but more than 20 years later, there are still problems that need to be solved. The Disability Integration Act identifies challenges that still exist and provides comprehensive and effective solutions that will help these individuals fully participate in daily life.”

 

Additional Information about the Disability Integration Act

The Disability Integration Act defines discrimination based on Title III of the ADA with a general rule and specific prohibitions. The general rule states, “No public entity or LTSS insurance provider shall deny an individual with an LTSS disability who is eligible for institutional placement, or otherwise discriminate against that individual in the provision of, community-based long-term services and supports that enable the individual to live in the community and lead an independent life.”

The Disability Integration Act identifies specific prohibitions to address the various ways that access to Home and Community Based Care (HCBS) LTSS have been limited. Additionally, public entities must assure that there is sufficient affordable and accessible housing available to allow people to live in non-congregate, independent housing in the community.

The legislation also requires that all public entities and LTSS insurance providers must complete a self-evaluation within six months after the regulations are released. Within one year of completing the self-evaluation, public entities must submit a transition plan for addressing the issues identified in the self-evaluation and achieving the purpose of this legislation. The plan must address these issues as soon as practicable, but public entities have up to 10 years to complete the plan. The Secretary, through the Administration on Community Living, is charged with reviewing and approving state transition plans.

Finally, the Disability Integration Act provides the Attorney General with the authority to enforce this law in a manner that is consistent with other titles of the ADA. An individual who believes they have been discriminated against in violation of this law may bring a civil action for preventive relief and the Attorney General may intervene if he certifies that the case is of concern to the general public.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the bipartisan Rapid DNA Act, introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) passed in the House of Representatives.

The Rapid DNA Act would establish a system for the integration of Rapid DNA instruments for use by law enforcement to help reduce the DNA backlog. Unlike traditional DNA analysis, which can take weeks, Rapid DNA analysis permits processing of DNA samples in approximately 90 minutes or less.

This technology has the potential to revolutionize the way in which arrested individuals are enrolled in the criminal justice system, shorten the time required for their DNA to be linked to unsolved crimes, and expedite the exoneration of innocent suspects by giving law enforcement officials a new system that meets FBI quality assurance standards to compare DNA samples collected at the time of an arrest to profiles in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Rapid DNA is a promising new technology and an effective tool for law enforcement. It will help quickly identify arrestees and offenders, reduce the overwhelming backlog in forensic DNA analysis, and make crime fighting efforts more efficient while helping to prevent future crimes from occurring. It will also save time and taxpayer dollars. Today’s passage of the Rapid DNA Act is a victory and I look forward to it being signed into law."

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement in recognition of National Police Week:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Our nation’s law enforcement officers selflessly serve their communities, states, and country in order to keep all Americans safe. They put their lives on the line every day, and they deserve our respect and deepest gratitude. In honor of their service, and in recognition of their ongoing efforts during National Police Week, I want to take this opportunity to thank our nation’s law enforcement officers and their families for their dedication and sacrifice.” 

In letters, phone calls, and at town hall meetings, the majority of questions I receive from constituents are about the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

There is a lot of misinformation circulating through various news outlets and social media channels, so I’d like to take this opportunity to address some of the most common questions and misconceptions surrounding the American Health Care Act.

“What about the deplorable GOP plan that allows states to opt out of providing affordable health insurance to people with pre-existing conditions, forcing them into high risk pools where the premiums will be 5-10 times higher? Yet you’d be exempt from those harsh terms for obtaining health insurance and that’s just NOT FAIR.”

Posted on Facebook on May 1, 2017

States can only allow insurers to charge more if they first establish a high-risk pool, and then demonstrate to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) how they will either lower costs, expand access to care, or stabilize premiums for those with pre-existing conditions.

Regardless of a state waiver, a person with pre-existing conditions cannot be charged a different rate if they maintain their coverage.

Regarding the exemption noted in this question, I want to emphasize that Congress will not be exempt.

 

“Debating whether to bother calling @JimPressOffice about #AHCA. He’s obviously going to vote yes to probably take my family’s #healthcare.”

Posted on Twitter on May 3, 2017

The AHCA will protect Americans’ health care. In comparison, the result of implementing President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been insurance companies routinely dropping out of the exchanges and forcing Americans to purchase different insurance plans – plans that force them to lose their doctors of choice.

In fact, President Obama’s promise that “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” was Politifact’s Lie of the Year in 2013.

 

“You say you ran on replace/repeal & must honor. Trump/you promised no change to preexisting conditions. Why do you violate THAT commitment?”

Posted on Twitter on May 2, 2017

This charge has been widely circulated, but it is completely false. The Republican plan protects individuals with pre-existing conditions, and it will be illegal to be denied coverage based on a pre-existing condition.

As noted above, states will only allow insurers to charge more if they first establish a risk pool, and then demonstrate to HHS how they will either lower costs, expand access to care, or stabilize premiums for those with pre-existing conditions.

 

“PLEASE explain why High Risk Death Pools result in improvement over ACA approach. Does govt provide insurance better than market?”

Posted on Twitter on May 2, 2017

High-risk pools were very successful in Wisconsin prior to the ACA. In fact, many Wisconsinites have contacted the Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner’s office to say that they prefer being in the high-risk pools rather than the ACA exchanges.

The ACA is in a death spiral, with insurance companies dropping out of the market place. This forces premiums to rise and hurts Americans – particularly those with pre-existing conditions and those in the middle class.

 

“Look at this #WI! @RepSeanDuffy @JimPressOffice @RepGallagher @RepGrothman all support a healthcare bill that doesn’t cover pre-exist conds!”

Posted on Twitter on May 2, 2017

The AHCA does not exclude coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions.

As noted previously, states can only allow insurers to charge more if they first establish a risk-pool, and then demonstrate to HHS how they will either lower costs, expand access to care, or stabilize premiums for those with pre-existing conditions.

Regardless of a state waiver, a person with pre-existing conditions cannot be charged a different rate if they maintain their coverage.

 

“Why don’t you want everyone to have healthcare? Single-payer looks like the way to go. Medicare for all.”

Posted on Facebook on April 18, 2017 

One of the fundamental things Republicans and Democrats agree on regarding health care is the fact that we want all Americans to have access to affordable, quality care.

Regarding Medicare – Medicare for all would end the U.S. health care system as we currently know it. The European socialized-medicine model is extremely expensive and deeply flawed. Those who live in these nations often have longer wait times to see their physicians, and when they finally do, their physicians offer rationed care that may not fully address their ailments.

The fact is that many individuals from socialized-medicine countries who can afford to come to the United States for their health care needs do because we have the most advanced medical procedures and treatments. If socialized medicine was truly the best health care option, this would not be the case.

 

“If Republicans would clamp down on the insurance companies, instead of lining your pockets, the ACA would certainly work.”

Posted on Facebook on April 18, 2017

The ACA was actually a nod to the insurance companies. The cost-sharing program was implemented to shield these companies from losses, and the Democrats used the program to entice insurers to participate in the exchanges.

The Republican plan addresses the constantly-rising costs of health insurance through its three-step approach to health care reform:

  1. The AHCA will reform the insurance market.
  2. HHS will deregulate the health care system to allow physicians to provide the care their patients need, rather than being dictated by unelected bureaucrats who have no medical expertise.
  3. Future health care reform legislation will attack the underlying cost drivers of health care through initiatives such as incentivizing the use of smaller clinics rather than using large, expensive hospitals; enacting medical malpractice, pharmaceutical and FDA, and medical education reform, and granting nurses, nurse practitioners, and physicians assistants greater autonomy to treat patients within the scope of their training.

 

“Seems to me that health care would be a lot easier to fix if the two parties worked together to fix it rather than constantly undermining each other.”

Posted on Facebook on April 18, 2017

I completely agree that health care reform would be easier if done with bipartisan cooperation. Although Democrats made no attempt to include Republican ideas into the ACA, Republicans have reached across the aisle time and again to work with Democrats on sensible solutions to our health care problems. Those attempts at bipartisan legislating were met by cold shoulders and a stubborn unwillingness to cooperate, so unfortunately it became necessary to move forward on legislation without their input. However, the door has always been open for Democrats to offer constructive ideas.

 

“The ACA does not raise premiums. The insurance companies do as a result of increased provider costs and the desire for increased profits.”

Posted on Facebook on April 18, 2017

Insurance companies are raising costs because the majority of people who participated in the ACA exchanges are those who consume the most in health care services. Healthy Americans have, and continue to choose to roll the dice rather than purchase insurance, which is something the Democrats did not anticipate when drafting the disastrous Obamacare law. That means that the risk-pools that insurers use to pay out claims have not been sufficiently funded, and the only way they will have enough money to pay for the number of claims from high-cost patients is to raise premiums.

 

“So you’re going to fix the problems with ACA by taking away my health insurance?”

Posted on Facebook on March 26, 2017

Unlike the ACA, the Republican plan will actually expand Americans’ access to health insurance options.

Under the ACA, the only way an individual could receive a subsidy is to participate in the government-run exchanges. Under the Republican plan, individuals can use tax credits to purchase any qualified health insurance plan.

 

“You have previously stated to your constituents that you would not support any cuts to Medicare. The ACHA eliminates the Medicare tax on the 1 percent resulting in a cut of $288 billion in funding for Medicare over the next 10 years. This will move the projected insolvency date from 2028 to 2025. How is that honoring your promise to your constituents?

Posted on Facebook on March 23, 2017

Cutting a tax is not the same as cutting Medicare.

While I support funding for Medicare, it desperately needs to be reformed in order to preserve it for future generations. We cannot continue to kick the can down the road.

President Obama’s Medicare tax increase directly hits the middle class by taking more of their income from their FICA payroll taxes.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement on the passage of the American Health Care Act in the House of Representatives:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The House passage of the American Health Care Act is an important first step in fulfilling the promise we made to the American people to repeal and replace Obamacare – a collapsing law that has failed millions of American businesses and families. This bill is a free-market solution that works for the people, not the government. I applaud its passage and want to congratulate Speaker Ryan for his leadership and fortitude on this important legislation. I look forward to working with my colleagues to continue reforming our nation’s health care system to where care is accessible to all Americans.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner introduced the Former Presidents Amendment Act of 2017, which would reform the federal processes currently in place to provide various taxpayer-funded services for former U.S. presidents. 

In 1958, Congress passed the Former Presidents Act (FPA) as a response to the difficulties former presidents faced earning a living after their service had ended. The original Act passed was designed to provide a reasonable pension in order to ensure our past presidents didn’t fall into poverty. Over the years, however, the benefits have continued to grow while the need for them has significantly decreased.

In the modern era, former presidents now have a greater ability to earn a generous living through various means, such as featured speaker engagements and book deals. Despite this, the FPA has grown from simply providing a healthy pension to including a transition fund, health insurance, lifetime Secret Service protection, and additional funds for office space and a personal staff.

While some things, such as lifetime Secret Service protection, still make sense, others do not. Certain benefits, such as providing funding for office space and a personal staff, are not only unnecessary but an abuse of taxpayer dollars, especially considering these funds are often used for political activity.

The Former Presidents Amendment Act of 2017 is a common sense reform bill aimed at scaling back non-essential benefits while still maintaining crucial protections for our former presidents.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The benefits currently allocated to former U.S. presidents are outdated and put an unnecessary financial burden on American taxpayers. The common sense reforms in the Former Presidents Amendment Act would update these benefits to reflect today’s society while still maintaining the necessary levels of protection our past presidents deserve.”