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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can view this piece online here.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View this artilce online here.

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

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

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

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

 

  

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can view this piece online here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prohibited activities include:

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

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

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

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

By: Craig Gilbert: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The most “bipartisan” congressman from Wisconsin, according to one recent study, is moderate Democrat Ron Kind of La Crosse.

Which makes sense politically, since his mostly rural district isn’t dominated by either major party. In fact, it’s the most competitive U.S. House seat in the state.

But the No. 2 Wisconsin lawmaker on the list doesn’t fit this pattern at all.

Republican Jim Sensenbrenner is nowhere near the middle politically (he ranks as one of the most conservative members of Congress). And he represents one of the state’s most politically one-sided districts, which includes the ultra-Republican outer suburbs of Milwaukee.

But Sensenbrenner, who has served longer than all but two U.S. House members, has forged coalitions with Democrats and liberals over the years on issues ranging from voting rights to criminal justice to the Patriot Act.

“It can be done,” says Dan Diller of the Lugar Center, which publishes a “Bipartisan Index” of Congress. The ratings are based on how often lawmakers introduce bills that attract co-sponsors from the opposing party, and how often they co-sponsor bills introduced by colleagues from the other party.

It’s just one of many ways to define bipartisanship, but it’s a concrete, quantifiable measure of the effort members make at the front end of the legislative process to work across party lines. That is a practice this particular nonprofit group is trying to promote, and one that some scholars say makes lawmakers more effective.

In the Lugar Center’s recent index for the 114th Congress (2015-'16), Kind ranked 19th among all House members, tops in the Wisconsin delegation. Sensenbrenner ranked 65th and Republican Reid Ribble (since retired) ranked 90th. Those were the state’s only three House members with positive scores.

Republican Sean Duffy ranked 250th, Democrat Mark Pocan 265th, Democrat Gwen Moore 355th and Republican Glenn Grothman 426th (placing Grothman second to last among the 427 House members who received a rating). The index does not include House speakers, so Republican Paul Ryan was not rated.

In the U.S. Senate, Republican Ron Johnson ranked 52nd and Democrat Tammy Baldwin ranked 75th.

The Lugar Center has published ratings for House members since 2013 and for senators since 1993.

Here are some highlights from the data:

  • Kind (18th) and Sensenbrenner (59th) also ranked highly for bipartisanship in the 113th Congress (2013-'14). Ryan, who had not yet become speaker, ranked a little below average in the House for bipartisanship (244th). And the lowest-ranked members from Wisconsin for this two-year period were Duffy (319th), Moore (376th) and Pocan (390th).
  • The Senate rankings suggest Johnson became much more bipartisan in the final two years of his first term than in his first four years. The Wisconsin Republican ranked 96th out of 98 ranked senators in 2011-'12 and 89th in 2013-'14 before rising to 52nd in 2015-'16. Democrat Baldwin, elected in 2012, ranked 77th in her first two years.
  • Wisconsin has seen some of its most bipartisan lawmakers leave Congress in recent years. Republican Tom Petri ranked among the top 5% of the House for bipartisanship before he retired at the end of 2014. Republican Ribble ranked in the top quarter of the House before he retired at the end of 2016. And Democrat Herb Kohl routinely ranked in the top half of the Senate before he retired at the end of 2012.

Not surprisingly, the long-term trend in the Lugar Center’s data is a decline in bipartisanship, which has coincided with the growing polarization of Congress along party lines.

The lawmakers who receive the highest ratings for bipartisanship tend to be those in the middle of the right-left spectrum. The most bipartisan senator in the latest index is moderate Republican Susan Collins of Maine, and the lowest ranked senators are Vermont’s Bernie Sanders on the left and Texan Ted Cruz on the right.

Among Wisconsin lawmakers, Kind is arguably the most centrist politically and ranks by this measure as the most bipartisan.

But bipartisanship and moderation are not the same thing. A legislator can be at the right or left end of the political spectrum and have a bipartisan working style at the same time.

“It’s possible for very conservative and very progressive members to work at this,” says Dillar, of the Lugar Center.

Sensenbrenner was among roughly 70 House members cited by the Lugar Center as scoring well for bipartisanship while representing a very one-sided district politically.

In the center’s latest index, Democrat Pocan and Republican Johnson both ranked fairly close to the middle of their chambers for bipartisanship, even though neither is remotely centrist. Pocan is more liberal than 96% of his House colleagues and Johnson is more conservative than 87% of his Senate colleagues, according to one highly respected rating system of ideology in Congress.

But only Kind and Sensenbrenner, among Wisconsin lawmakers still in office, got a positive rating for bipartisanship in the last Congress.

One is a centrist Democrat whose congressional district has voted for both Donald Trump and Barack Obama in recent years.

The other is a staunch conservative whose district often produces the top Republican turnouts in the country.

“Bipartisanship,” it seems, is practically the only thing they have in common politically.

View this article online here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement in response to the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord:

Congressman Sensenbrenner:  “President Obama bypassed the Constitution and entered the United States into a losing agreement when he committed the country to the Paris Climate Accord. Knowing he could not get Senate approval for a treaty, Obama sidelined Congress and called the deal an “executive agreement.”

“The agreement, which does not hold all nations to the same standards, forces the U.S. to reduce emissions immediately while allowing global polluters, such as China and India, to expand their carbon footprints through the 2020s. This is not only bad for the environment, but it puts the U.S. at a severe economic disadvantage.

“Further, it hurts Wisconsin. Coal provides more than half of our state’s net electricity generation, and our manufacturers already pay more for electricity than most of our neighboring states. This means higher electricity costs to Wisconsin’s consumers, a less competitive state, and stunted economic growth. 

“I applaud President Trump for putting America first and leaving this unfair climate agreement. We all want cleaner air and water, but we can achieve these goals without handicapping the country and outsourcing jobs to foreign countries.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced the Deducting Expenses Derived from Use of Care and Treatment (DEDUCT) Act in the House of Representatives.

In the Tax Reform Act of 1986, Congress allowed Americans to deduct medical expenses from their tax returns if the costs exceeded a certain amount of their adjusted gross income. Current law states that no medical expense may be deducted until the costs reach 10 percent of an individual’s gross income.

The DEDUCT Act would eliminate this unnecessary tax threshold in order to help make medical expenses more affordable for Americans.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The costs of medical procedures and prescriptions can be a significant burden on individuals and families. As Congress continues to debate health care and tax reform, now is the ideal time to repeal the arbitrary medical tax deduction threshold for medical expenses and give a hand up to Americans struggling to pay for necessary medical expenditures.”