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By: Scott Anderson of the Madison Patch

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Cara Spoto of the Freeman

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criticism and praise

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting on details

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

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

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

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

“I think that’s great,” he said.

By: Dr. Susan Berry of Breitbart

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

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

The pro-life groups state:

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

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

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

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

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

Politico, in fact, notes this week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background:

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

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

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

By: Christopher Jacobs of the Federalist

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

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

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

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

Let’s Go Down Memory Lane

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

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

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

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

Law Trumps Executive Action

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Insult Voters’ Intelligence

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

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

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

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

By: National Pork Producers Council

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

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

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

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

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

By: Mike Bleech of the Erie Times-News

Since being discovered in a captive mule deer at a Colorado laboratory in the late 1960s, Chronic Wasting Disease has spread to several states and Canadian provinces, as well as overseas. CWD threatens most cervid populations in North America, including white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. Most, if not all, states and provinces where it has been detected have enacted legislation and adopted regulations to prevent its spread.

Now help might be coming in the form of federal legislation to combat CWD on the national level.

Congressman Ron Kind, WI, and Congressman Jamie Sensenbrenner, WI, introduced on Nov. 21 the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Act (H.R. 4454). This bipartisan legislation would support state and tribal efforts to develop and implement strategies for dealing with CWD. Also it would support research efforts into causes of CWD, and methods for controlling further spread of the disease.

It was referred to the Committee on Agriculture and to the Committee on Natural Resources, which referred it on Nov. 29 to the Subcommittee on Federal Lands.

Why Committee on Federal Lands but not to Committee on Natural Resources where it would seem to belong? Isn’t that passing the buck? (There’s a bad joke in that.)

Diverting funds to deal with CWD is adversely affecting other wildlife programs that were already stretched thin. This bill would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to authorize $35 million to state and tribal wildlife agencies, and agriculture agencies, to implement CWD management strategies. Grants would become available to entities involved in CWD research. Land management agencies in the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior would work collaboratively with state agencies to address the spread of CWD.

CWD belongs with a group of neurodegenerative disorders that includes Mad Cow Disease that are caused by prions. Prions are infected proteins. Once it has been detected clinically in a cervid, it is always fatal.

CWD has a disheartening capacity for rapid spread. It can be spread directly from animal to animal. It appears that this disease is spread from cervid to cervid, perhaps through feces, urine or saliva. It might be spread from mother to fawn. It can be spread in the habitat for a couple of years after infection.

CWD has been detected in either wild herds or captive herds in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and New York. In additions, it has been found in Canada — Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Wild herds are infected in 21 states. This is a growing list.

Between 2004 and 2010, South Korea reported CWD in captive herds. Those animals had been imported from Canada. Also in South Korea, varieties of Sika deer and red deer in a captive facility contracted CWD from elk. Norway reported CWD in 2016.

Symptoms of CWD generally affect behavior. Potential signs are excessive drinking and urinating, a blank stare, repetitive walking, less interaction with other animals, weak appearance and lowered head. The animal probably will be thin. None of these can be considered conclusive evidence of CWD since other disorders may have the same symptoms.

Currently there is no way to test live deer for CWD. Testing requires examination of the brain, tonsils or lymph nodes after death.

Here in Pennsylvania an executive order directed the Game Commission to establish Disease Management Areas where CWD has been detected. DMA 1 is in Adams County where CWD was detected in 2012 at a captive deer farm. This has since been eliminated. DMA 2 was established where CWD infected deer were detected in wild populations in Bedford, Blair, Cambria and Fulton counties from 2012 to 2017, and at captive deer herds in Bedford, Franklin and Fulton counties in 2017.

And getting much too close to the northwestern counties, DMA 3 was established after CWD was detected in a captive deer herd in Jefferson County during 2014, as well as when free-ranging deer were detected with CWD in Clearfield County in 2017.

I would like to urge federal lawmakers to quickly pass the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Act. This could be the salvation of an industry that is important to the budgets of the states and provinces where CWD occurs, to states threatened by it, and to the cherished American traditions of hunting and wildlife watching. This is particularly important to rural communities that depend on income from wildlife tourism.

Washington, D.C.— Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) sent a letter to United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt asking him to complete the agency’s statutory requirement for informing Congress of the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS) impact on our environment.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “As policymakers, we rely on updated data and analysis to make informed decisions. I welcome additional research into the RFS by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as the EPA has done a poor job of informing Congress of any adverse environmental impacts of our national biofuels mandate.”

The full text of the letter is available below:

Dear Administrator Pruitt:

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes for 2018, proposing that 19.29 billion gallons of renewable fuel be blended in our fuel supply, with the lion’s share going to conventional biofuel. While a primary driver behind the RFS’s creation and expansion was to give the United States greater energy independence– an issue that has largely been addressed thanks to our domestic oil and natural gas renaissance – many of its congressional champions continue to tout its supposed environmental benefits, including its positive impact on reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with climate change.

A recent study published by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, however, questions the degree to which our biofuels mandate actually reduces carbon emissions. Their research found that the expansion of cropland that occurred from 2008-2012 resulted in the release of significant carbon deposits from the soil, and that these emissions were largely driven by the conversion of grasslands into land for crop production. This spike in land conversion coincided with enactment of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which greatly expanded our biofuels mandate. The release of extra carbon is notable, as the greenhouse gas is a contributor to climate change. What’s more, due to its lower energy content, gasoline blended with ethanol get fewer miles per gallon than regular gas, meaning cars require more of it to travel the same distance, further hurting the claim that the RFS is environmentally friendly. 

Further analysis into biofuels from university researchers is not only welcomed, but needed, as EPA has not fulfilled its statutory obligation to inform Congress on the environmental and conservation impacts of the RFS and hasn’t completed a triannual congressional impact report since 2011.

In addition, your agency never completed an anti-backsliding study to determine if our ethanol mandate negatively impacts air quality.

As we approach 2022, when the statutory volume requirement for biofuels ends, it’s critical that policymakers have a complete picture of how the RFS affects not only our economy, but also our environment. With this in mind, please answer the following questions by January 31, 2018:

I. Does the RFS increase the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere?

II. Is EPA concerned by the amount of grasslands and forestlands that have been converted into cropland in recent years?

III. Does EPA take into account the effects our biofuels mandate has on land and air quality – including carbon emissions – when determining annual renewable fuel volume obligations (RVOs)?

  • If yes, how do the results impact your decision making?

IV. Do I have your assurance that EPA will, as required, complete and send Congress an updated triannual congressional impact study on the RFS?

  • If yes, when can it be expected?
  • If no, why can’t it be completed?

V. Do you think it would beneficial for EPA to complete an anti-backsliding air quality study before announcing future RVOs?

  • If no, why not?

VI. Do I have your assurance that EPA will, as required, send Congress an anti-backsliding air study on the RFS?

  • If yes, when can it be expected?
  • If no, why can’t it be completed?

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, JR.

Member of Congress

By: Jim Sensenbrenner

We have a long-standing tradition of embracing outdoor recreation in Wisconsin. Our four seasons provide picturesque opportunities for hiking, boating, ice fishing and hunting. In fact, hunting is a hobby embraced by families across our great state that bonds together people from all walks of life.
 
The joy of hunting is just one of the many ways law-abiding Wisconsinites exercise their constitutionally protected right to bear arms — a right I have long defended.
 
In light of the many tragic shootings in our nation, much has been debated about firearm availability and safety. We can all agree that it’s essential to deny the sale of firearms to convicted felons, drug users, illegal aliens, those convicted of domestic violence and anyone deemed by a judge to be mentally ill. I have consistently supported this principle throughout my career in Congress, including in 1993, when I worked with members on both sides of the aisle to pass the Brady Handgun Prevention Act. 
 
The law bears the namesake of my friend, Jim Brady, press secretary to President Ronald Reagan. Brady was critically injured during an assassination attempt on President Reagan by John Hinckley Jr. — a man whose record included both recent arrests and mental illness.
 
As members drafted the “Brady Bill,” I insisted on the inclusion of a timely background check system to prevent similar tragedies. This effort led to the 1998 launch of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System under the control of the FBI, now commonly known as NICS.
 
Under the system, firearm dealers cross-reference the information of prospective buyers with NICS data, to ensure that the purchaser is not on the list of convicted felons, drug users, illegal aliens, or those convicted of domestic violence.
 
But as I have stated many times, NICS is only as strong as the information entered into it. If federal agencies or other law enforcement bodies fail to provide NICS with the necessary information, dangerous individuals will slip through the cracks and purchase firearms.
 
To combat this, I recently supported passage of bipartisan legislation that protects the rights of all Wisconsinites and strengthens the enforcement of laws already on the books. The bill passed the House by a 231-198 vote.
 
The legislation puts measures in place to compel federal agencies to comply with existing NICS statutes. The bill also provides additional funding to assist state and local governments in providing all relevant information to NICS. Ensuring that the existing system functions properly will help us avoid future tragedies, like those in recent events.
 
On a Sunday morning this past October, a disturbed individual burst into a Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, shooting and killing 26 churchgoers and injuring 20 others. The shooter, who received a bad conduct discharge from the military and had a documented history of domestic abuse, unfortunately, had no trouble purchasing his weapons. Had the Department of Defense properly reported his history to the FBI, he would have been flagged in NICS, and the dealer would have been legally obligated to deny the sale. Furthermore, local enforcement would have been notified about the attempted purchase.
 
I don’t live under the illusion that bad people will stop doing evil things but I know that there are meaningful actions that we as a society can take to make it much more difficult for evil-doers to do harm.
 
I’m encouraged to see both Republicans and Democrats in the House come together to take action on these issues, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to move quickly to pass this legislation. I remain committed to the oath that I took to uphold the Constitution and will continue to seek bipartisan solutions to keep our nation safe.

Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican, represents Wisconsin's 5th District and is a member of the Judiciary Committee.

You can read this piece online here.

Augusta Free Press

Overwhelming bipartisan majorities support proposed legislation that calls for extending the period that former government officials must wait before they can lobby the government and prohibiting former executive branch officials from ever lobbying on behalf of foreign governments.

Similarly large majorities favor ending the support the government currently provides for former U.S. presidents.

The survey of 2,482 registered voter was conducted by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland, and released Tuesday by the non-partisan organization, Voice of the People. To ensure that respondents understood the issue, they were given a short briefing on the proposal and asked to evaluate arguments for and against.

The content was reviewed by congressional proponents and opponents of the legislation to ensure that the briefing was accurate and balanced and that the arguments presented were the strongest ones being made.

Currently, former Members of Congress are prohibited from lobbying Congress for two years after leaving office. Proposed legislation H.R. 383 by Rep. Posey [R-FL-8], H.R. 796 by Rep. DeSantis [R-FL-6], H.R. 1951 by Rep. O’Halleran [D-AZ-1] and H.R. 346 by Rep. Trott [R-MI-11] calls for extending this period to five years.  In the survey, 77 percent approved of such an extension, including 80% of Republicans and 73% of Democrats.

Extending the waiting period for senior congressional staffers from the current one year to two years—as called for in H.R. 383 by Rep. Posey [R-FL-8]—was approved by 77%, including 79% of Republicans and 74% of Democrats.

Currently, senior executive branch officials are prohibited from lobbying their former agency for 1-2 years depending on how senior they were. H.R. 1934 proposed by Rep. Gallagher [R-WI-8], S.522 by Sen. Tester [D-MT], H.R. 796 by Rep. De Santis [R-FL-6] and H.R. 484 by Rep. De Fazio [D-OR-4] call for extending this period to five years for all such officials.  This proposal was supported by 75%, including 77% of Republicans and 71% of Democrats.

“The American public seems to be eager to drain the swamp in Washington,” commented Steven Kull, director of PPC.

However, support did not go so far as to call for a lifetime ban on former members of Congress lobbying as called for by S.1189 by Sen. Bennet [D-CO] and H.R 4187 by Rep. Hollingsworth [R-IN-9]. Only 29% of respondents supported it, including 33% of Republicans and 24% of Democrats.

Currently, Americans can act as lobbyists for foreign governments, provided they register and report their activities to the U.S. government.  Senior executive branch officials are only limited by the 1-2 year restriction for lobbying their former agency.  Proposed bills H.R. 796 by Rep.DeSantis [R-FL-6] and H.R. 484 by Rep. De Fazio [D-OR-4] prohibit former senior executive branch officials from any lobbying on behalf of a foreign government for the rest of their life.

This proposal was favored by 75%, including 81% of Republicans and 70% of Democrats.

The Trump administration has required political appointees in its administration to pledge to not lobby their former agency for five years and to never lobby the US government for a foreign government after they leave office.

The sample is large enough to enable analysis of attitudes in very Republican and very Democratic districts (based on Cook PVI ratings of the district the respondents live in).  In all cases, red districts were just slightly more supportive of the proposed restrictions.

Another set of questions presented a proposal to end the financial support for former U.S. presidents, as called for in H.R. 2298 sponsored by Rep. Sensenbrenner [R-WI-5].  Currently, former U.S. presidents get financial support to cover the ongoing costs associated with the activities of being a former president, including office space, staffing and travel.  In 2017, the government will spend approximately $4 million in support for the four former U.S. presidents.

Seventy-two percent favored the proposal, including 85% of Republicans and 60% of Democrats.  In very red districts 77% favored the proposal and in very blue districts 61% favored it.

The survey was conducted online from September 7- October 3, 2017 with a national probability-based sample of 2,482 registered voters, provided by Nielsen Scarborough from Nielsen Scarborough’s sample of respondents, who were recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The margin of error was +/- 2.0%.