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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 heads to President Obama to be signed into law after passing both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Among other things, the Act will provide a pay raise to active duty service members, funding for military readiness and ongoing operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Europe, and encourage advancement of military technology and innovation.

Also included in the bill is a Sensenbrenner provision to encourage the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) to expand the use of electronic quality management systems to help the agency conduct thorough and timely audits. This good government provision will help ensure defense contracts aren’t needlessly delayed, costs are kept in check, and errors are caught and addressed in a timely fashion to produce better results

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Keeping this nation safe is Congress’ number one priority – this bipartisan, bicameral bill does exactly that while simultaneously helping our military service members get the benefits they’ve earned and deserve.”

The NDAA passed the House of Representatives 375-34 and the U.S. Senate 92-7. 
 

 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner sent the following letter to President-elect Donald Trump, urging him to meet with the Dalai Lama and continue the United States’ strong relationship with Tibet once in office: 

Dear President-elect Trump: 

As you meet with various world leaders in preparation for assuming your role as President, I would like to take the opportunity to suggest that you meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

In 2008, I had the honor of meeting the Dalai lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader and historic head of State. Since his exile from Tibet 57 years ago, the Dalai Lama has been a strong and persistent advocate for a peaceful resolution to the tension between Tibet and China.

In 1989, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in furthering the peaceful protest of the Chinese occupation of Tibet. In 2007, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush. These awards are just a small bit of recognition for the unwavering commitment to peaceful Tibetan independence that the Dalai Lama has demonstrated throughout his time as Tibet’s spiritual leader.

Tibetans have the right to preserve their culture, heritage, language, and religion. Over the years, the Tibetan people have undergone a constant struggle to free themselves from the Chinese government and to preserve these basic freedoms. However, the People’s Republic of China continues to refuse to acknowledge the autonomy of the Tibetan people, and have cracked down on protests and demonstrations by Tibetans.

Throughout the course of the last half-century, America has had a strong and stable relationship with the people and government of Tibet. I hope you will continue this strong relationship with Tibet, as well as promote peace between Tibet and the People’s Republic of China.

Sincerely,

F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. 
Member of Congress
 
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement congratulating House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) on being voted by the House Republican Caucus to continue his service as House Judiciary Chairman:

Congressman Sensenbrenner:“Chairman Goodlatte has been a steady hand guiding the House Judiciary Committee through some of Congress’s most intricate and complex legislation. Under his strong leadership, the Committee has pursued an ambitious agenda, accomplishing significant, bipartisan legislative achievements. I look forward to working with him and the Committee in the new Congress.”
 
The American people have waited nearly a decade to see true, positive change in Washington. Now, we have the tools to deliver that change. The start of a new session presents a fresh opportunity and an obligation to take our country in a better direction. 

Through calls, emails, letters, and social media posts, the American people have made it clear that they want less gridlock, more cooperation, and a government that works for their best interests, not its own. Congress must seize this opportunity to affect real, meaningful changes that will improve the lives of all Americans; changes like simplifying our tax code, repealing and replacing Obamacare to make health insurance more accessible and more affordable, and reducing the amount of onerous and unnecessary government regulations that hurt small businesses and weaken the economy. We must address issues like comprehensive immigration reform to protect the border and enhance national security, and criminal justice reform that will bring increased fairness to the sentencing process, focus on work and rehabilitation programs within the federal prison system, and reduce recidivism for stronger, economically stable families and communities.   

My colleagues and I are moving forward to turn promises made into promises kept. It’s time to turn words into actions and produce results – to think big, reimaging the way our government can and should function, and bring the focus back to where it belongs – on the American people.
If Members of Congress put aside their differences and choose to work together– if we seize this opportunity – it will shake up Washington like never before and lead our nation into a new era of prosperity and promise. 

Together, we will work in tandem with the new president and his administration to change the status quo. There will be challenges and bumps in the road, but with cooperation, real change is possible.

I’m optimistic, hopeful, and excited to tackle the challenges ahead, and accomplish the reforms that will make this country stronger and more prosperous for generations to come.
 
Since our nation’s founding, the idea of no taxation without representation has been a guiding principle. State taxes are collected to pay for essential governmental services, such as infrastructure, education, sanitation and many more. Since these services are for the benefit of citizens, it is entirely within the jurisdiction of state and local governments to collect taxes to pay for them. 

The Commerce Clause of the Constitution ensures residents are taxed only by their own state by vesting the authority to regulate interstate commerce with the federal government. Inherent in this authority is a prohibition on states from interfering with interstate commerce. In other words, no citizen should be subject to taxation without receiving the benefits of their government. That, however, is exactly what some states are attempting to do.

A sales tax is not in fact a tax on businesses, but instead, a tax on consumers for the purchase and use of the goods. For the sake of convenience, brick and mortar businesses are required to collect this tax on the government’s behalf. This point of sale tax poses no constitutional issues because the purchase within a state necessarily involves a sufficient nexus to the state to justify taxation. 

Exclusively online retailers, on the other hand, frequently sell products to people in other states who intend to use those products in their own states. In many cases, imposing a sales tax on an in-state retailer would mean taxing a citizen of another state who has little or no connection with the taxing authority. This is an explicit form of taxation without representation. 

Any state law requiring online retailers to pay state taxes would force consumers to give money to state governments that they have no representation in or receive no benefits or services from. It would also disproportionately favor large states, which could attract more online retailers and then collect taxes nationwide. 

In 1992, the tension over taxation between out-of-state retailers and state governments came to a head in Quill Corp v. North Dakota. The Quill Corporation — a catalogue retailer based in Illinois — received a notice from the state of North Dakota claiming the company owed use tax payments for sales made to North Dakota residents. Because the company had no physical presence or employees in the state, Quill Corp. denied the claim. The case ended up before the United States Supreme Court, which ultimately sided with Quill, ruling that a taxpayer must have a physical presence in a state to owe a sales or use tax.

In Quill, the Supreme Court provided specific requirements to demonstrate a significant nexus thereby justifying the collection of taxes. These requirements, such as owning or leasing real or tangible property or employing workers in a state, set a national standard for future tax collection cases. It has also served as an important taxpayer protection for more than two decades. But as e-commerce continues to grow, states are passing new laws that would widen the nexus standard and increase their revenues. 

In places like South Dakota and Alabama, state governments are increasingly ignoring Quill and passing laws that require online retailers to pay state taxes, based on the dollar amount of annual sales in the state. Tennessee, Colorado and Louisiana are all following suit.

In an effort to uphold the principles established in Quill and to protect online retailers and consumers, I introduced H.R. 5893, the No Taxation Without Representation Act of 2016. If passed, this bill would keep government overreaches in check by limiting the ability of states to impose a use tax or sales tax on remote online sellers and would codify the standard the Supreme Court set in Quill. It would also reduce burdensome government regulations, helping online retailers conduct business more efficiently and cost-effectively, while ensuring that only residents of a state are held responsible for state tax obligations.

The passage of H.R. 5893 is crucial because states should not have the ability to tax non-citizens, plain and simple. Forcing use and sales tax on internet sales is unconstitutional and would slow the growth of the e-commerce industry, one of the few bright spots in our economy over the past decade, as well as needlessly knock American consumers where it hurts the most — their pocketbooks.

No taxation without representation is a mantra that speaks to the founding principles of this nation and is as true today as it was at this country’s conception. This legislation is a step in the right direction and will go a long way toward ensuring fairness in state taxation and upholding the standards set to protect American businesses and consumers.

Read the full piece here.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement on the passing of former Wisconsin Congressman Melvin Laird: 

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Congressman Laird committed his life to public service and his fellow Americans. His accomplished legislative record and distinguished service at the Department of Defense made him well-respected among his colleagues and one of the most effective leaders in Washington. Although today we mourn his passing, we must also celebrate his illustrious life and legacy.” 
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement congratulating friend and colleague Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on his unanimous backing by fellow House Republicans for another term as Speaker:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Speaker Ryan is a true conservative leader who exemplifies what it means to serve others. His unfailing optimism inspires his colleagues, and his unique brand of leadership encourages an inclusive, open process that strengthens trust and builds positive, effective relationships. His ambitious plan to give America a better way forward makes it no surprise that he was unanimously selected by his peers to serve another term as Speaker.  I look forward to continuing to work with him as we head into a new Congress.” 
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement congratulating Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on his appointment as President-elect Donald J. Trump’s chief of staff:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “President-elect Trump’s choice to name Chairman Reince Priebus as his chief of staff is not only a wise decision for his administration, but also a true victory for the American people. Reince will be an astute advisor, advocating for the core conservative values that are fundamental to our nation’s prosperity. I have had the distinct privilege of working with him as he successfully reinvigorated the Republican Party and united Americans in a new, transformative way. He has proven himself time and again to be an effective leader, and I look forward to continue working with him in his new role.”
 
On Tuesday, Americans will elect a president without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. The last time that happened they were deciding between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater — more than a half-century ago.

In 2013, the Supreme Court declared that voter discrimination was no longer a problem and effectively struck down the only portion of the act designed to stop discrimination before it affects an election. The court let stand the provisions of the act that allow lawsuits after a discriminatory law takes effect, but unfortunately, the United States has learned the hard way that there is no satisfactory cure for discrimination after an election occurs.

At issue is a practice known as preclearance. Under the 1965 law, jurisdictions with a history of discrimination had to submit changes in voting practices to the Justice Department for review. But in 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down the trigger used to determine which jurisdictions would be subject to preclearance, effectively removing this safeguard.

Along with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), I introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015 to modernize the original law and to respond to the Supreme Court’s objections in Shelby County. The bill recognizes the importance of preclearance, but applies it evenly across all 50 states. Under the new law, any state or jurisdiction that demonstrates a consistent pattern of discriminatory voting practices would be subject to preclearance. When the discrimination stops, the jurisdiction would automatically be freed from the requirement. This bill offers a modern and thoughtful response to voter discrimination that ensures the minimal possible federal interference in state elections. Unfortunately, despite the legislation having more than 100 co-sponsors, Congress still has not acted on it.

If opponents take issue with the details of how preclearance would operate or the way the bill defines consistent discrimination, I will happily work with them on changes. But to not act at all suggests they believe that Congress should not allow federal oversight of local elections no matter how discriminatory and unfair those elections are. I do not believe that is an acceptable position.

The country is already suffering from Congress’s failure to modernize the Voting Rights Act. Without the full law in place, Americans face unnecessary legal battles, confusion and inefficiency at the polls, and a potentially discriminatory election process.

To date, there have been a number of significant cases brought against states regarding election laws — some with litigation still pending as Election Day approaches. The case League of Women Voters et al. v. the State of North Carolina challenged the state’s new voting laws, which implemented a state voter identification requirement and made changes to early voting and same-day voter registration practices. In early October, the Florida Democratic Party filed suit against Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner seeking to extend the voter registration deadline in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. In Arizona, litigants brought suit against the Arizona secretary of state’s office, challenging polling-place closures in Maricopa County, which reduced locations by 70 percent since 2012 — opening only 60 polling stations in the 2016 primary election compared with more than 200 in 2012 and 400 in 2008.

Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, each of these cases would have been reviewed directly by the Justice Department, eliminating the need for costly litigation and ensuring that election laws were settled before Election Day. The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015 would not only restore Section 5 and preclearance practices, but also help relieve complications caused by state and local changes to voting laws. It would modernize the VRA to apply to all states equally and include transparency provisions, such as requiring officials to give public notice within 48 hours of certain voting changes that are made 180 days before a federal election. This would help reduce hours-long wait times for voters, give the public ample time to adjust to changes in polling locations and secure proper identification in states that require it.

At the core of the Voting Rights Act is the desire for equality in elections. I supported the act’s reauthorization in 1982, was instrumental in its reauthorization in 2006 and now urge my colleagues to pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015 during the upcoming lame-duck session.

The opportunity to reauthorize the VRA for the 2016 election has passed, but enacting the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015 would be an enlightened congressional response to what has been an ugly presidential race.

The right to vote is fundamental to a successful, prosperous nation. It is imperative that the process is fair, accessible and protected from discrimination, doubt and partisan gamesmanship. If voters are worried about rigged elections, Congress must act with urgency to pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015.

View this piece online here.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a House Judiciary Committee hearing on September 28, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner questioned FBI Director James Comey on a number of issues the Agency has faced over the past year, including its role in the investigation into Secretary Clinton’s private email servers.

In the course of that interaction, Mr. Sensenbrenner highlighted concerns about the handling of the investigation and questioned Mr. Comey on whether any new information suggesting potentially criminal activity conducted by Mrs. Clinton would warrant a reopening of the investigation, to which Mr. Comey replied, “I haven’t seen anything that would come near to that kind of situation.”

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The details of this case and the mishandling of the investigation have been troubling since the beginning. Last month, I voiced concerns about damning new information coming to light and they were all but dismissed. As the FBI examines newly found emails linked to this case, it’s my hope that Mr. Comey and his Bureau are more scrupulous than they were in their previous endeavors.”  

Watch the exchange here.

See full transcript below:

FJS: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Director Comey, welcome. Who authorized granting Cheryl Mills’ immunity? 

JC: It was a decision made by the Department of Justice; I don’t know at what kind of level inside. In our investigations, anything - any kind of immunity - comes from the prosecutors, not the investigators.

FJS: Okay, did she request immunity? 

JC: I don’t know for sure what the negotiations involved. I believe her lawyer asked for act-of-production immunity with respect to the production of her laptop. That’s my understanding, but again the FBI wasn’t a part of those conversations.

FJS: Now, it’s been a matter of public record that Secretary Clinton brought nine people into the room where two FBI agents were questioning her; is that normal practice?

JC: I don’t know if there is a normal practice. I’ve done interviews with a big crowd and some with just the subject. It’s unusual to have that large a number, but it’s not unprecedented in my experience. 

FJS: Now, Cheryl Mills, also stated that she was an attorney. I’m very concerned that when a fact witness represents a client who might be the target of an investigation, there’s a conflict of interest. Rather than letting Ms. Mills make the determination, would the FBI be willing to refer the matter of a fact witness – Ms. Mills in this case – representing the target – Secretary Clinton in this case – to the appropriate bar association for investigation? 

JC: That’s not a role for the FBI. We’re investigators. Even though I happen to be a lawyer, we’re not lawyers, we’re investigators. So that’s a question for the legal part of the Department of Justice.

FJS: Okay, why did Ms. Mills request immunity? Was she hiding something or was she afraid that something would incriminate her that was on her laptop?

JC: I don’t know. I’m sure that’s a conversation she and her lawyer had, and then her lawyer had with lawyers at the Department. I just don’t know.

FJS: Well, you know there was an op-ed by Professor Johnathan Turley that appeared in the media that said there are a lot of good cases scuttled by granting immunity, and there was lots of immunity that was granted here. Doesn’t it concern you as an investigator that your chiefs in the Justice Department decided to become an immunity producing machine for many people who would have been very key witnesses? Should there have been a prosecution? 

JC: I don’t think of it that way. It doesn’t strike me there was a lot of immunity issued in this case. I know it’s a complicated subject but there are all different kinds of immunity. There are probably three different kinds that’s featured in this case – fairly typical in a complex, white collar case, especially as you try and work your way up towards your subject. So my overall reaction is this looks like normal investigative process to me.

FJS: Well, the target was not an ordinary target. I think we all know that. And since you announced the prosecution of Secretary Clinton in July, there have been several very material issues that are troubling, and would those not require a reopening of the investigation to solve those issues?

JC: I haven’t seen anything that would come near to that kind of situation. I know there are lots of questions lots of controversy but I’m very proud of the way this was done.

FJS: Come on now, with all due respect, since you made this announcement there have been many more issues that came up that were not on the table prior to your announcement that the investigation against Secretary Clinton had been dropped, and I think the American public is entitled to answers on this – particularly since we have to know the extent of the classified information which ended up being in the private email server. All of us on this committee have got security clearances of some kind or another, and I’m kind of worried that if I got some classified information and went back to my office and used an unsecure server to send it to somebody who may also have had the classified information, I would be in big trouble. And I should be in big trouble if I did something like that. There seems to be different strokes for different folks on this and that’s what Americans are concerned about, particularly when we’re looking to elect someone to the highest office of the land and the leader of the free world. I don’t think your answers are satisfactory at all Mr. Comey. I do have a great deal of respect for you but I think that there’s a heavy hand coming from somewhere else and with that I yield back.