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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement regarding the horrific acts of violence perpetrated in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: "What happened in Charlottesville goes against the principles of this nation and everything I've worked for during my time in Congress. The freedoms given in this country should never be abused to incite violence or spread hate and prejudice. It's my hope that as Americans, we can all come together to denounce bigotry in all its forms."

Since 2010, Republicans have seen the writing on the wall about Obamacare. We knew the dangers it posed to the public. We understood how it would lead to skyrocketing premiums, decrease the quality of care, and leave millions of Americans with fewer, less-desirable healthcare options. That's why for the past seven years, we've fought against this disastrous law.

We made promises to our constituents that we would repeal and replace Obamacare. We assured them that relief was on the way.

That's why it seems unfathomable that when the moment came to save millions of Americans from the burdens placed upon them by the failures of Obamacare, a small minority of my Republican colleagues caved under outside pressure and broke their promises.

Obamacare is failing. Despite the fact that Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., wisely rejected weaving the Obamacare exchanges into the fabric of the state's health insurance market, Wisconsin is still feeling the pain of this terrible law. Earlier this year, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced it would pull out of the exchanges. Just last week, Molina Healthcare also announced its departure, making it the sixth health insurer to leave Wisconsinites with fewer options since Obamacare's implementation.

Thousands of Wisconsinites will now be left without their preferred health insurance plans by the end of 2017 and will struggle to find affordable, quality coverage for themselves and their families.

Wisconsin is not alone.

Several counties in Arizona have seen the steepest health insurance premiums in the country. Major health insurers, including UnitedHealthCare and Humana pulled out of the state, and others have significantly decreased their coverage. Last year, drastic premium increases left one Arizona county without any health insurance options, and only two insurance companies offering individual plans through the Obamacare exchanges in the state have committed to continue selling plans in 2018.

In Alaska – one of the most expensive states in the country – individual health insurance premiums increased to nearly 40 percent after Obamacare went into effect. The incredible costs led to all but one health insurance company to leave the market. It has also caused enrollment in the exchanges to drop significantly, from approximately 23,000 last year to just more than 19,000 this year according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

On the other side of the country in Maine, health insurance premiums may increase up to an astounding 40 percent on average by next year. All three of the state's providers have detailed steep hikes that would impact more than 100,000 people on the individual exchanges.

These are just a few examples of the overwhelming deterioration of a law that was fated to collapse the healthcare system from its outset.

The House of Representatives moved forward this year with the American Health Care Act, legislation born from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's Better Way agenda, which would have provided people with more choices at lower costs. The plan expanded Health Savings Accounts and created new tax credits to help people buy insurance at affordable prices. It protected access for individuals with pre-existing conditions, allowed those aged 26 and younger to remain on their parents' plans, and reformed and strengthened Medicaid to help those who needed it most.

Ryan and House Republicans kept their promises. They passed the AHCA -- smart legislation that would put Americans, not government, in control of their healthcare.

Unfortunately, the Senate could not do the same.

Despite ongoing reports of the breakdown of Obamacare in their states and states throughout the country, a small group of Republican Senators refused to stand up and vote for the best interests of their constituents and Americans nationwide. Rather than fulfilling the promises they made and honoring the commitments they guaranteed, they succumbed to the political pressures of Washington and failed their constituents.

However, it's not too late to change course.

The Senate can still move forward with repeal and replace measures that will give people the hand up they desperately need and put our health insurance system back on track.

Obamacare is failing and Americans are paying the price. With the future of our nation's health at stake, members of Congress, both in the House and the Senate, must remember why they were sent to Washington in the first place.

View this piece online here.

By: Clark Packard and Peter O'Rourke, contributors to the Washington Examiner

Nearly 230 years after the Constitution's ratification, we are still debating the limits of power granted to the states to tax and regulate.

Should California have the power to prohibit the sale of pork from out-of-state producers if the pigs were born to sows housed in gestation stalls? Should Massachusetts have the authority to prohibit the sale of out-of-state eggs if the hens were housed in battery cages? Should Colorado have the ability to mandate that at least 20 percent of the electricity imported into the state from out-of-state producers comes from renewable sources?

Curbing potentially inhumane farming practices and promoting clean energy may be worthwhile policy goals, but under our Constitution, the states lack the power to regulate business practices beyond their borders. Congress has power over interstate commerce, making it the appropriate venue for achieving these goals.

That's not to say states lack authority to set appropriate farming practices or target climate change. Colorado, for instance, could require that all electricity producers in the Centennial State use at least 20 percent renewable sources, but it cannot condition the ability of out-of-state producers to sell electricity in the state on those renewable targets.

Perhaps the most contentious question raised in this area of law in recent years is whether states have the authority to collect tax from out-of-state businesses that have no physical presence in the state. With the rise of the internet and online commerce, states continue to try to compel out-of-state companies to report and submit sales taxes owed by residents, despite Supreme Court precedent prohibiting such requirements. The ability to compel tax collection necessarily implies the ability to audit out-of-state companies. Do we really want to empower tax auditors in one state to comb through the books of companies located in other states?

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law pondered that question in a July 25 hearing on H.R. 2887, the No Regulation Without Representation Act. Sponsored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., the bill would codify in statute that states can only tax or regulate entities engaged in interstate commerce that have a genuine physical presence within their borders. Unfortunately, this measure is needed because states continue to violate the guidelines set out by the Constitution's Commerce Clause.

The Constitution's basic construction is clear: States are free to regulate the rules of the road for wholly intrastate business practices and tax wholly intrastate transactions. Where commerce flows beyond state borders, Congress, not state legislatures or regulatory authorities, is given exclusive authority to regulate.

This framework isn't an accident. A primary weakness of the Articles of Confederation was that the federal government lacked the power to pre-empt state authority. This proved unworkable. By contrast, one of the geniuses of the constitutional framework is that the founders essentially established a free-trade zone among the states, with Congress as the ultimate arbiter of the rules of commerce between states.

Not only does this framework make practical sense—prohibiting a balkanized taxing and regulatory regime from overly burdening business practices—but it is consistent with democratic norms. In short, overzealous states may not threaten out-of-state parties who have no say in the process by which the rules are written. That's why Congress is the proper venue to resolve disputes about state efforts to tax online sales, set regulatory standards for sow pens and chicken cages, or the sale of electricity across state lines. Every adult in America can participate in the democratic process and congressional deliberations.

Sensenbrenner's bill would make a number of sensible changes that would properly balance the Constitution's respect for federalism and the Commerce Clause's demands. The bill would essentially mandate that a state can tax or regulate a person's activity when the person is physically present in a state and spells out reasonable parameters for how to define that physical presence.

If Congress fails to pass the No Regulation Without Representation Act or similar legislation, states will continue to push to tax and regulate beyond their borders. This will inevitably result in costly litigation and a confusing patchwork of rules and levies that must be sorted out in the courts. Congress can and should act to protect our existing constitutional framework.

Clark Packard is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is an outreach manager and policy analyst for the R Street Institute. Peter O'Rourke is a summer intern with the R Street Institute.

View this piece online here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.) sent the following letter to United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions to express concerns and objections to his proposal to expand the Department of Justice’s civil asset forfeiture program. The letter also urges AG Sessions to reconsider his newly-announced policies.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Expanding the federal civil asset forfeiture program is a step in the wrong direction and I urge Attorney General Sessions and his Department of Justice to reconsider. I am a supporter of criminal asset forfeiture – the seizure of property after the conviction of crime—but with civil asset forfeiture, law enforcement has a direct economic incentive to take people’s property without ever even charging them with a crime. We need to add more due process to forfeiture proceedings. Expanding forfeiture without increasing protections is, in my view, unconstitutional and wrong.”

Congressman Conyers: “I am deeply disappointed by the Justice Department’s recent move to reverse its ban on adoptive seizures.  The prior policy, which was instituted in January of 2015, greatly curtailed this practice, which provides financial incentives for law enforcement to seize the property – including the homes – of individuals who may not even be guilty of a crime.  I call on Senator Sessions to withdraw the new policy, which is contrary to the growing bipartisan effort to reform our civil forfeiture laws and practices.  Indeed, the time has come for Congress to enact the DUE PROCESS Act, a bipartisan bill to significantly alter these laws and increase protections for innocent property owners.” 

Full text provided below:

Dear Attorney General Sessions:

We write to express strong objections to your decision to reverse the Department of Justice’s policies curtailing adoptive seizures.  Under this process, state and local law enforcement can receive up to 80 percent of forfeiture proceeds for simply transferring seized property to federal authorities to pursue forfeiture under federal law. 

This practice has been criticized as a “bounty” system because it perversely incentivizes state and local law enforcement to seize the property of individuals who may not even be guilty of a crime. Furthermore, in states that restrict civil forfeiture, the policy raises serious federalism concerns by allowing state law enforcement to pursue forfeiture in circumvention of protections provided by state law. 

The prior policy issued in January 2015 substantially curtailed adoptive forfeitures.  In announcing your decision to reverse these reforms, you claimed to implement “safeguards.” None of these steps, however, will provide any meaningful degree of protection against abuse.

The first two steps outlined in the Policy Directive issued by the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, concerning review of seizures and probable cause determinations, are merely internal assessments that make us no more comfortable with adoptive seizures than we were prior to their curtailment three years ago. 

Curiously, the third step would provide additional limitations on certain adoptions, but only for cases of less than or equal to $10,000 – reflecting your decision that higher-dollar cases are somehow less deserving of protections against abuse.  In any event, even this degree of protection for the lower dollar cases is largely illusory as the Policy Directive provides that a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office may simply waive the additional procedures in individual cases. 

Lastly, the Policy Directive admonishes that the Department should “proceed with particular caution” in seeking the forfeiture of people’s homes if they were “not implicated in criminal conduct.”  We cannot emphasize enough how stunningly inappropriate and brazen it is for the Department to engage in such a practice.  That officials charged with the responsibility of protecting the rights of our citizens would contemplate taking personal residences of innocent homeowners underscores our lack of faith in the discretion to be exercised by Department officials in the prior three “safeguards.”   

Civil forfeiture, at the federal level and also through adoptive seizures, requires significant reform if is to continue at all.  It has become increasingly apparent that the procedures in federal law governing civil forfeiture are fundamentally inadequate.  Forfeiture reform has long been a bipartisan issue, raising serious concerns about fairness and due process on both sides of the aisle.

Congress last enacted reform to these laws in 2000, under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, sponsored by the late Representative Henry Hyde.  We have learned much since passage of that law and have introduced bipartisan legislation, entitled the DUE PROCESS Act, to responsibly increase procedural protection for innocent owners.

We should be reforming civil forfeiture, not expanding it.  Therefore, while we pursue legislation on this issue, we ask that you withdraw the newly-announced changes to the Department’s adoptive seizure policies. 

Although we believe this new policy should be rescinded, we would like additional information concerning the rationale for some of its provisions and your plans to implement them.

  1. As discussed above, the Department’s Policy Directive admonishes that the Department should “proceed with particular caution” in the forfeiture of people’s homes if the owners’ were “not implicated in criminal conduct.”
    1. What additional oversight does the Department propose to protect innocent homeowners from seizure of their homes?
    2. In what circumstances would the Department consider it appropriate to seize a person’s home when that person is not implicated in any criminal conduct? 
    3.  Does the Department advise any particular caution for seizure of a person’s home based on relatively minor criminal conduct?
  2. The Department’s policy would appear to allow federal adoptions in violation of state law.
    1. If law enforcement is operating in a state that has banned forfeiture, does the Department consider it appropriate for law enforcement to rely on federal law in circumvention of the laws of their state?\
    2. . Would the Department consider federal adoption of a state forfeiture appropriate if the forfeiture were based on simple possession of marijuana in a state that has legalized the drug?
  3. Why did the Department propose safeguards exclusively on adoptions valued at less than $10,000?  Are higher value forfeitures worthy of less protection?  Does this incentivize law enforcement to seize higher value property?
     

Please reply with written answers to these questions by August 15, 2017. 

Sincerely,

F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.

Member of Congress

 

John Conyers, Jr.

Member of Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement on the devastating news that Molina Healthcare will be dropping out of the Obamacare Exchanges:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The announcement that Molina Healthcare will be dropping out of the Obamacare exchanges isn’t a surprise, but it certainly is disastrous for the more than 50,000 of Wisconsinites who may be left with no health care options under Obamacare.

“This is the latest development in a string of devastating health care losses for Wisconsin under Obamacare – an ill-fated law that has been a failure since its passage. It’s imperative for the health of our nation for Congress to find real solutions to the intensifying problems caused by Obamacare. The House of Representatives passed smart, patient-centered repeal and replace legislation – the Senate must do the same for the sake of all Americans. ”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Rapid DNA Act, introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and passed in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support earlier this year, has passed in the Senate and now heads to President Donald Trump to be signed into law.

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 – I’m thrilled to see its final passage in the Senate. This technology 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. I look forward to President Trump promptly signing it into law.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement on health insurance companies across the country looking to increase Obamacare premiums:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Unfortunately today we’re seeing further evidence of the failures of Obamacare. Across the country, health insurers are looking to once again increase premiums by as much as 30 percent, putting added pressure on millions of Americans who cannot afford it.

“Wisconsin is not immune from these increases. Molina Healthcare of Wisconsin is proposing an increase ranging from 30 to 46 percent for its member plans. Increases like these will be devastating for Wisconsinites who are not eligible for Obamacare subsidies.

“Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed a smart, patient-centered repeal and replace plan that would make health insurance better and more affordable. It’s my hope that Congress can move forward to find real solutions that will finally put an end to skyrocketing prices and provide the quality care that Americans need and deserve.”  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) announced that Loni Hagerup, Sensenbrenner’s deputy chief of staff, and Matt Bisenius, director of legislative affairs at the National Propane Gas Association, will serve as co-chiefs of staff beginning in August.

The news comes after the announcement that current Chief of Staff Bart Forsyth has accepted a new position with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

“Working on Capitol Hill is an unparalleled opportunity to do good and make a difference in people’s lives. In Henry Hyde and Jim Sensenbrenner, I’ve had the distinct privilege of serving two historic Members of the House of Representatives,” said Forsyth. “I am deeply grateful to both of them for the opportunities they have given me. It is particularly hard to leave Congressman Sensenbrenner and his amazing staff, but I am excited to join a world-class team at PhRMA and to continue my work with the Hill on PhRMA’s behalf.”

Forsyth served under Sensenbrenner in a number of capacities, including his work on the House Science Committee as investigative counsel, Sensenbrenner’s chief of staff on the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, his work on the House Judiciary Committee, and finally as Sensenbrenner’s chief of staff in his personal office.

“It’s always difficult to part with talented members of staff, especially those who have served faithfully for many years,” said Sensenbrenner. “Bart has been a true asset as a trusted advisor, effective facilitator, and respected leader. I’m thankful for his distinguished service and wish him continued success as he begins this new chapter.”

Stepping into the role of chief of staff are Sensenbrenner alumni Loni Hagerup and Matt Bisenius.

Hagerup, a long-time Sensenbrenner staffer, began her political career in the Wisconsin State Assembly as a legislative aid before moving to Washington, D.C. to work for Sensenbrenner as his staff assistant in 1985. After serving in the Reagan administration, she returned to work with Sensenbrenner in Wisconsin in various roles as campaign manager, district director, and most recently deputy chief of staff. 

“I’m thrilled to continue my service with Congressman Sensenbrenner in this new role, although Bart’s absence will certainly be felt,” said Hagerup. “Team Sensenbrenner has benefitted immeasurably from his keen legal mind, sharp communication acumen, and adept people skills. Bart’s leadership has been exemplary and he will be missed.”

Matt Bisenius rejoins Congressman Sensenbrenner’s staff from the National Propane Gas Association, where he currently serves as the director of legislative affairs. Matt joined NPGA in August 2014, and has managed several successful advocacy campaigns during his tenure. Prior to joining NPGA, Matt worked as the senior legislative assistant for Congressman Sensenbrenner. 

“I am excited for the opportunity to return to the Sensenbrenner office. The Congressman’s exceptional record of constituent service and legislative success greatly benefits Wisconsin’s Fifth District. I look forward to working with the staff to further support and expand the Congressman’s work.”

By Commissioner David Jeffrey for Huff Post

Last summer, President Barack Obama signed The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) into law to combat the skyrocketing opioid epidemic in our country. Drug overdoses related to prescription pain relievers and heroin are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. More than 90 Americans die each day from the opioid epidemic.

As you may have seen in the news, rustbelt states are at the center of the epidemic. In Ohio, according to the state Department of Health, opioid-related deaths jumped from 296 in 2003 to 2,590 in 2015 – a 775 percent jump. In Indiana, we’ve seen double digit percentage increases in the patient count at our Harbor Light Centers, which offer treatment and recovery programs for those struggling with addictions.

With support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, CARA is the first major federal addiction act in 40 years. The legislation encompasses all six pillars necessary for a coordinated response – prevention, treatment, recovery, law enforcement, criminal justice reform and overdose reversal. CARA gives nonprofit organizations such as The Salvation Army critical help for our work with the thousands of Americans struggling with addiction. To mark the first year since the legislation passed, I asked Wisconsin Representative Jim Sensenbrenner about how we can continue to raise awareness about the severity of the opioid epidemic.

Q: What is the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and how does it help Americans struggling with addiction to opioids?

A: The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) helps those with addiction through alternative incarceration programs and outpatient treatment options for non-violent drug offenders. Such options not only better serve individuals, but save significant taxpayer dollars. The legislation also creates community-based anti-drug coalitions and a national education campaign, which helps rebuild communities, deter young Americans from trying drugs, and stalls the increase of addicts, overdoses, and deaths.

Q: Why do you feel it’s important to raise awareness about the rise in opioid consumption?

A: Opioid abuse has become a major problem in the United States. Not only does it ruin the lives of individual users, but it has negative impacts on the families and friends of abusers as well. Addiction also weakens communities and puts unnecessary added pressure on taxpayers who ultimately pay for increased health care, incarceration, and judicial costs.

Q: What should every American know about the opioid epidemic?

A: Opioid addiction isn’t specific to any one demographic. It grips individuals from all walks of life. From urban neighborhoods, to quiet suburbs, to rural America.

Q: Why is continued support still needed for federal legislation to combat the opioid epidemic?

A: Between 2002 and 2013, national heroin deaths nearly quadrupled, reaching more than 8,000 annually by 2013. In that same year, an estimated 517,000 people used heroin – a figure up 150 percent from just six years earlier.

Between 2006 and 2011, my home state of Wisconsin experienced a 350 percent increase in heroin samples submitted to the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory by law enforcement. In 2012, the number of heroin-related deaths jumped by nearly 50 percent and statewide data shows one quarter of Wisconsinites who abuse the drug began using when they were younger than 25 years old.

It’s clear that this problem won’t solve itself. It will take the hard work and cooperation of Congress, as well state and local entities, to find and implement serious solutions to fight this epidemic.

Q: How can social service providers help raise awareness about the opioid epidemic or help those struggling with addiction?

A: The community-based anti-drug coalitions noted in CARA will play a large role in helping social service providers on the local levels. While the federal government can help with these efforts through additional funding, the real, meaningful work takes place within communities.

Q: What’s been the most surprising thing you’ve learned about people struggling with addiction to opioids?

A: The fact that many abusers begin at a young age is troubling, which is why some provisions within CARA focus on an awareness campaign. It’s critical that we not only help those currently struggling with addiction, but also our nation’s young adults. If we can stop them from trying opioids and other drugs, we can stop the tragedies of addiction before they happen.

You can view this article online here.

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to recognize the 27th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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.

Throughout my career, I have seen few pieces of legislation that bring all people together as much as the ADA. Not only did this historic legislation pass both chambers with large bipartisan majorities, but the ADA Amendments Act passed unanimously in 2008. This legislation shows that Congress can come together to solve problems for the betterment of the American people.

I proudly stand with the thousands of advocates who come to Washington D.C. this week to continue the fight for the rights of all Americans.