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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) released their 2016 Congressional Report, which highlights Members of Congress who consistently defend taxpayer interests with fiscally responsible voting. The report, which began in 1989, examines the voting records of all 535 Members of Congress and creates a rating on a scale from 0 to 100.

Congressman Sensenbrenner ranked highest in the Wisconsin delegation in 2016 with a score of 97. The passage of PROMESA and the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016 were lauded as taxpayer victories by the CCAGW, both of which Congressman Sensenbrenner supported.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “With our national debt climbing to nearly $20 trillion, fiscal responsibility is more important now than ever before. As a steward of taxpayer money, I not only consider the merits of each piece of legislation, but also the fiscal consequences that will impact my constituents and all Americans before I cast my vote. I’m proud of my voting record and will continue to scrutinize every bill that comes before the House to ensure it does not waste hard-earned taxpayer dollars.”

During a meeting with county sheriffs in February, Donald Trump was puzzled by criticism of civil asset forfeiture, which all the cops in the room viewed as an indispensable and unobjectionable law enforcement tool. "Do you even understand the other side of it?" the president asked. "No," one sheriff said, and that was that.

Trump might get a more helpful answer if he asked Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who last week reintroduced a bill aimed at curtailing civil forfeiture abuses. As Sensenbrenner observed, "These abuses threaten citizens' Constitutional rights, put unnecessary burdens on innocent Americans, and weaken our faith in law enforcement."

Civil forfeiture lets the government confiscate property allegedly linked to crime without bringing charges against the owner. Since law enforcement agencies receive most or all of the proceeds from the forfeitures they initiate, they have a strong financial incentive to loot first and ask questions never, which explains why those sheriffs were not eager to enlighten the president about the downside of such legalized theft.

A new report from the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General highlights the potential for abuse. Between fiscal years 2007 and 2016, the OIG found that the Drug Enforcement Administration took $4.2 billion in cash, more than 80 percent of it through administrative forfeitures, meaning there was no judicial oversight because the owners did not challenge the seizures in court.

Although the DEA would argue that the lack of challenges proves the owners were guilty, that is not true. The process for recovering seized property is daunting, complicated, time-consuming and expensive, often costing more than the property is worth.

Consider Charles Clarke, a college student who, in 2014, lost $11,000 in savings to cops at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport who said his suitcase smelled of marijuana. No contraband was found, and as is typical in such cases, the allegations in the federal seizure affidavit were absurdly vague, merely asserting that the money had something to do with illegal drugs.

Clarke, who admitted smoking marijuana but denied selling it, ultimately got his money back with interest. But it took two years, and it was possible only because the Institute for Justice represented him for free.

Sensenbrenner's bill -- which has 15 cosponsors, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and six other Republicans -- would help forfeiture victims like Clarke by allowing them to recover attorney's fees after a settlement and providing legal representation for those who cannot afford it. Instead of requiring owners to prove their innocence (as the law currently demands), the bill would require the government to disprove it (as in a criminal trial). The bill also would increase the burden of proof in forfeiture trials from "preponderance of the evidence" to "clear and convincing evidence."

Although civil forfeiture's defenders argue that it helps destroy drug trafficking organizations, the OIG found that the Justice Department "does not measure how its asset seizure and forfeiture activities advance criminal investigations." Looking at a sample of 100 cases where the DEA seized cash unaccompanied by drugs without a warrant, the OIG found that only 44 led to arrests, advanced existing criminal investigations, or prompted new investigations.

"Without fully evaluating the relationship between seizures and law enforcement efforts," the OIG warns, "the Department cannot effectively assess whether asset forfeiture is being appropriately used, and it risks creating the impression that its law enforcement officers prioritize generating forfeiture revenue over dismantling criminal organizations." The report notes that the Justice Department's incuriosity about the circumstances and consequences of forfeitures also means it has little sense of "the extent to which seizures may present potential risks to civil liberties."

Sensenbrenner's bill would help clear up the mystery by creating a publicly available forfeiture database and requiring the OIG to audit a representative sample of forfeitures each year. Digging into those details will make it harder for those who benefit from civil forfeiture to pretend they do not understand the other side of it.

You can view this article online here.

Even in the most civil of power transitions, there’s an amount of uncertainty that citizens and elected officials alike must navigate. Not only do members of Congress need to recognize this uncertainty, but they also must ensure that they’re working to minimize it within their districts and states.

That’s why being present – being accountable to constituents – is so critical, especially in the current national political climate.

For as long as I’ve been in Congress, I’ve held frequent town hallmeetings. I believe in accountability. I’ve never shied away from speaking with my constituents face-to-face, no matter their political beliefs and affiliations, because people deserve to see what they voted for. They deserve to have their concerns heard and questions answered.

Is it easy? No. Is it always fun? I’d be lying if I said it was, particularly in the last few months. But it’s my responsibility to look my constituents in the eyes and answer their questions. It’s a responsibility I share with my fellow Republicans – and my Democratic colleagues.

The challenges of fixing our broken national health care system, reforming our overcomplicated tax system, and solving the complex and multifaceted issues within our immigration and national security systems are great. These problems affect every American citizen in a myriad of ways, and they deserve straightforward answers and solutions.

But workable solutions cannot be partisan projects, and difficult questions aimed at lawmakers cannot be partisan either.

The Tea Party protests that began in 2009 and grew substantially in the years following were not the partisan cries of a minority electorate indignant over election results. They sprung from deep-seated frustration with elected officials who neglected their districts and responsibilities to govern with fiscal responsibility and discipline.

Their demonstrations held every lawmaker accountable, regardless of party. Elections in 2010, 2012 and 2014 ushered in a conservative wave of lawmakers, and Democrats, as well as complacent Republicans, were swept away with the tide. The most telling example was the defeat of then House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2014.

The Tea Party movement was an honest grassroots effort and a true example of democracy that is rarely seen. And while recent protests claim to imitate the Tea Party model, they lack the authenticity that can only come from the desire to strengthen our nation and empower its people.

The protests and demonstrations at town hall meetings across the nation – including mine – have sprung from a place of political disenchantment and resentment. The movement’s guidebook shows that the group’s foundation is built on resistance, not reconciliation. It’s ambition is to agitate, not to discuss problems and offer constructive opinions. Most significantly, its energies are solely devoted to Republican lawmakers, while giving liberal lawmakers a free pass.

Republicans need to answer tough questions, but so do Democrats.

Nearly every weekend, I face hundreds of constituents and answer difficult, pointed questions. In the rare instances in which my counterparts hold a public meeting, they are spared such questions.

Rather than being asked whether they believe middle-class Americans who do not qualify for federal subsidies deserve to pay hundreds of dollars per month for health insurance under Obamacare, they receive accolades for obstructionist governing.

Instead of answering whether they believe it is right for Americans to pay more into federal social programs that are then given to illegal immigrants who don’t contribute to them, they commiserate with constituents who openly disrespect the office of the president.

The vitriol reserved exclusively for Republican lawmakers is unproductive and does nothing to heal the cracks in our society. It further divides an already divided nation, pitting neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend.

America’s problems are not partisan, and the solutions aren’t either. I will continue to provide open forums for my constituents to ask tough questions, just as I have always done, and I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do the same.

Similarly, to those asking the questions – I encourage you to practice what you preach and pose those tough questions to your Democratic representatives as well. Party affiliation doesn’t absolve anyone from blame and it certainly doesn’t exclude lawmakers from being accountable for their actions.

View the original piece here.

Forfeiture has been a part of the American justice system for more than 200 years. It has been a tool used by law enforcement – both local and federal – to fight criminal activity, such as drug trafficking.

However, over the years, there have been numerous cases of abuse in the forfeiture process, specifically in civil cases. These abuses threaten citizens’ Constitutional rights, put unnecessary burdens on innocent Americans, and weaken our faith in law enforcement. Reform to the current federal forfeiture laws is necessary to curb abuse, restore confidence in law enforcement, and help citizens protect their property rights. 

In civil forfeiture cases, property acts as the defendant, not an individual. If the property is thought to be involved in a crime, it can be confiscated, despite the innocence of its owner. For innocent individuals, getting seized property back can be a long, onerous, and expensive process. 

According to a Washington Post investigation, nearly 62,000 cash seizures have occurred since September 11, 2001, and only a sixth of those cases were legally challenged. This is partly due to the high costs of bringing legal action against the government. Because law enforcement can seize assets despite the innocence of a property owner, many cases harm lawful citizens and puts the burden of proving innocence on them. If an individual can prove their property was not linked to criminal activity, their seized assets can be returned. However, this often involves months – sometimes years – of judicial battles, requiring costly legal representation. 

In 41 percent of civil asset forfeiture cases where there was a challenge, the government returned the seized money. However, 40 percent of those cases took more than a year to resolve and required individuals to sign agreements stating they would not sue the police.

In response to this problem, I have championed common sense reform efforts. Yesterday, I reintroduced the DUE PROCESS Act in the House of Representatives – legislation that would increase transparency in the civil asset forfeiture process, add protections for innocent property owners, and implement additional protections to ensure property owners have the opportunity to contest seizures. It would improve the notice that the government must give property owners, make it easier for them to be heard by a judge, and entitle them to an initial hearing where they can retrieve confiscated property immediately if it was not seized according to the law. 

This legislation would also increase the availability of attorney fees for innocent owners, place a higher burden of proof on the government, and allow for owners of confiscated animals to retrieve their pets faster. 

Civil asset forfeiture is a critical component of the overall effort to fix our broken criminal justice system, and the DUE PROCESS Act would make common sense changes to federal forfeiture laws that help innocent Americans, bringing us one step closer to meaningful reform that would tamper abuse and protect citizens’ Constitutional rights.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner reintroduced the Deterring Undue Enforcement by Protecting Rights of Citizens from Excessive Searches and Seizures (DUE PROCESS) Act in the House of Representatives.

The DUE PROCESS Act builds upon changes made in the 2000 Civil Action Forfeiture Reform Act by increasing transparency in the civil asset forfeiture process, adding protections for innocent property owners, and implementing additional protections to ensure property owners have the opportunity to contest seizures. The legislation also improves the notice that the government must give property owners and makes it easier for them to be heard by a judge.

Additionally, the DUE PROCESS Act entitles property owners to an initial hearing, where they can retrieve confiscated property immediately if it was not seized according to the law. It increases the availability of attorney fees for innocent owners, places a higher burden of proof on the government, and allows for owners of confiscated animals to retrieve their pets faster.

Congressman Sensenbrenner:
 “Civil asset forfeiture is a critical component of the overall effort to fix our broken criminal justice system, and the DUE PROCESS Act makes common sense changes to federal forfeiture laws that help innocent Americans. Its reintroduction today brings us one step closer to meaningful reform that will tamper abuse and protect citizens’ Constitutional rights.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement in response to the newly released Inspector General (IG) report on its investigation into the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) forfeiture practices, particularly its use of cash forfeitures. 

The investigation brought to light several weaknesses in the federal asset forfeiture program. The report’s key findings include:

• The DOJ does not aggregate data in order to meaningfully study the extent seizures aid criminal investigations or risk civil liberty violations.

• Only 29 of 85 cash interdiction seizures reviewed by the DOJ were part of an investigation or led to further investigation, arrest, or prosecution. Simply put, in approximately two-thirds of cases where cash was seized, there was no attempt to confirm that the money was related to criminal activity.

• The DOJ has insufficient training of federal law enforcement, as well as state and local law enforcement, of who are effectively deputized to enforce federal law.

Earlier today, Congressman Sensenbrenner reintroduced legislation aimed at reforming federal asset forfeiture laws. 

The DUE PROCESS Act, which was first introduced in the 114th Congress, builds upon changes made in the 2000 Civil Action Forfeiture Reform Act by increasing transparency in the civil asset forfeiture process, adding protections for innocent property owners, and implementing additional protections to ensure property owners have the opportunity to contest seizures. The legislation also improves the notice that the government must give property owners and makes it easier for them to be heard by a judge.

Additionally, the DUE PROCESS Act entitles property owners to an initial hearing, where they can retrieve confiscated property immediately if it was not seized according to the law. It increases the availability of attorney fees for innocent owners, places a higher burden of proof on the government, and allows for owners of confiscated animals to retrieve their pets faster.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: 
“The release of the Inspector General’s report highlights a serious problem that must be addressed. Civil asset forfeiture is an essential tool in the overall effort to fix our broken criminal justice system, but reform is necessary to strengthen faith in law enforcement, tamper abuse, and protect citizens’ Constitutional rights. It’s imperative to our justice system and the health of our nation to enact serious reform, which is why I’ve introduced the DUE PROCESS Act. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation and move forward toward solutions that work for the people, not the government.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner delivered the following remarks during the Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee hearing on “Restoring Enforcement of Our Nation’s Immigration Laws.”
 

Watch Congressman Sensenbrenner’s remarks here.
See full transcript below:

It is fitting that today’s hearing is called “Restoring Enforcement of Our Nation’s Immigration Laws.” The past eight years witnessed the Obama administration’s deliberate undermining of our immigration laws, the growth of anti-immigration enforcement policies at every level of government, and the vilification of federal, state and local law enforcement officers who attempt to enforce our nation’s duly enacted immigration laws.

Our immigration laws are an expression of our nation’s sovereignty. They are not suggestions. Yet, for the past eight years, they were largely ignored. And the example was set from the top. The Obama administration abandoned the rule of law under the guise of prosecutorial discretion has had devastating consequences: the cold-blooded murder of Kate Steinle, the death by DUI of Sarah Root, terrorist attacks ranging from the World Trade Center to the massacre in San Bernardino, the brutal sexual assault against as Rockville teenager. The time is long overdue to ensure that our immigration laws are enforced and that the rule of law is truly restored.

The Obama administration’s policies of “catch and release” and of rubberstamping credible fear claims at the border, and its outright prohibition on ICE officers and prosecutors from carrying out ICE’s critical mission, have left this nation increasingly at risk. As sky-high credible fear and asylum grant rates encouraged aliens to make the dangerous illicit journey to the United States, aliens overran our border and credible fear and asylum claims increased ten-fold.  Simultaneously, ICE removals from the interior dropped from 238,000 in 2009 to only 65,000 in 2016.

The Trump administration inherited a shell of immigration enforcement that it must now rebuild. I’m pleased we will hear today from witnesses who can fully explain the benefits of federal, state and local cooperation and the detrimental effects of obstruction. These sanctuary communities have decided to make a political statement out of lawlessness.

The Declined Detainer Outcome Report that ICE will now regularly issue will prove itself a useful tool in continually identifying these jurisdictions and the criminals they let out onto our streets. The government must discourage, not encourage, sanctuary policies and practices.

Under DHS’s November 2014 departmental guidance, ICE was given stringent parameters regarding those removable aliens it was permitted to apprehend and seek to remove. Additional guidance ending the successful Secure Communities program further constricted these parameters. This was sold to the American people as prioritizing ICE’s limited resources to go after only “the worst of the worst” – yet the number of criminal aliens removed from the interior fell from almost 87,000 in fiscal year 2014 to approximately 63,500 the following two fiscal years.

Under President Obama, it was widely understood that asylum officers should get to “yes” on credible fear determinations and requests for asylum -- by any means necessary. Asylum laws were written to offer refuge to the truly persecuted, and policies like this did nothing to advance those goals. Instead, those Obama administration policies worked to encourage many aliens to seek asylum with fraudulent boilerplate stories. The new administration is taking steps to correct this, and already, the flow of illegal aliens across the border has significantly slowed. This problem is endemic and I look forward to hearing today from our witnesses on best practices to address asylum fraud.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) sent the following letter to the Government Accountability Office, asking it to evaluate the status, effectiveness and benefits of current federal public access policies. This letter builds upon previous legislative efforts between these Members to ensure taxpayers, who are footing the bill for federal research, have adequate access to the published results free of charge.

Representative Johnson: “I want to thank Mr. Sensenbrenner for his continued leadership on this issue.  I am pleased to join him in this GAO request to evaluate the status, effectiveness, benefits, and challenges associated with current federal public access policies on our federal public access policies. Public access is an important topic across the scientific enterprise. Increased access and increased use of technology to enable and promote discovery across the body of scientific literature will advance the frontiers of science, medicine, and innovation across all sectors of our economy. I look forward to seeing GAO’s findings and to continuing to work with Mr. Sensenbrenner and with all interested parties as we move forward on this important issue.”      

Representative Sensenbrenner: “Understanding how federal agencies create and implement their guidelines for covered works of publicly funded research is essential to improving and modernizing our public access policies. We made progress with the previous administration, and I look forward to working with our federal agencies, as well as Representative Johnson and our fellow congressional colleagues to continue moving forward on this effort.”


Dear Mr. Dodaro: 

Scientific research supported by the Federal Government catalyzes scientific and technological breakthroughs that drive our economy, strengthen our national security, and improve the overall health and wellbeing of our society. Access to the results of federally funded scientific research helps to maximize the impact and accountability of the federal research investment. While the current model for providing access to peer-review scientific publications – through subscriptions held by institutional libraries – has generally met the needs of researchers at traditional research institutions and national laboratories, it has been limited in its ability to serve nontraditional researchers, including entrepreneurs not associated with a research institution. Further, in an increasingly interdisciplinary research environment, the current model does little to promote interoperability across archives and scientific disciplines. As a result, Congress and the Administration have taken steps to increase access to the results of federally funded research and to ensure greater integration and interoperability across disciplines.

In Sec. 103 of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-358), Congress required the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to convene an interagency working group to coordinate federal science agency research and policies related to the dissemination and long-term stewardship of the results of federally funded research, including peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from such research. In February 2013, the Director of OSTP issued a memorandum  to all agencies with over $100 million in annual research and development obligations to develop plans to support increased public access to federally funded research results. The memorandum specified several requirements for agencies’ plans, such as including a strategy for leveraging existing archives, where appropriate, and encouraging public-private collaboration, as well as specific requirements for public access to scientific publications and data in digital formats, respectively. For example, the OSTP memo called for agencies to use a twelve-month post-publication embargo period as a guideline for making federally funded research papers publicly available. 

In January 2017, the OSTP updated Congress on the Executive branch’s progress to create and implement public access plans for federally funded research. According to the report, all departments and agencies subject to the 2013 memorandum have completed their public access plans and those plans are available online. Seventeen agencies now require public access to publications resulting from all newly funded research, and three additional agencies have begun phasing-in these requirements.  

Last Congress, the two of us collaborated on introducing H.R. 1426, the Public Access to Public Science Act. H.R. 1426 was largely intended to codify the OSTP guidelines issued in 2013. In addition, our congressional colleagues have sponsored similar proposals to accelerate federal public access policies. 

In light of the OSTP memorandum and various legislative proposals, we request that the GAO undertake a study to evaluate the status, effectiveness, benefits, and challenges associated with current federal public access policies. Specifically, we ask that you consider the following questions:

1. What is the status of implementation of federal public access policies? What challenges, if any, are agencies facing in fully implementing their policies? What is the overall effectiveness of the agency policies in providing the public with free online access to federally funded research results?

2. To what extent is there consistency and/or variation across agencies in the nature of the policies (e.g. flexibility in the embargo period), and in the mechanisms used to implement their policies (e.g. central versus distributed repositories)? To what extent are agency archival solutions enabling integration and interoperability with other federal public access archival solutions and with related archives maintained by publishers and universities?

3. What challenges, if any, is the stakeholder community facing in complying with agency policies? To what extent does any variation across agencies affect ease or rate of compliance by federally funded researchers? How well are agencies working with researchers, publishers, and other stakeholders to streamline compliance?

4. How are agencies choosing to pay for their plans? Are they identifying adequate resources to fully implement their plans? To what extent are agencies leveraging private sector resources to implement their plans?

5. To what extent do the terms of use applicable to research results made available through federal public access policies enable productive reuse of the research and computational analysis by state-of-the-art technologies?


If you have questions or to discuss this request further, please contact Dahlia Sokolov on the Science Committee staff at 202-225-6375 or Jacob Peterson in Representative Sensenbrenner’s office at 202-225-5101.


Sincerely,

Eddie Bernice Johnson
Ranking Member
Science, Space and Technology Committee

F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
Member of Congress
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement on the American Health Care Act:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “I’m disappointed Congress didn’t act to repeal and replace Obamacare today. President Trump and Speaker Ryan showed true leadership in fighting for a bill that would have reduced the deficit and lowered health care premiums. This is was our first opportunity to repeal Obamacare but I’ll work to make sure it isn’t our last. I remain committed to improving health care for all Americans.” 
Through phone calls, emails, and at town hall meetings, constituents have contacted me about America’s health care system. I have heard stories that run the gambit between complete repeal and replace of Obamacare, saving it in its entirety, and everything in between.

While I appreciate all the feedback I receive from constituents, I have always been transparent about my desire to repeal and replace Obamacare – a law that was pushed through Congress without a single Republican vote, in the dead of night – legislation that was not fully written before it became law. 

The fact is that Obamacare is collapsing. It has robbed the American people of their ability to choose the health care plans that work for them. It has caused insurance prices to skyrocket, leaving the middle class with high premiums, high deductibles, and fewer options. It also created thousands of new federal regulations that have stifled American businesses while forcing citizens to purchase a product that many did not want. The Obamacare mandate is un-American to its core.

The Republican alternative introduced earlier this month is a positive first step toward a free-market solution that works for the people, not government. It was written through a long, deliberative process that included input from Members of Congress, health care specialists, and industry leaders who have seen first-hand the damaging repercussions of Obamacare. It also takes into account the views of the people – including the provisions most Americans expressly want to retain, such as not allowing insurance companies to refuse coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions, repeal of lifetime coverage caps, and allowing children 26 years of age and younger to remain on their parents’ health care plans. Most importantly, it increases access to health care for all Americans without a government mandate. 

Further, the Republican plan cuts spending by $1.22 trillion and eliminates a number of new taxes amounting to $883 billion through 2026. It reduces the national deficit by $337 billion and amounts to the most significant government reform effort in decades.

This legislation is not perfect, but no legislation ever will be. Too many times, Congress lets the perfect be the enemy of the good, which often results in congressional inaction and the continuation of wasteful, ineffective government programs. The health and well-being of the American people now, and for generations to come, is too important for Congress to do nothing. 

That is why I support the American Health Care Act and encourage my colleagues to do the same.