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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.
 
In 1789 Benjamin Franklin wrote that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” In 1916 Congress passed the estate tax, juxtaposing these two certainties. One hundred years later, the Internal Revenue Service is attempting to apply the full force of the estate tax to small businesses bequeathed to family members. Now taxes will be the death of many family-owned businesses. 

There are roughly 28 million small businesses currently in the United States; ninety percent of those businesses are family-owned. They employ nearly 60 percent of the workforce and an estimated 60 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). They generate 62 percent of the country’s employment and 78 percent of all new job creation. Needless to say, small and family-owned businesses are critical to our national economy.

In addition to the significant impact they have on our economy, family-owned businesses are also staples of their communities. According to a Harvard Business Review study, family-held businesses avoid layoffs during market downturns, invest more in their employees, and create a culture of commitment and purpose. They also are often engage in the events, philanthropy, and volunteer efforts that keep their communities running.

For all these reasons, it’s imperative we protect these businesses from unnecessary obstacles that would prohibit them from succeeding. One such obstacle is an IRS proposal that would make it increasingly difficult for small-business owners to pass on their businesses to family members after death.

Currently, valuation discounts are available for family business owners for purposes of estate and gift taxes. Simply put, when the owner’s family tries to pass the business on to the next generation, these discounts are available to protect the business’s assets from undue taxation.

In many cases, the heir to a family business will receive a minority stake in the company. This minority stake is valued lower because it lacks control over management decisions in the business. These discounts take this lower value into account and ensure that the stake in the business is properly valued.

Like most things, a family-held business is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Under the current rules, the fair market value of an interest in a family-held business where there is no market for it is based on the “willing-buyer/willing-seller” test. This test establishes a value a willing buyer would pay for a minority stake of a family-held business. The new IRS proposal would change this system, disregarding any restrictions on liquidation or redemption an heir to a family-owned business would use to claim a valuation discount.

The IRS proposal to eliminate these discounts would force family business owners to report higher values to the Agency than they could expect to receive from a buyer, forcing them to pay higher taxes at death.

Nearly one third of family business owners have no estate plan beyond a will and only 53 percent report having a good understanding of what estate taxes could be due. Although the majority of family business owners want to pass their businesses on to the next generation, only 30 percent will be successful. A mere 12 percent of family-held businesses make it to the third generation, and only three percent to the fourth generation and beyond.

To protect the best interests of our nation’s small business owners and their families, I introduced H.R. 6042, legislation that would stop the IRS from moving forward on its new proposal.

The IRS should not be in the business of making it harder for family-owned businesses to keep their doors open, especially during a trying time such as the loss of a loved one. Our national economic outlook is precarious and full of uncertainty. It is critical we do everything we can to keep our nation’s small and family-owned businesses well and flourishing.

You can view this piece online here.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released a statement regarding the latest premium increases for Healthcare.gov consumers in Wisconsin. 

Wisconsin’s Office of the Commissioner of Insurance recently released a review of the rate increase proposals filed by insurers for individual plans available under the Affordable Care Act, noting the state’s premiums will rise by nearly 16 percent next year.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Affordable health care is a thing of the past under Obamacare. As insurance companies continue to opt out of this disastrous policy, increasing costs are passed on to hardworking Wisconsinites who simply cannot afford the additional financial burden. It’s critical we repeal this terrible law and bring quality, affordability, and accessibility to our healthcare system.”
 
BROOKFIELD, WI - Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner reiterated the deadline is Friday, October 14 for submitting applications for nominations to attend the United States Air Force, Military, Naval, or Merchant Marine Academies for the 2017-2018 academic year. Late or incomplete applications will not be considered.

Eligible applicants are United States citizens with residency in Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District. They must be at least 17 years old but not past their 23rd birthday as of July 1, 2017, and must have reached their senior year of high school.

After October 14th, candidates will be contacted by a member of the Congressman’s Academy Selection Committee to schedule an interview. The interview is an assessment of the candidate’s leadership potential, character, motivation, and interests.

Congressman Sensenbrenner:
 “I urge interested Fifth District high school students to get their academy applications in to my district office as soon as possible. Any application received after the October 14th deadline will not be considered. My Academy Selection Committee will interview eligible candidates and then make its recommendations to me. The selection process is an exciting time of year and I look forward to learning about the young, outstanding leaders from the Fifth District.”

Congressman Sensenbrenner’s district office is located at 120 Bishops Way, Suite 154, Brookfield, WI  53005. Information is available by calling the office at 262-784-1111, or visiting the Congressman’s website at Sensenbrenner.house.gov.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has awarded Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner with its NAM Award for Manufacturing Legislative Excellence in the 114th Congress. He received an 87 percent overall rating.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “It’s a privilege to receive the NAM Award for Manufacturing Legislative Excellence and my great honor to stand up for business and manufacturing, both in Wisconsin and throughout the United States. Our nation’s success and long-term health depends on the growth and prosperity of our economy. Manufacturing plays a critical role in production and the employment of millions of Americans, and I will continue to support ongoing efforts to promote and protect this vital industry.”

Manufacturers present the NAM Award for Manufacturing Excellence to legislators who consistently support policies that enable manufacturers in the United States to create jobs, compete in the global economy, and improve living standards for manufacturing workers. NAM requires a Key Manufacturing Votes record of 70 percent or higher to be eligible for the award. 

NAM is the nation’s largest industrial trade association representing small and large manufacturers and their nearly 12 million workers.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner joined 39 Members of Congress in a letter to U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson, asking for an update on VA efforts to improve its Veterans Crisis Line and provide better service to our nation’s veterans in need.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The men and women of America’s Armed Services put their lives on the line to keep this nation free. When they come home and need support, slow response times, decreased care, and bureaucrat excuses simply don’t cut it. These American heroes give us their best; we must do the same for them.”  

Full transcript below:
 

Deputy Secretary Gibson:

As you know, our nation is in the midst of a veterans suicide emergency as roughly 20 veterans commit suicide every single day. Given these alarming and tragic statistics, we write to express our deep concern with recent reports of failures of the Veterans Crisis Line and to request an update on progress made by the VA to address these issues.

The breakdowns of the VCL were outlined in the recent report from the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (VAOIG) which details significant problems with caller response and quality assurance of the VCL. This report found multiple inefficiencies within the VCL that led to veterans’ calls going to voicemail and being placed on hold. In addition, it identified instances where callers did not receive immediate assistance and a general lack of quality assurance. Overall the VAOIG report made seven recommendations to the VA in regards to the VCL.

In addition to issues raised in the VAOIG report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently conducted a review of the VCL and found that the VA is not meeting its call response time goals, and that roughly 73% of calls are answered at the VCL headquarters, while the remaining calls are sent to backup facilities. Furthermore, this study found that the VA has not established sufficient monitoring and performance indicators for calls that are sent to backup call centers. 

Over the past year the VA has attempted to make significant changes to the VCL to improve its service to veterans. Specifically, VA responded to the 7 recommendations of the VAOIG with specific improvements to each recommendation and a completion date for each improvement. These improvements include new employee orientation, an updated call monitoring program, and establishing a formal quality assurance process and more.

Given your agency’s commitment to remedy these issues and the overwhelming public interest in holding the VA accountable to its responsibilities, we respectfully request a detailed response to the following questions by October 15, 2016. Since the VA has been pursuing reforms in this area over the past year and has identified September 30 as the latest target date for improvements to the VCL in its VAOIG response, we believe this is sufficient time for the VA to respond.

1) Has VA completed all of the improvements related to the seven VAOIG recommendations on schedule, including the improvements whose target for completion is September 30?
2) As the VAOIG report points out, the number of calls into the VCL has drastically increased in recent years. Will the changes made by the VA be sufficient to handle these calls in years to come if this trend continues? What changes will the VCL need to make in order to handle increased calls in the future?
3) VA officials have stated to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs that it is their goal to have every call to the VCL by a veteran in crisis answered promptly by an experienced responder by the end of this year. Is the VA on track to meet this goal?
4) Did the VA add any further updates of improvements to the VCL in response to the GAO report in June of this year? If so, what improvements has VA made?

We know that the individuals at the VA would agree that veteran suicide is a critical issue that has become worse in recent years. With a veteran committing suicide nearly every 72 minutes and veteran suicide rates far surpassing those of civilians it is evident that the VA must do more to ensure our veterans are receiving the time critical care that they need. Veteran suicide is a complex problem that reaches beyond the VCL, but in their most critical hour, we must make sure that veterans are receiving the support they need. That is why we are seeking answers to these questions, to ensure that VA is taking the necessary strides to provide that critical support, and we look forward to your response.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner sent a letter to United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy pressing her to provide answers for the Agency’s harmful E15 regulations that are putting unnecessary burdens on American fuel consumers.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Taxpayers should not be held hostage at the pump by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in Washington. Without evidence to justify its harmful E15 mandate, the EPA must take responsibility for the burdens it’s placing on the backs of American fuel consumers, and answer for the unnecessary harm it’s causing to hardworking citizens.” 

Full text provided below:

Dear Administrator McCarthy:

I write to you with concerns about an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision to allow certain configurations of fuel-dispensing blender pumps at retailer locations.

A number of complications surround the introduction of fuels containing higher percentages of ethanol, or E15, as known to many Americans. Apart from the difficulties of managing ethanol-blended fuels, especially in the winter months, there are additional and more serious roadblocks for people who own older automobiles or specific types of motor vehicles. Many vehicles owned and operated in the United States, including lawn mowers, motorcycles, ATVs, and various watercraft, are not built to burn high-ethanol fuel. EPA’s E15 requirements may lead to wide-spread vehicle malfunction, caused by misfueling. Additionally, certain E15 and blender pump implementation options approved by EPA have presented serious obstacles to consumers at large, whether or not they desire to purchase E15. 

The EPA has tried to alleviate consumer difficulties and confusion in connection with E15 by allowing retailers to dispense different blends of gasoline at the same pump from different hoses. Blender pumps with fuel hoses dedicated to each specific blend are adequate in addressing the breadth of consumer demands, minimizing the possibility for consumer confusion, and bypassing issues that are inherent to other types of blender pumps. For these reasons, pumps with hoses dedicated to each blend of motor fuel sold are superior to single-hose pumps. However, for unknown reasons and counter to consumer concerns, EPA has sought over several years to permit retailers to dispense fuel from single-hose pumps. Problems that might have been mitigated for passenger-vehicles with larger fuel tanks are instead compounded by EPA’s attempts to permit these single-hose pumps. Further, EPA’s chosen route to permit single-hose pumps imposes an unreasonable and unnecessary burden on all consumers, regardless of their vehicle’s required fuel grade.

The EPA requires that companies submit an E15 Misfueling Mitigation Plan (MMP) before various pump configurations are permitted at retail locations. Some approved MMPs result in further difficulties for consumers, rather than eliminating confusion. These configurations include a mandated minimum fuel purchase of 4 gallons to dilute any mismatched fuel that remains in the hose from a previous purchase. They also require the installation of a separate pump where fuel containing maximum 10 percent ethanol may be distributed. Blender pumps where EPA mandates a 4-gallon minimum purchase are supposed to be marked for passenger vehicle fueling only. Misuse of these pumps may be in violation of federal law.

Mandating minimum purchases and dividing consumers by vehicle type or age adds regulatory burden, more room for consumer confusion, and is out of touch with the wide range of consumer needs. Consumers should not be required to purchase a minimum amount of any product, especially for something as basic as motor fuel. Consumers may be shut out from accessing this essential need for reasons as simple as only needing a certain amount of fuel or only having the financial resources to purchase an amount lower than the mandated minimum. There would be no need to dispense a minimum volume of fuel if each blend sold had a designated hose at each pump. 

In addition to continuing discussions on the practicalities of single-hose fuel pumps, we request a response from EPA to these questions about single-hose blender pumps as an option. Does EPA:

1) Have supporting evidence that single-hose blender pumps reduce operating costs for retailers?
2) Have evidence to suggest there is strong demand from retailers for an option to dispense multiple fuel blends from single-hose blender pumps?
3) Have evidence to suggest that retailers do not incur increased costs by being required to provide, in addition to single-hose blender pumps, at least one dedicated pump where a maximum blend of E10 is available?

We appreciate your attention to these questions. Please respond by November 21, 2016.

Sincerely,

F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
Member of Congress
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner introduced H.R. 6133, the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2016, which would allow the protections of the Adam Walsh Protection and Safety Act to continue saving the lives of children throughout the nation. 

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act became law in 2006 and has played a vital role in the prevention of sexual exploitation of America’s children. The comprehensive, bipartisan law strengthened sex offender registry requirements and enforcement across the country, as well as extended registry requirements to Native American tribes, increased penalties for child predators, and authorized funding for various programs to strengthen our defenses against child exploitation.

H.R. 6133 is critical because despite ongoing prevention efforts, the fight against child exploitation is not over. The Justice Department reports that only 17 states, three territories, and 36 Native American tribes have substantially implemented the Sex Offender Management Assistance Program and the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). Additionally, there are also an estimated 100,000 fugitive sex offenders across the country who are unregistered or in violation of registry requirements.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Childhood sexual abuse is a serious problem facing this nation, and the devastation it causes impacts every societal group. Reauthorizing the Adam Walsh Protection and Safety Act would ensure efforts continue to prevent the ongoing sexual exploitation of our nation’s children.”  

Further details of the proposal include the following:

• The Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2016 would reauthorize the two primary programs of the Adam Walsh Act – The Sex Offender Management Assistance Program and SORNA – for five years. 
o SORNA sets minimum guidelines for state sex offender registries and establishes the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, which is a comprehensive national system for the registration and notification to the public of sex offenders. This registry currently contains information on more than 600,000 convicted sex offenders in the United States.
o The Sex Offender Management Assistance Program provides funding to the states, tribes, and other jurisdictions to offset the costs of implementing and enhancing SORNA, and funding for the U.S. Marshals Service and other law enforcement agencies to assist jurisdictions in locating and apprehending sex offenders who violate registration requirements.
• The Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act makes targeted changes to the SORNA requirements, including giving states more flexibility in classifying sex offenders on their registry, lowering the period that certain juveniles must register to 25 years, and limiting public access to juvenile sex offender information.