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Main Street is the epitome of the American dream. It's the culmination of years of painstakingly hard work, dogged determination, and the desire to succeed. These things have defined America since its conception. For more than 200 years, we have been a nation of doers, and nowhere is that more apparent than in our small business sector.

The United States is home to roughly 28 million small businesses. They represent more than 99% of all employers and employ half of all private-sector workers. They provide roughly 70% of net new jobs annually, pay 44% of the total private payroll in the United States, and produce an approximate GDP of $6 trillion.

America's small businesses drive our economy. They employ our citizens, provide vital services, and create products that improve our lives. Yet, despite the powerful impact they have on this country, small businesses are struggling under the heavy hand of Big Government. The burdensome regulations pushed on small businesses by President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, are the most significant in recent years.

The Congressional Budget Office predicted that the combination of subsidies, taxes and Medicaid expansions would discourage work, reduce labor, and cut aggregate compensation. Conversely, President Obama promised that his signature legislation would mean "more choice, more competition, and lower costs for millions of Americans." The president also claimed that "if you like your health care plan, you can keep it."

It turns out that the CBO prediction was right, while the president received Politifact's "Lie of the Year" in 2013 for his broken promise to the American people.

Plans available to employers vanished as the law was implemented — replaced with more expensive alternatives. Nearly two-thirds of people with health coverage have employer-sponsored plans, resulting in significant costs for business owners. As health insurance premiums continue to increase, small business owners are faced with difficult choices concerning what coverage, if any, they will provide their employees.

In a 2014 study conducted by Devon M. Herrick, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, Herrick found that employers pass increased health care costs on to workers, such as higher co-payments, delayed hiring, and reduced work hours. All these things mean less money for middle class families.

When forced to choose between their bottom lines or covering higher employee health care costs, many employers opt to drop coverage all together because it is more cost effective to pay noncompliance penalties to the IRS than absorb the heightened financial burden. Other business owners choose to forgo expanding their companies in order to remain under the 50-employee threshold dictated by the law, allowing them to abstain from offering employee health insurance at all. Still others reduce workers' hours in efforts to curb costs. Again, these realities mean less opportunity and lower incomes for middle class families.

These options not only harm national, state, and local economies, but also handicap innovation and growth while putting unnecessary burdens on the American people.

Six years of the Affordable Care Act have negatively impacted the states, and although Gov. Scott Walker had the foresight and common sense to reject Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, opting for a more creative, state-centric plan, Wisconsin small businesses are still feeling the pain of the law's mandates.

At the time his study was released, Herrick found that about 10,000 Wisconsin workers would lose or leave small group employer plans due to regulations in the Affordable Care Act by this year. He also found the average cost of a family employer plan in Wisconsin to be higher than those of 42 other states.

It is no surprise that the majority of Americans disapprove of the president's health care law. According to a recently published Pew Research Center national survey, 54% of respondents said Obamacare has had a mostly negative impact on the country. Congressional Republicans have put forward many repeal efforts, all of which have either been blocked by Democrats or vetoed by President Obama.

The Affordable Care Act has been a disaster for our country. As we look forward to the future, it's clear that the nation's economic success rests heavily on the ability of our small businesses to grow and flourish. In order for that to happen, we must repeal and replace Obamacare, free our businesses from its onerous regulations, and pursue a limited government, free market approach to our health care.

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Right now, people need our help.

Right now, thousands in Wisconsin and across America are struggling with opioid abuse. And that's why stopping this epidemic is a top priority in the House of Representatives.

The scope of the epidemic has expanded dramatically. Between 2004 and 2012, the proportion of deaths related to opioids increased by approximately 38%. About 4.3% of Wisconsin adults reported using heroin or other opioids in 2013, which was a marked increase from a decade earlier. In fact, every 25 minutes, a baby is born in America with drug withdrawal symptoms.

Prescription painkillers and heroin are the primary driving forces behind this epidemic. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014, 45% of people who used heroin reported that they were also addicted to prescription pain killers.

Many states, including Wisconsin, have stepped up to the challenge. They've passed legislation to help combat opioid addition and abuse. But now it's time for action on the national level.

This week, the House will pass a package of bills to curb opioid abuse, addiction, and deaths. One important piece of legislation is the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act, introduced by my friend, colleague, and fellow Wisconsinite, U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menonomee Falls). His bill creates a comprehensive opioid abuse reduction program at the Department of Justice. This program will direct federal resources to the opioid abuse problem, and gives states the flexibility to attack opioid abuse issues in their communities.

Other bills the House is considering this week will help local officials on the front lines of this fight. They will ensure federal dollars are going to programs with positive, evidence-based outcomes. They will also care for expecting mothers and their children, review how pain medication is prescribed, and help qualified veterans become emergency medical technicians to fight this crisis on the ground.

The Senate has passed bipartisan legislation by a vote to 94 to 1, and now the House is following suit. We can win this fight. Now let's get the job done.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed H.R. 5046, the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016 (COARA), legislation introduced by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.).

Addiction to opioids such as heroin, morphine, and other prescription pain medicines, has a devastating hold on this country. Between 435,000 and 1.5 million people in the United States currently use heroin, and an alarming number of them are younger than 25 years old. 

Between 2002 and 2013, national heroin deaths nearly quadrupled, reaching more than 8,000 annually by 2013. Beyond health care costs, other significant economic burdens are associated with opioid abuse, such as costs related to criminal justice and lost workplace productivity. In total, opioid abuse imposes an estimated $55 billion in societal costs annually. 

The Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016 creates a comprehensive opioid abuse reduction program at the Department of Justice, which will direct federal resources for drug abuse programs directly at the opioid problem. This bill will give states and localities flexibility to attack opioid abuse issues unique to their communities. 

The comprehensive grant program created by H.R. 5046 is fully offset, meaning it successfully directs funds to address the opioid epidemic by taking advantage of existing funding. The result is no net increase in spending authorizations and no additional burden on the American taxpayer, which is a responsible, good-government approach to this epidemic. 

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Today’s unanimous passage of the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act signals the seriousness of heroin and opioid addiction in America and the immediate need for action. It also demonstrates the commitment from lawmakers to address this issue and pass meaningful, bipartisan legislation that will extend a helping hand to the individuals, families, and communities that desperately need it. I’m optimistic about the future of this legislation and the positive impact it will have throughout this nation.”
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the American Conservative Union Foundation (ACU) released its annual ratings of the United States Congress based on individual Members’ votes on key legislation important to conservatives. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner received an impressive 2015 score of 96 out of 100, and earned a significant lifetime rating of 90.19.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “I’m extremely proud of my legislative voting record. It reflects my firm commitment to common sense, conservative values and highlights the importance I’ve continually placed upon the principles the people of Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District have elected me to uphold.”  

Congressman Sensenbrenner’s record of conservative achievement stands above both the Combined House average of 45% and the House Republican average of 77%. He also rates most conservative among the Wisconsin delegation.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner will receive the prestigious Justice Award from the American Bar Association (ABA) for his efforts and long standing record of achievement in the areas of criminal justice reform and voting rights.  

Specifically, the ABA will recognize Congressman Sensenbrenner for his leadership on the introduction of the Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2015 and the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “My legislative priorities in Congress have always been guided by my desire to serve the people of this nation while respecting and upholding the rule of law. While I’ve never sought recognition for my efforts, it is truly an honor to receive this distinguished award from the American Bar Association and I look forward to continuing my work on behalf of Wisconsin and the American people.”

The American Bar Association’s “Day in Washington” formalized the tradition of honoring selected Members of Congress on a bipartisan basis for significant efforts in support of ABA legislative priorities and on a variety of issues of importance to the legal profession and the administration of justice in 1999.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner sent the following letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy regarding the Agency’s proposed rule on Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards and the negative impact it would have on the motorsport industry: 

Dear Administrator McCarthy:

I am writing in regards to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) July 13, 2015, proposed rule titled Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles—Phase 2.  Included is a provision regarding the regulation of competition-only motor vehicles previously covered by a certificate of conformity.  My concerns are both with the EPA’s process and the negative impact such an expansive change would have on motorsports enthusiasts and the industry.

The specialty automotive industry is a significant part of our economy that generates $36 billion a year according to the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA).  This industry provides employment for more than one million Americans and enjoyment to millions more.  The EPA’s action would wrongly and unfairly put an important industry and cherished American recreational activity under new and unnecessary regulation.

The EPA neglected its responsibility to alert the industry, its enthusiasts, and other stakeholders regarding this policy change.  The public and industry were unaware of the language that was buried deep in a 629-page proposal on an unrelated topic – light-duty vehicles.  Its inclusion only came to light months after the public comment period was closed and has caused significant confusion.

Most importantly, through statute and legislative history Congress has made clear that the Clean Air Act was not intended to regulate competition-only vehicles; even those modified from emissions compliant on-road motor vehicles.

To be clear, I do not condone the illegal modification of emissions-systems of vehicles that will be driven on public roads.  But the EPA’s action goes well beyond addressing non-compliance for on-road vehicles, which are already regulated.  To prevent modification of any vehicle that was originally intended as emissions compliant – even if it is only paraded at car shows or driven at track events on a closed circuit – will put not only the performance aftermarket industry at risk, but put an end to most forms of amateur racing and car shows.

In subsequent statements, the EPA has implied that it would selectively enforce the proposed regulation.  That is not an acceptable outcome for motorsports enthusiasts or businesses that should not be expected to operate in an uncertain regulatory environment that could subject them to fines or other legal action.  The EPA should work with industry and other stakeholders to quickly provide clarity in a manner consistent with Congress’s clear intent to exempt competition-only vehicles including those originally certified for road use. 

I look forward to learning more about how you plan to address this matter in a manner consistent with Congress’s intent.


Sincerely,

F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, JR.
Member of Congress
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner sent the following letter to National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Charles F. Bolden regarding the lack of response to a previous letter, calling into question the Agency’s contracting practices: 

Dear Administrator Bolden: 

I understand that you are in receipt of my letter dated February 24, 2016, regarding my continued concern about NASA’s Integrated Communications Service contract.  It is my hope that your agency is working expeditiously to answer the questions I raised in that letter, as I requested a written response by March 9, 2016.  It has taken nearly a month and a half for your agency to answer questions that basic accounting, a quick e-mail search, and general knowledge of your own agency’s policy directives and actions should have answered very quickly.

As I said in my previous letter, the issues I raise are very serious in nature and should not be dismissed.  I respectfully request again that you address the following questions and document requests:

     • Did NASA’s CSO Deputy Director direct project manager to single source a product called CISCO Identify Service Engine (CISCO ISE)?
          o If yes, why?
          o Did SAIC recommend and/or encourage the CSO in anyway regarding CISCO ISE?
     • Does NASA Policy Directive 7120.99 require NASA, or its contractors, to evaluate all market options, fully and fairly, for its procurements?
          o Are there waivers for Directive 7120.99? 
          o Was there a waiver provided relative to the procurement of CISCO ISE?
          o If yes, why?
          o Please provide me with a copy of any document or waiver that would authorize SAIC to disregard standard project management processes and procurement policies.
     • Are you aware of a $600,000 fee, or any fee, being paid to CISCO? 
          o If yes, why was this fee paid?
          o If yes, who paid the fee?
          o Was it paid from the EIB-NAC budget?
     • Please provide me with a copy of the EIB-NAC formulation authorization document. 
     • Is SAIC manager aware of a $600,000 fee paid to CISCO?
          o Has he sent or received e-mails referencing $600,000?
          o If he corresponded via e-mail with a government official about this fee, please provide the relevant e-mails to me. 

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter, and I look forward to a reply very soon.

Sincerely,

F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.                                                                       
Member of Congress
 
DURING my 10 years in the Wisconsin State Legislature, I spent significant time in Milwaukee’s majority black neighborhoods. I listened as constituents described obstructions to their constitutional right to vote.

In those days I came to believe that we needed a strong Voting Rights Act. Our credibility as elected officials depends on the fairness of our elections. So after joining Congress, I supported the law’s reauthorization in 1982, and, as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I led successful efforts to reauthorize it in 2006.

In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a portion of this most recent authorization. If Congress doesn’t act soon, 2016 will be the first time since 1964 that the United States will elect a president without the full protections of the law. Modernizing the act to address the Supreme Court’s concerns should be one of Congress’s highest priorities.

Enacted in 1965, the Voting Rights Act began a healing process that ameliorated decades of discrimination. It is vital to this country’s commitment to never again permit racial prejudice to determine who has access to a ballot.

One of the law’s core protections is its preclearance system. Before the law’s passage, states and local governments would discriminate against minority voters, Congress or courts would ban the discriminatory practices, and states would find new ways to discriminate.

Preclearance sought to remedy that problem by requiring states and localities with a documented history of discrimination to allow the federal government to review certain changes to voting practices before they are implemented. There is no adequate remedy for voter discrimination after an election because there is no way to know who would have won absent discrimination. Preclearance prevents discrimination before it affects elections.

During the 2006 reauthorization, the Judiciary Committees held about 20 hearings. Congress amassed a legislative record of more than 15,000 pages in which it documented discrimination and demonstrated “the continued need for federal oversight.” Both the 1982 and 2006 reauthorizations, however, maintained the same 1965 criteria, later updated in the 1970s, for determining which states would be subject to preclearance.

In 2013, the Supreme Court held in Shelby County v. Holder that while preclearance was a constitutional response to voter discrimination, it was also unconstitutional to apply it to states based on a decades-old formula. A result is that very few jurisdictions are subject to preclearance today. The law’s strongest protections have been rendered meaningless.

I introduced the Voting Rights Act of 2015 as a response to that decision. When the justices handed down the ruling, nine states, mostly in the Deep South, as well as parts of six other states, had to preclear their voting changes with the government. My bill would modernize the act so that the preclearance rules applied equally to every state in the country.

Under the bill, a state or jurisdiction could be subject to preclearance if a court ruled that it had discriminated against voters on the basis of race five or more times in the most recent 15 years. States that stopped discriminating automatically would fall out of the bill’s protections; states that started discriminating would fall in.

In this way, the bill responds to the Supreme Court’s concerns about the dated formula and resurrects the protections of the law that have been a part of American elections for five decades.

The bill also includes important transparency provisions. One of the most effective ways to suppress voting is to change the rules. The proposed Voting Rights Act would require officials to give public notice within 48 hours of certain voting changes that are made 180 days before a federal election. Local governments may have valid reasons to change polling locations or the resources they spend on an election, but the public should be well informed about them before Election Day.

We watched this problem unfold recently in Arizona when thousands of people waited hours to vote in both the Democratic and Republican primaries. The culprit was fewer resources devoted to voting. Maricopa County in Arizona, for example, had just 60 polling stations. This was down from at least 200 stations four years ago, and 400 stations in 2008. The proposed bill would have ensured that meaningful debate over polling stations happened before the primary. More people might have voted. Would that have changed the results? We’ll never know.

The Voting Rights Act of 2015, which has more than 100 co-sponsors, 13 of them Republicans, has been introduced in the House and referred to the Judiciary Committee, where it awaits action. Some of my colleagues view the bill as unnecessary because of the progress we have made against voter discrimination. The bill’s structure, however, ensures that preclearance will apply only if in fact discrimination occurs.

Ensuring that every eligible voter can cast a ballot without fear, deterrence and prejudice is a basic American right. I would rather lose my job than suppress votes to keep it.

The Voting Rights Act not only stops discrimination but also strengthens the public’s faith that votes will be counted and elections remain fair.

The 2016 primary season has been marred by hateful rhetoric and ugly politics. Passing the Voting Rights Act of 2015 would be Congress’s most enlightened response.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement regarding President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the United States Supreme Court:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The next Supreme Court justice could dramatically change the direction of the Court for generations to come, and the American people deserve to have a say. This process has always been about principle, and the Senate is within its Constitutional rights to defer confirmation until Americans have the opportunity to voice their opinions.”
 
Drug addiction is an ugly problem that has been pushed aside for far too long.

As recently as late last year, authorities estimated that there are currently between 435,000 and 1.5 million heroin users in the United States. Many of these users became addicted through the use of prescription drugs, and an alarming number of them are younger than 25 years old.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heroin use more than doubled among young adults ages 18-25 in the past decade and 45 percent of all heroin users were also addicted to prescription opioid painkillers.

The rise of heroin abuse started in the mid-2000s.  We have heard stories of student athletes who were injured and prescribed painkillers and eventually became addicted.  As pills got harder and more expensive to buy and government rightfully cracked down on prescription abuse, the addiction took over their lives and these once promising young people went down the path toward heroin because it was a cheaper and widely available alternative. This story has been repeated over and over again by not just student athletes but by Americans of every socioeconomic stripe.  Heroin doesn’t discriminate; it is a potent and highly addictive drug that puts a user into situations of self-destruction.

Between 2002 and 2013, national heroin deaths nearly quadrupled, reaching more than 8,000 annually by 2013, and a 2001 report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that the economic cost of heroin use in the United States was a staggering $21.9 billion.

There is simply no denying that heroin and opioid abuse has silently seized a devastating hold on this country. The moral, emotional, physical, and financial toll it has taken is tremendous, but not insurmountable.

The moment to reverse our current course and make a genuine and lasting impact in the fight against addiction is here. When it comes to heroin and opioid abuse, lawmakers have put aside political gamesmanship, departed from business as usual, and reached across the aisle in bipartisanship in order to serve the best interest of this nation.

Last week – on a 94 to 1 vote – the United States Senate passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). This overwhelming show of bipartisan support is a testament to not only the seriousness of the problem, but also the urgency of the situation.

Between 2006 and 2011, 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.

The statistics coming from Virginia are equally troubling. In Loudoun County, there were no heroin-related deaths in 2011, but since 2012 there have been 28 investigated by the Loudoun County Sherriff’s office – and that is just one county. In 2014, there were 728 deaths caused by heroin abuse throughout the Commonwealth, which is more than those caused by car accidents.

These challenges are not exclusive to Wisconsin or Virginia; they are shared nationwide by all socioeconomic groups.

All over the country, people are calling on Congress to find solutions. In town hall meetings, on the campaign trail, and through social media, lawmakers are hearing the heartbreaking stories of broken families, seeing the tragic aftermath of addiction in once-thriving communities, and personally feeling the poignant loss that often comes from those lost to addiction.

The Senate has taken action. The House must now do the same.

Key researchers, law enforcement agencies, and addiction treatment providers all agree that the most effective way to approach addiction is to pursue a comprehensive response, which must include a strict focus on prevention, law enforcement strategies to stop drug dealers and traffickers, a plan to address overdosing, and an expansion of evidence-based treatment options for those struggling with addiction.

Provisions within CARA, such as community-based anti-drug coalitions and a national education campaign, will help rebuild communities, deter young Americans from trying the drug, and stall the increase of addicts, overdoses and deaths.  This legislation will also establish alternative incarceration programs and outpatient treatment options for non-violent drug offenders, which would not only better serve individuals, but save significant taxpayer dollars.

The House of Representatives must move forward quickly in a bipartisan manner on the passage of CARA because the commonsense, bipartisan solutions in the bill offer a desperately needed lifeline to anyone suffering under the weight of addiction.

This issue touches the life of every American. It is imperative we pursue aggressive measures to stint its dangerous progression. Strong individuals make up strong families. Strong families make strong communities, and strong communities make for a stronger, more prosperous America. The time is now to end heroin and opioid addiction.

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