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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner announced the launch of his new official website, which is designed to provide constituents of Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District with an attractive, comprehensive resource for information, news, and updates about Congressman Sensenbrenner’s legislative efforts.

The website boasts a fresh, updated design and makes site navigation easier than ever. Among the changes are larger text and navigation buttons that are easier to read and identify, drop-down menus that make finding information fast and straightforward, and convenient, highly visible links to the Congressman’s social media accounts for instant access to additional photos, news, and calendar updates.

Additionally, the site includes an interactive district map and content that is now structured for maximum efficiency, reducing the amount of pages visitors must click through to find relevant information.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “I’m excited to launch this new website because it will make it easier than ever before for constituents to access information, contact me with questions and comments, and keep track of my legislative initiatives and accomplishments. I appreciate every opportunity to be accessible to my constituents, and this improved website is just one more way to serve the citizens of Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District.”

Sanctuary city advocates are advising local officials across the country to ignore evidence in government databases linking illegal immigrants to vicious criminal gangs or terrorist groups, The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group has learned.

The advice is included in a 72-page step-by-step manual on thwarting federal immigration laws and regulations. The manual was published in March by the New York-based Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), a left-wing tax-exempt political advocacy group.

The “toolkit” in the Protecting Immigrant Communities manual urges city and county officials across the country to adopt CPD’s “model legislation” or similar ordinances designed to weaken federal efforts to enforce the nation’s immigration laws.

Its “model legislation” seeks to protect illegal immigrants who are linked to gang activity or ties to terrorism, saying “the (proposed) ordinance should not exclude people with criminal convictions, or people who appear in law enforcement databases that attempt to track gang activity and terrorism.”

The handbook was compiled in response to President Donald Trump’s announcement of tough enforcement policies on illegal immigrants, which require local governments to obey the law or face the loss of federal funding.

“In the face of these threats, a large and growing movement of advocates, organizers and local governments are developing strategies to support their immigrant communities,” the manual declares.

The CPD is a non-profit first started by unions, including the AFL-CIO. In 2014, the last year financial data is available, the group attracted $11 million in contributions. Fifteen organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the immigrant-rights group CASA, contributed to the manual, and Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a former Maryland lieutenant governor, once served as CPD chairman.

The manual provides specific legal language to undermine federal laws, with particular emphasis urging local governments to stop using data from the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and to bar any arrests based on NCIC data.

“In order to protect immigrant communities from unlawful arrests … localities should consider including language prohibiting NCIC arrests in their sanctuary legislation,” the manual recommends.

It assails the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, especially agents assigned to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CPB), agencies on the front-line of Trump’s initiative. It seeks to bar or limit ICE agents from local jails and to end of local government contractual agreements with ICE for the use of local prisons.

“Local governments can significantly limit ICE’s ability to use the criminal justice system for deportation by simply denying ICE access to jail facilities and to individuals incarcerated locally for violations of criminal law,” the guide states.

Neither the CPD nor Townsend responded to multiple request for comment from TheDCNF.

But Ian Prior, a Department of Justice spokesman, told TheDCNF failure to deport criminals living among immigrant communities puts the nation at risk.

“As the Attorney General has said, when cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe. Failure to deport aliens who are convicted for criminal offenses puts whole communities at risk – especially immigrant communities in the very sanctuary jurisdictions that seek to protect the perpetrators,” Prior said.

GOP Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, echoed a similar theme in a statement to TheDCNF..

“Special interest groups that encourage enforcement officials to ignore the law and look the other way in order to harbor illegal aliens – particularly those who have committed crimes against the United States or its citizens – undermine the authority of Congress and threaten the safety and prosperity of our entire nation,” the Wisconsin Republican said.

“The time is long overdue to ensure that our immigration laws are enforced and that the rule of law is restored,” Sensenbrenner added. “This cannot stand, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress and President Trump to solve this serious problem.”

Robert Law, government relations director of the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), said people can’t pick and choose which laws to enforce.

“This is basically a manual for how to violate federal law and cherry pick which laws you enforce,” he told TheDCNF.

An executive order signed by Trump imposes financial penalties for cities or counties that don’t cooperate with ICE requests for information on local illegal immigrants.

An immigration statute invoked by Trump prohibits local and state governments from enacting laws that limit communication with ICE or CPB about “information regarding the immigration or citizenship status” of individuals.

The CPD manual, however, points to a loophole to get around the prohibition. Officials are encouraged to not collect data on local immigrant communities because the law “does not require local governments to take any affirmative steps to gather information about immigration status, policies that prohibit the gathering of such information do not violate federal law.  Local governments should take advantage of that fact in developing policies on data collection.”

The manual also encourages city and county officials to bar ICE agents from entering local jails.

“While often overlooked, policies restricting access to jails and to persons in local custody can create a powerful disruption in one of ICE’s most expansive deportation programs. In most jurisdictions, keeping ICE out of the local jails will end up preventing more deportations than all of the other sanctuary policy provisions combined,” the manual states.

The guide further urges local prosecutors to “deviate” from normal prosecutorial procedures with illegal immigrants to minimize charges they may face.

Prosecutors “may use their discretion to deviate from general practice in deciding whether and how to prosecute, settle or otherwise dispose of any case…related to a defendant’s immigration status,” the manual advises.

FAIR’s Law told TheDCNF that CPD’s focus on criminal behavior among illegal immigrants underlines their “hypocrisy. They continue to perpetuate the myth that illegal immigrants are otherwise law abiding.”

But, Law said, “if that’s true, why would these documents encourage these jurisdictions to not rely on criminal databases? They are basically admitting that these illegal aliens are committing additional crimes in addition to their immigration violations.”

The manual justifies the protection of criminals and potential terrorists because the U.S. criminal justice systems “are themselves oppressive, overly punitive and fraught with racial bias.”

They also claim,“The mere fact that an individual is unlawfully in the U.S. is not a criminal offense.”

You can read this piece online here.

Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that Obamacare is not in the death spiral that Republicans are claiming, and health insurers might soon see profitable years ahead. Those who skim headlines might think, “Republicans are wrong.” However, when you read further you learn why insurers may start profiting from the Obamacare exchanges.
The Times article is based on an analysis by Standard & Poor’s which states that the company is seeing the first positive signs in 2016 that the insurance market could be manageable for most health insurers, and that the “market is not in a death spiral.” To many people, that sounds like good news, but what's good for insurance companies isn't necessarily good for consumers. 

Republicans and Democrats alike want to ensure that Americans have access to quality health care, so if the insurance market is stabilizing it’s generally perceived as positive.
A stable market means that insurers are operating a healthy risk pool to cover the costs of the ailing while still retaining continuous premium payments from the healthy. The problem is that then-President Obama’s promise that “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” is still not being fulfilled.
S&P analyst Deep Banerjee notes that insurers are starting to understand the new individual insurance market and therefore have begun to increase their prices to cover costs. They also have significantly narrowed their networks to include fewer doctors and hospitals as a way to lower costs.

Simply stated, insurers are charging individuals more while offering fewer choices and services. This isn’t a positive development for our health system or the American people.
You need to look no further than our own state to see Obamacare's negative impact. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average insurance premium increase in Wisconsin this year is 36%. Further, more than 350,000 Wisconsin health care consumers have fewer insurance choices. This trend is not unique to Wisconsin — it’s happening nationwide. 
It’s true that our old health insurance system was flawed and needed to be fixed. It allowed for the denial of coverage to those in our society who needed access to health care the most. And of those who could be covered with an illness, they would be charged substantially higher premiums. However, Obamacare’s flawed policies made matters worse.
Obamacare placed a mandate on all Americans to purchase health insurance. They were told that they must retain coverage with the promise that they wouldn’t be denied for any reason and that their premiums would have little difference in price from others. The idea being that with all Americans purchasing health insurance, risk pools would be fully funded and those who consume the most in health care services would have continued access to the care they required.

That led to one of Obamacare's biggest failures — an overall lack of participation. Americans who did not require many health care services found that it was cheaper to pay the Obamacare tax penalty for not purchasing insurance rather than paying expensive premiums for a health insurance plan that covered services they didn’t need.
S&P’s conclusion that the Obamacare death spiral is a fallacy and that the program is on a successful path is disingenuous, particularly because its own report acknowledges that the only reason insurers are getting closer to financial solvency is because prices have become less affordable. The point of Obamacare was to make health insurance more affordable, and it failed to do so.

Anyone pointing to this report as an “I told you so” to critics of Obamacare should do so with caution, because while the Affordable Care Act may be on a path to greater financial stability, it is only because of limited access to services and dramatic increases in health insurance premiums.
This disastrous law is bad for Wisconsin and bad for America, which is why Republicans are working to repeal and replace it with a plan that increases access to coverage, lowers premiums, and provides more options for health care consumers.

You can view this piece online here.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congressman Sensenbrenner released his weekly column about constituents’ concerns over President Trump’s budget proposal:

At nearly every town hall meeting that I’ve held since President Trump released his budget proposal, constituents have raised concerns over various programs and suggested cuts within the proposal. I’d like to speak to this because ultimately, any presidential proposal is little more than a wish list. Congress holds the power of the purse, and when it comes to discretionary spending, Members of Congress carefully consider everything on the table, review current spending levels, and identify spending priorities before passing a budget. 

Currently, our national debt is nearly $20 trillion, making it critical that any budget passed by Congress include significant cuts in order to decrease spending. This will require difficult but necessary decisions about our national priorities. It will not be an easy process, but it must be done for the health and continued success of our country.

Concerning the budget, it’s important to understand what Congress can and cannot do. Federal spending is divided into three categories: discretionary spending, mandatory spending, and interest on the debt.

Discretionary spending is the portion of the national budget that Congress decides through the appropriations process. Things such as funding for federal agencies, military and defense, and international affairs fall in this category. 

Mandatory spending is not included in the annual appropriations process and supports entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Spending levels are determined on eligibility, and can based on how many Americans apply and are approved for benefits. Since mandatory spending is outside the appropriations process, the only way to change spending levels would be for Congress to change eligibility rules. The majority of our federal budget is mandatory spending.

Interest on the debt is the interest our federal government pays on its accumulated debt. This does not include the interest income received by the government for the assets it owns. Concerning our overall budget, America spends the least of its taxpayer dollars on paying back the national debt.

It’s also important to understand that no president, Republican or Democrat, has ever received everything he requested in his budget proposal. That means that most of what is outlined in President Trump’s budget proposal will not pass through Congress without at least some changes.

As Congress begins the appropriations process, I will remain conscientious not only about our rising national debt, but also the necessity of our government programs and the impacts potential cuts will have on such programs.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement on the Senate confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Time and again, Judge Gorsuch has proven himself an ardent defender of the Constitution, a faithful advocate for the sanctity of human life, and a prudent judicial practitioner who has served with humility, integrity, and candor. His confirmation today is a victory for the American people and our judicial system. I have no doubt he will continue to serve this nation with honor and the utmost respect for the spirit of the law.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released his weekly column which answers questions regularly posted on his various social media accounts: 

I have always placed a high priority on being accessible and accountable to my constituents, which is why I hold more than 100 in-person town hall meetings annually. My staff in Brookfield and Washington, D.C. field many calls each day, and every constituent who would like an individual response to specific questions submitted by phone, email, or standard mail receives one in a timely manner.

Social media is also an important forum for constituents to speak their minds and let me know how they feel about issues and specific legislative efforts, which is why last month, I wrote a column that specifically addressed the questions I receive through my social media accounts. Due to the positive response I received, I’d like to use this week’s column to address another group of questions I frequently receive on Facebook and Twitter. 

The conversations that occur on my social media accounts are monitored each day and comments and questions are passed along to me. Although I don’t respond directly on social media, it’s important for my constituents to know that I see their posts.

Thank you to every constituent who takes the time to contact my office and/or speak to me directly at any of my many town hall meetings. I look forward to continued discussions on important legislation and issues that impact the people of our communities and our nation.

“Waiting for a rescheduled Town Hall in Tosa…” 
Posted on Facebook March 30, 2017 

The views and concerns of all my constituents matter, and I make it a point to visit communities in every part of my district. Unfortunately due to a snow storm my previously scheduled town hall in Wauwatosa had to be postponed, but there will be a meeting held there in the next round of town halls.

I plan my town hall meeting schedule many weeks, sometimes months, in advance in order to secure locations, ensure law enforcement officials are available for the safety of everyone participating, and so there is enough time to promote the events. I have held various meetings in neighboring communities, and will be holding more in the coming weeks in order to provide a forum for constituents in that area of my district. 

In addition to my many in-person meetings, I am easily accessible by phone, email, and standard mail. 

“@JimPressOffice I oppose Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court & support a filibuster against his nomination.”

Posted on Twitter March 27, 2017
The House of Representatives does not play an active role in the nomination and confirmation process of potential Supreme Court candidates.

With that said, I believe that Judge Gorsuch has proven himself an ardent defender of the Constitution, an advocate for the sanctity of human life, and a prudent judicial practitioner who has served with humility, integrity, and candor. I support his nomination to the Supreme Court and have no doubt that if confirmed, he will continue to serve the American people with honor, integrity, and the utmost respect for the laws of this nation.

“@JimPressOffice Sensenbrenner, ur on the list of those opposing an Independent Investigation into the Russia ties to Trump. Why?”
Posted on Twitter March 26, 2017

The FBI is currently conducting an independent investigation. Additionally, there are five committees currently investigating this issue, including: 
• The Senate Intelligence Committee
• The Senate Judiciary Committee
• The House Intelligence Committee
• The House Judiciary Committee
• The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee 

I have complete confidence in the FBI and these bipartisan committees to conduct a thorough, intensive, and extensive investigation. I believe it is not only repetitive and counterproductive to hire an independent investigator, but it is also a misuse and waste of taxpayer dollars. 

 “Never hear from u during [the health care] debate, only after the fact. Perhaps if you spoke up when the issue was hot, improvements could have been made; but no, just keep showing up and marching in parades all summer, it is the only time we see or hear from you!”
Posted on Facebook March 25, 2017
I am currently on the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees due to my expertise in these issue areas. I am not a member of the committees of jurisdiction that oversaw congressional efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. With that said, I was vocal at town hall meetings and through various other communications about the fact that, while not perfect, the American Health Care Act was a step in the right direction toward the repeal and replace of President Obama’s disastrous health care law.

Regarding your second point, I am very accessible and available to all my constituents. Unfortunately, because I suffered a hip injury in 2012, my doctor recommends I no longer walk in parades. However, I host more than 100 town hall meetings each year, respond to every written question or comment that is sent to my offices in Brookfield and Washington, and send a quarterly newsletter detailing my legislative and constituent priorities. My office also fields hundreds of phone calls every month and I regularly post updates on my legislative efforts through social media and press releases, which are all featured on my official website

“Obviously Jim doesn’t read any of the comments we post or he would see that most of his constituents didn’t want Trumpcare. Not that he actually cares what we want.”
Posted on Facebook March 24, 2017 

During my campaign, I spoke openly and honestly about my congressional priorities, including my desire to repeal and replace Obamacare. While I respect and consider the views of all my constituents no matter their beliefs, I was elected with 68 percent of the vote to move forward on the priorities I outlined.

Although I understand the frustration of my constituents who did not vote for me, I urge them to consider how they would feel if they voted for someone on the belief that person would uphold promises made during an election, then once elected, that person went back on their promises. 

For example, if the majority of constituents in Rep. Gwen Moore’s district elected her to preserve Obamacare, and then she suddenly changed her position and worked to repeal it, everyone who elected her would feel disenfranchised, let down, and lied to. 

Similarly, the majority of voters in the Fifth District reelected me because they wanted me to do what I said I would do, which includes repealing and replacing Obamacare. I will not go back on my word to follow through on the agenda I was elected to enact.

“You don’t listen to your constituents. All the town halls and you still don’t listen. Get voicemail”
Posted on Twitter March 23, 2017

Staff members in both my Brookfield and Washington, D.C. offices answer phone calls from 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday. Maybe I’m “old school,” but I want constituents to speak to a live person when they reach out to my offices. In fact, we do not utilize a voicemail system for this very reason. I think a two-way dialogue is a much more effective way to communicate. Sometimes all of the incoming lines are busy and a caller might hear a busy signal. When this happens, I encourage you to hang up and try again.

I also regularly provide public forums for constituents to voice their concerns. I listen to and appreciate the opinions of every person who speaks, whether or not I agree with their point of view. With increasing interruptions at such events, it does become difficult to hear from each person who would like to speak, but I get to as many constituents as possible in the time allotted and am happy to respond through email and letters to those who don’t get an opportunity to speak to me directly at meetings. 

“Trying to hear at @JimPressOffice’s town hall. Didn’t get a big enough room; we can’t get in.”
Posted on Twitter March 18

My town hall meeting schedule is often set months ahead of time, allowing for the meetings to be publicized and worked around my duties in Washington. We work with the U.S. Capitol Police and local law enforcement to determine the safest venues for all participants. All meetings are held in public buildings, and we defer to law enforcement to advise us about safety. Additionally, larger venues, such as middle schools or high schools, are not easily secured and are typically booked with student activities.

I also don’t believe that tax dollars should be expended to secure venues, so if a facility requires a fee, we will not schedule our meeting there. I’ve been doing these meetings for 38 years and our venues have been more than adequate for the most part. Given the new challenges we are experiencing with larger crowds, I think we are doing a good job of addressing all the factors that go into a location selection.

 “I honestly have no idea of ANYTHING you’ve accomplished in the last 38 years as our “representative…”
Posted on Facebook March 12, 2017

I am extremely proud of the things I’ve achieved as your congressman. So far in the 115th Congress, I’ve introduced 14 bills with many still upcoming.

Over the course of the 114th Congress, I held more than 250 individual town hall meetings throughout the communities of Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District. I attended more than 150 community events and personally responded to hundreds of thousands of constituent letters and emails. 

I also sent 15 oversight letters to various federal agencies, defending the best interests of the American taxpayers by holding unelected bureaucrats accountable, and introduced 38 bills, two of which were signed into law by President Barack Obama, including the Judicial Redress Act of 2015 and the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015

I’m particularly proud of my efforts in support of voting rights, the protection of childrenAmerica’s disabled citizens, Americans’ privacy, solving our nation’s struggle with addiction, and criminal justice reform

These are just some of my accomplishments on behalf of Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District. You can find more information on my past and present legislative efforts on my official website.

“He chooses his audiences.”
Posted on Facebook March 8, 2017

At the many town hall meetings I host each year, I do not require constituents to RSVP or submit questions in advance. Recently, constituents have contacted my office to tell me that they have not been able to speak at meetings in their communities due to the growing number of people who attend from other communities. To try and rectify this problem, I do my best to speak with constituents residing in the community in which the meeting is being held first, however I get to as many individuals as I can during the time allotted.

In the recent months, due to safety concerns and building codes, town hall meetings have been at capacity, meaning some constituents are unable to join meetings in person. However, I have never turned a constituent away who has wanted to speak to me at a meeting. Seats in my town hall meetings are first-come-first-serve, and as some people leave meetings, others who are waiting outside the meeting room can come in. For further evidence, I encourage you to view any of the recent news articles written about my lively town hall meetings over the past few months. 

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.