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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.


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.


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.

View this piece online here.
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.

View this piece online here.
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.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement on the Senate passage of the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act (CARA):

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “I introduced the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act in the House because the devastation caused by the dramatic rise in heroin and opioid addiction is ruining thousands of lives and destroying entire communities. The passage of its bipartisan companion bill by the full Senate delivers renewed hope to everyone affected by addiction and offers life-changing solutions as part of our ongoing efforts to reform America’s broken criminal justice system.” 
It's no secret that America's criminal justice system is broken. From overpopulated prisons to high incarceration recidivism rates, the past few decades have shown that efforts to improve the system have fallen short — both in effectiveness and cost savings. The issues we face are vast and all-encompassing, and — as is often the case with large, complex problems — they can be difficult to visualize.

Many people want to easily explain the breakdown of our criminal justice system as something that only affects urban neighborhoods and those whom society has let fall behind, but that could not be further from the truth. Drug addiction, high incarceration rates and the monetary burdens of both, affect the entirety of the American population, spanning across urban, suburban and rural communities.

Nowhere is this more apparent than right here in Wisconsin.

Data released from a 2013 National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health report showed 4.3% of Wisconsin adults reported using heroin or other opioids that year — a dramatic increase from a decade earlier. What's more alarming is that statewide data reveals one-quarter of people who began using heroin were under the age of 25.

According to a 2014 report released by the Wisconsin State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, "between 2006 and 2011, Wisconsin experienced a 350% increase in heroin samples submitted to the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory by law enforcement. Further, according to the 2011 Milwaukee High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, Drug Trafficking Trends Survey of law enforcement agencies across the state, many agencies reported that heroin is an increasing problem within their jurisdiction, or in many instances, 'the number one drug problem in their jurisdiction.'"

In addition to the devastation addiction has on individuals and families, the monetary consequences of abuse are overwhelming for society. 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 — Wisconsin accounted for approximately $220 million of that total. Among the factors contributing to this burdensome price tag are increased health care and judicial costs, criminal activity and unemployment.

In response to this growing epidemic, I introduced the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) in the House of Representatives. Companion legislation was recently passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and awaits a full Senate vote. A multifaceted approach to solving the problems of addiction, CARA identifies solutions for every stage of addiction.

Unfortunately, opioid and heroin addiction is only one piece of the complex criminal justice crisis we face nationally, as well as on the state level.

Over the past three decades, America's prison population has more than quadrupled — from 500,000 in 1980 to more than 2.3 million today. Here in Wisconsin, an astounding one in 39 adults is under state correctional control.

Along with increased prison populations, is increased spending on both the national and state level. Research released by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that between 1980 and 2013, national prison spending has increased by 595%, a staggering figure that is both irresponsible and unsustainable.

Currently, the federal prison system consumes more than 25% of the entire Department of Justice budget. In Wisconsin, lawmakers appropriated $2.5 billion to the state Department of Corrections in the 2011-2013 budget, an amount that is expected to rise before 2020. In fact, according to a 2012 article posted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that budget allotted more taxpayer dollars to state prisons and correctional facilities than to the University of Wisconsin System.

As a nation, we face nearly $20 trillion in debt. And although we fare better in Wisconsin thanks to the common sense policies enacted by Gov. Scott Walker and our Republican Legislature, we cannot afford the continuing financial burdens placed on us by our broken criminal justice system.

Last year, I introduced targeted legislation that tackles these issues based on proven fixes developed by states around the country. I have worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find solutions that will reduce the taxpayer burden, heal fractured families and communities and save thousands of lives. There is more work to be done to achieve comprehensive criminal justice reform, but congressional lawmakers are making progress, and I believe many of the proposals made on the federal level can be just as effective on the state level.

Criminal justice reform can be achieved through cooperation, thoughtful legislating and the belief that some issues are bigger than party lines and partisan politics.

View this piece online here.