Skip to content

Since 1990, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) has empowered thousands of Wisconsin families to send their children to the school of their choice—helping enroll students in the institutions that best cater to their individual needs and giving parents the opportunity to choose private schools when they would not otherwise have the means to do so.

In 2013, the Department of Justice (DOJ) wrote to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) with concerns that the MPCP is not in compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The letter directed the agency to develop new procedures for the program.

I am worried that DOJ is using the ADA to pursue a political agenda against school choice programs.  Title II of the ADA only applies to public entities, while Title III of the ADA has different standards that apply specifically to places like private schools.  This distinction was made on purpose because Congress wanted to protect the rights of the disabled without closing the doors on private businesses.

 


As a long-time proponent of the ADA, I am fully aware of its intended purpose. In 2007, I introduced the Americans with Disabilities Restoration Act (ADA) and was proud when President George W. Bush signed the bill into law. Protecting the rights of Americans with disabilities has been, and will remain, a priority of mine in Congress, and I fully support conducting oversight on publicly funded programs to ensure they provide equal opportunity for participants with disabilities.
 
More than 100 private schools take part in MPCP, and they are no more publicly funded than a gas station that accepts payment from a SNAP recipient. Therefore, I am seriously concerned about the effects of DOJ’s incorrect application of Title II on the viability of the Wisconsin voucher program.
 
Earlier this month, I wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding answers about DOJ’s investigation of MPCP and explaining the different ADA compliance standards created by Congress for private and public institutions.

I eagerly await a response that ensures the protection of school choice programs in Wisconsin.

Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) today reintroduced legislation to amend the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956 to establish a United States Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs. Currently, 20 government agencies are handling Arctic policy.  Under this legislation, an Ambassador would be charged with all coordination and serve as Chair of the Arctic Council when the U.S. assumes Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in April.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “An ambassador-level position is necessary to show the U.S. is serious about being an Arctic nation.  Russia continues to make claims and China is increasing its Arctic presence. The U.S. should coordinate its Arctic policy to protect our commercial interests and domestic energy supply at the highest level.”

 Congressman Larsen: “Our country faces a steep opportunity curve when it comes to the Arctic as we prepare to take over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council. We have a lot of work ahead of us, from protecting the unique Arctic environment and the people and animals who live there, to improving our emergency response ability when ships get into trouble. Coordinating the many federal stakeholders working on Arctic issues is imperative to our success as an Arctic nation. That is why I support an ambassador-level position to better manage our many interests in the Arctic and to signal our country’s commitment to international cooperation on Arctic policy.”

 The GAO reported last year that the U.S. needs a better strategy to coordinate and prioritize its policies related to the Arctic region.

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) made the following statement today following the resignation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Director B. Todd Jones:
 
“It is difficult to lead an agency that lacks a clear mission. The ATF is largely duplicative and beset by scandal and controversy, including its recent attempt to ban certain ammunition. The resignation of Director Jones is further proof that the ATF should be eliminated. The Justice Department will be more effective and efficient once the ATF is absorbed by other more capable agencies.”
Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) today reintroduced the Ensuring Access to Quality Complex Rehabilitation Technology Act, which would help ensure patients with disabilities or severe medical conditions have access to highly specialized medical equipment. The bill establishes a distinct Medicare benefit category for complex rehabilitation technology products (CRT), such as specialized power wheelchairs and adaptive seating systems. It would also allow the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to better target its payment and coverage policies by adopting higher quality standards for suppliers, improving oversight to prevent fraud and abuse and expanding eligibility criteria for beneficiaries.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “As a leader in the fight for the rights of the disabled, I want to ensure all Americans have access to the tools needed to live each day to the fullest. Disabled Americans should not be denied rehabilitation or medical equipment that can enable them to live and work freely and independently. With increased flexibility and proper oversight, we can help those in need while inhibiting fraud and abuse.”

Congressman Crowley: “Complex rehabilitation technology products can make a world of difference for people with severe disabilities and other medical conditions, and our legislation will remove barriers to getting these wheelchairs and other services to those who need them to lead a more independent life. I look forward to advancing this legislation that recognizes the importance of maintaining access to these products, as well as puts in place much-needed quality standards and consumer protections that strengthen the Medicare program for individuals, clinicians, and suppliers.”

The Ensuring Access to Quality Complex Rehabilitation Technology Act is supported by multiple patient, medical professional and supplier organizations, including: American Association for Homecare, American Physical Therapy Association, Brain Injury Association of America, Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, Easter Seals, National Association for Home Care & Hospice, National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab Technology, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and United Spinal Association.

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) today sent the following letter to Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the Justice Department’s (DOJ) application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its potential impact on Wisconsin’s school voucher program, which the Congressman strongly supports:

Dear Attorney General Holder:

I am writing on a matter of great concern to me.  On April 9, 2013, the Department of Justice (DOJ) wrote to direct the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to develop new procedures to ensure the Milwaukee Parent Choice Program (MPCP) is in compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  In its letter, the DOJ said "[b]ecause the school choice program is a public program funded and administered by the State, the State’s administration of the program is subject to the requirements of Title II.”

I agree that the State must abide by Title II regulations, but Congress clearly did not intend for private schools to be bound by Title II obligations.  Congress devised a careful structure in the ADA, outlining five different areas in which persons with disabilities have legal rights and assigning unique requirements to each area.  Title II of the ADA prohibits public entities from discriminating against individuals with disabilities.  Title III of the ADA prohibits places of public accommodations, such as private schools, from discriminating against individuals with disabilities.  In applying this, the DOJ’s own technical compliance manual states that “[p]ublic entities are not subject to title III of the ADA, which covers only private entities” and “[c]onversely, private entities are not subject to title II.”  The key difference at issue is the standard set for compliance under Title II and Title III.  The MPCP should have no effect on the careful balance Congress crafted.

While the program is publically funded, the individual schools participating in MPCP are no more publically funded than a gas station accepting money from a SNAP recipient.  Indeed, in 1990, in its analysis of the Milwaukee choice program, the Department of Education determined that federal disability laws do not apply to “placements in private schools resulting from parents’ decisions to participate in the Choice Program.”

The effect of the argument in your April 9th letter would be to regulate private schools under Title II of the ADA.  I have spent my career committed to helping those with disabilities, but Congress did not create differing compliance standards by happenstance.   The intent of the law is plainly clear, and this fact has been repeated by the Department of Education and the courts on several occasions.  I ask that DOJ remain mindful of this fact during its federal investigation of MPCP.  I am worried about the incorrect application of Title II ADA standards and the effect this will have on the viability of private school voucher programs.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.) today introduced the Judicial Redress Act of 2015, which:

• Extends citizens of major U.S. allies the core benefits that Americans enjoy under the Privacy Act with regard to information shared with the United States for law enforcement purposes. 
• Serves as an important show of support for our allies and is critical to ensure continued sharing of information that is crucial to law enforcement efforts and to national security. 
• Has the support of the Department of Justice, federal law enforcement agencies and key European politicians.   

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The fight against terror spans the globe. Coordinating our efforts with friendly nations is vital to our national security and the security of our European allies. Extending certain rights to their citizens will also help foster a trusting and mutually beneficial relationship for American and European businesses. In short, this legislation will bolster our intelligence gathering capabilities and protect civil liberties at home and abroad.”

Congressman Conyers: “For more than a decade, our allies in Europe have worked with federal law enforcement to ensure that our recordkeeping is both accurate and complete.  In support of that vital relationship, this legislation offers our allies a limited set of privacy protections.  This bill is a measure of basic fairness—our friends abroad should have some course of redress with respect to information that they provided to the U.S. government in the first place.  The Obama Administration fully backs this proposal, and I look forward to its speedy passage.”

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) today reintroduced the Public Access to Public Science (PAPS) Act. This legislation would ensure public access to published materials concerning scientific research and development activities funded by federal science agencies, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Weather Service (NWS). An embargo period is included to help balance publishers’ needs with public access goals. PAPS builds on efforts by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner: “It is past time to embrace a public access policy for scientific research. The federal government spends over $100 billion annually on research and development. This bill would ensure Americans have access to the results of their investment.  Public access will help prevent duplicative research, foster innovation, increase scientific breakthroughs and keep America on the cutting edge of science and technology.”

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson: “I want to thank Mr. Sensenbrenner for his continued leadership on this issue.  I am delighted to join him once again in introducing this legislation.  Public access is an important topic across the scientific enterprise, and for budding scientists, start-up companies, garage inventors, and families everywhere.  Increased access and increased use of technology to enable and promote discovery across the corpus of scientific literature will advance the frontiers of science, medicine, and innovation across all sectors of our economy.  In 2009 and 2010, the Science, Space, and Technology Committee took a leadership role on public access, launching an open process that culminated in the 2013 OSTP guidance to all federal research agencies to develop public access plans. I am pleased that many agencies have since published such plans and I encourage those agencies who have not yet done so to accelerate their processes. In codifying OSTP’s balanced guidance with this legislation, we are institutionalizing the framework for public access while ensuring that stakeholders continue to have input as agencies implement and update their policies.  But as with any introduced bill, this remains a work in progress.  I look forward to continuing to work with Mr. Sensenbrenner and with all interested parties as we move forward.”  

On Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 10:00 a.m., the Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee will hold a hearing titled “Child Exploitation Restitution Following the Paroline v. United States Decision.”

Under current law, federal courts are required to award any child depicted in sexually explicit material restitution in “the full amount of the victim’s losses” as determined by the court.  These losses can include medical services, physical or occupational therapy, and attorneys’ fees, among several other losses. Unlike child pornography production cases, where there is a limited universe of defendants who are generally joined in the same prosecution, the harm to the victims in end-user child pornography trafficking cases is often caused by hundreds or thousands of unrelated individuals who are often prosecuted across time and in different jurisdictions.

In recent years, there has been disagreement among the federal circuit courts over whether an end-user of child pornography—for example, a defendant who received, distributed, or possessed child pornography—must pay restitution and how to calculate the appropriate amount of restitution owed by an individual defendant.  In response to the circuit split, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Paroline that an individual child pornography trafficking defendant may not be held liable for a victim’s aggregate damages incurred by potentially thousands of others who have viewed her images, and that defendants may be made liable only for the harm caused by their own conduct, not the conduct of others.

At this week’s hearing, the Crime Subcommittee will examine the issues surrounding child exploitation restitution orders, the implications of the Paroline Supreme Court decision, and why only 15 out of the approximately 8,500 identified victims of child exploitation have sought restitution. Witnesses for Thursday’s hearing are:
• Ms. Jill E. Steinberg, the National Coordinator for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, U.S. Department of Justice;
• The Honorable Paul G. Cassell, Professor of Criminal Law, University of Utah College of Law;
• Mr. Jonathan Turley, Professor, George Washington University Law School; and
• Mr. Grier Weeks, Executive Director, National Association to Protect Children.
 
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) issued the joint statement below on this hearing:
 
“The trafficking of child pornography is a serious crime and those who cause the most vulnerable among us pain and suffering deserve to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Although no amount of money can ever take away the trauma these children have experienced, Congress has intended to ensure that victims of child exploitation receive the full amount of their losses from the production and ongoing trafficking of their images.

“Recently, the Supreme Court weighed in on child exploitation restitution and we look forward to having a discussion with experts this week on the constitutional questions surrounding this issue. Additionally, we need to examine why so few victims have sought restitution for the crimes committed against them and how Congress can address the barriers they face.”

Thursday’s hearing will take place in 2141 Rayburn House Office Building and will be webcast live at http://judiciary.house.gov/. Camera crews wishing to cover must be congressionally-credentialed and RSVP with the House Radio-TV Gallery at (202) 225-5214.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) has reintroduced legislation to do away with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Sensenbrenner, a senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said the policies under ATF's jurisdiction could be easily incorporated into other agencies. Moreover, he argued, the ATF has become embroiled in too many controversies in recent years, like the botched "Fast and Furious" gun-tracking operation.

"The ATF is a scandal-ridden, largely duplicative agency that lacks a clear mission. Its 'Framework' is an affront to the Second Amendment and yet another reason why Congress should pass the ATF Elimination Act," Sensenbrenner said in a statement.

The ATF has drawn the ire of Republican lawmakers for its proposed ban on an armor-piercing bullet used in AR-15 rifles. Republicans say that hunters frequently use the bullets. The bureau says it initiated the regulation to help protect law enforcement officers from bullets that can pierce armored vests.

Sensenbrenner's bill would transfer the ATF's functions related to guns, explosives and violent crime to the FBI. Meanwhile, responsibilities regarding alcohol and tobacco laws would fall under the Drug Enforcement Administration's jurisdiction.

The ATF director would have 180 days, or about six months, to submit a plan to Congress on how to wind down the agency.

Dissolving the ATF hasn't always been a priority for just Republicans, who generally oppose gun restrictions. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, previously introduced a bill in 1993 to turn over the ATF's duties to other parts of the Justice Department.

View article online, here.
The Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations today held a hearing on “ISIL in America: Domestic Terror and Radicalization.” Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) gave the following opening statement:

Today’s hearing will examine the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL and the domestic terrorism threats posed by these terrorists.  Although ISIL seems to have reared its head only in the last eighteen months, a closer look quickly reveals ISIL to be an old foe, one with whom the United States has done battle for more than a decade.

Before the group declared itself a global caliphate and adopted its current name, it was merely The Islamic State of Iraq.  During the Iraq War, members of this same group were among the most prolific perpetrators of attacks on American troops and our partners in Iraq.  

The procession of name changes, however, has made no difference in ISIL’s commitment to harm Americans.  Earlier this month we were all reminded of this as we learned of Kayla Mueller’s [Mew-ller] death after eighteen months in ISIL captivity.  The 26-year old from Prescott, Arizona, traveled to Syria with Doctors Without Borders to help alleviate the suffering wrought there by Islamic Extremism.
 
Distance does not make us in the United States immune from ISIL’s destructive ideology.  From far beyond the battlefields of Syria and Iraq comes funding and support for this group’s call to arms against the West.  And the domestic threat is not limited to New York City or our nation’s capital.  

Two weeks ago in St. Louis, Missouri, five Bosnians were charged with providing material support to ISIL.  The suspects allegedly provided weapons, military uniforms and equipment, and money to a sixth Bosnian who left the United States in 2013 to join ISIL in Syria.  Alarmingly, all six individuals are natives of Bosnia who immigrated to the United States.  Three are now naturalized citizens of the United States and the remaining three have either refugee or legal resident status.

But the threats posed by ISIL’s hateful ideology are not purely external.  Inciting Americans to join their ranks or ally themselves with ISIL’s mission is a pivotal component of their campaign of violence against America.  

Last month, a Cincinnati man named Christopher Lee Cornell was arrested at a gun shop purchasing multiple weapons he is alleged to have been collecting for an attack here in Washington, D.C. Mr. Cornell had become an adherent of radical Islam on the Internet.  Having adopted the Jihadi worldview, he aimed to gun down members of Congress and government employees for the glory of ISIL, a terrorist group on the other side of the world with whom he had no connection except devotion to the same perverted Islamist ideology.  As FBI Director Comey has pointed out, these are not isolated incidents.  ISIL connections are being investigated in virtually every part of the United States.

But on the heels of the St. Louis and Cincinnati arrests – and just days after ISIL released a video depicting the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya – President Obama convened a summit on “Countering Violent Extremism.”  A summit that failed to include FBI Director James Comey and refused to acknowledge that ISIL and other terrorist organizations are motivated by radical Islam.  

As one commentator noted, this summit was “strangely sympathetic to Islamist sensibilities and grievances at the very time when rampaging jihadists, while quoting Islamic scripture, are barbarically slaughtering their enemies and conducting a pogrom against Christians.”  

The President’s unwillingness to acknowledge the true motives of these terrorists only emboldens their campaign of terror and makes Americans less safe.  Meanwhile, ISIL continues its march across western Iraq and continues to spew its propaganda of hatred and murder across the globe.  Just yesterday, three New York City residents -- two from Uzbekistan and one from Kazakhstan – were arrested for plotting to travel to Syria to join ISIL and “wage jihad.”  According to the criminal complaint, one of these men stated he would kill President Obama if he had the opportunity to do so.  

The witnesses joining us today will hopefully shed light on the escalating domestic terror threat posed by ISIL and those who would ally themselves with Islamic extremism.