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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Sensenbrenner released the following statement on the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to increase the amount of biofuels it will require under 2016’s Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS): 

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Calling for more than 18 billion gallons of ethanol to be incorporated into the fuel supply breaks the blend wall and is a slap in the face to the millions of Americans who don’t want it. According to data from the Energy Information Administration, the overall demand for ethanol-free gas is increasing, and it’s easy to see why.

“Increasing the ethanol mandate is a dangerous decision that will lead to misfueling, damaged engines, and more emissions and pollution. It is a giveaway to corn farmers and ethanol refiners that guarantees that Americans will be paying more to drive their cars, mow their lawns, and plow their driveways.  

“The President is continuing to pick winners and losers when it comes to ethanol. The EPA’s decision should be immediately reversed.”

Rein in farm bill spending

November 28, 2015

The 2014 farm bill is failing to produce the cost savings promised taxpayers. That’s why Congress should fix the holes in the bill that have let $5.2 billion more than expected flow out in one fiscal year.

A proposal sponsored by two Wisconsin congressmen offers a good starting point.

Democrat Ron Kind of La Crosse and Republican Jim Sensenbrenner of Menomonee Falls introduced the plan, which would rein in subsidies received by farmers and insurance companies from the farm bill’s $9-billion-a-year crop insurance program. Some of the proposed spending cuts, totaling $24 billion over 10 years, may be an overreaction to unusual circumstances.

But the proposal — the Assisting Family Farmers through Insurance Reform Measures Act — should prompt Congress to attack runaway spending in agriculture programs.

The stakes for Wisconsin are high. Agriculture contributes about $60 billion a year to the state’s economy. The state is home to more dairy farms than any other state, produces more cheese than any other state and is among the top 10 corn-producing states.

The goal of any farm bill should be to provide consumers with a stable, affordable food supply by protecting farmers from boom-and-bust cycles. The bill also should keep the nation competitive in the global marketplace, encourage environmental stewardship and remain fiscally responsible.

The farm bill passed in early 2014 began with a sound idea: Rein in costly subsidies for farm production in favor of expanding a subsidized insurance safety net. The goal was to allow farmers to buy protection from risks to their income while eliminating direct government payments to farmers.

The plan was projected to save $16.6 billion over 10 years, compared to the old farm bill. But, as the State Journal editorial page warned before the farm bill passed, the insurance subsidies are too generous. Consequently, while the idea remains worthy, the cost savings have vanished, making taxpayers the losers.

Part of the reason is an unusual crop price decline, especially for corn. Farmers who received a corn price of $7.63 per bushel in August of 2012 received $3.68 per bushel in August of this year. Because of the steep price decline, many farmers will collect huge insurance payments.

The situation also exposed other faults in the insurance system, including how big, wealthy farmers collect large payments and how insurers collect subsidies for offering policies and filing claims.

The Kind-Sensenbrenner proposal would place caps on subsidies, disqualify high-income farmers from receiving subsidies and make other changes to cut costs. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

The legislation is expected to receive stiff opposition. While some compromises are warranted, Congress should use the Kind-Sensenbrenner bill as a guide to give taxpayers the victory they were originally promised.

View this online here.
There are many things that make Thanksgiving a special time of year. It’s an opportunity to sit down and spend time with our family and friends. It’s a time to reflect on the many blessings we enjoy throughout the year, and of course, it’s a time for great food. 

This Thanksgiving, as you prepare your meals, take pride in knowing that many of the Thanksgiving foods we enjoy are produced right here in Wisconsin. 

Take dinner rolls, for example. 
Wisconsin is famous for being “America’s Dairyland,” but we also have been known as “America’s Breadbasket.” From 1840- 1880, one-sixth of the nation’s wheat came from Wisconsin fields, and although we are no longer the country’s top wheat producer, it is still among  Wisconsin’s leading industries.

How about those mashed potatoes… 
When you think of potatoes, Wisconsin may not come to mind, but our state is actually the third leading potato producer in the country, just behind Idaho and Washington. 

…with a side of corn?
More than 15,000 farmers in Wisconsin grow corn on approximately three million acres, and the state is one of the top producers in the nation. In addition to food, Wisconsin corn is used for livestock feed, and about 10 percent of the state’s production is exported. 

What would a Wisconsin meal be without cheese?
They don’t call us “cheeseheads” for nothing. Wisconsin ranks number one in the United States for cheese production. Whether it’s cheese and crackers before dinner, shredded cheese sprinkled in our salads or on our potatoes, or baked with love into our green bean casseroles, it’s hard to imagine Thanksgiving without delicious Wisconsin cheese.

Wash it down with an ice-cold glass of milk. 
Wisconsin has been the country’s leading dairy state since 1915, and it’s a proud tradition we hold today. Our state is a national leader in milk production with more than 10,000 dairy farms, each with an average of 120 dairy cows. 

And don’t forget the cranberry sauce.
Wisconsin has been the largest producer of cranberries in the country for the last 20 years. In fact, Wisconsin is the largest producer of cranberries in the world. They are Wisconsin’s largest fruit industry, and the cranberry was declared the official state fruit in 2004. More than 250 growers throughout the state produce cranberries on land that spans 20 counties. That’s a lot of cranberries! 

I’m thankful for many things, including my family, friends, health, and the privilege of serving the people of Wisconsin’s Fifth District. Thank you for the opportunity to be your representative. Have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving Day.
In a recent Post op-ed, Gregory B. Craig, former White House counsel, and Cliff Sloan, former special envoy for Guantanamo closure, argued that President Obama has the legal authority to ignore the law and transfer some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists to the United States.

I sincerely hope that, as former Obama administration officials, they are not laying the groundwork for a course of conduct from the White House that can end only in constitutional crisis. In a recent letter, I respectfully requested that the president reject Craig and Sloan’s legal reasoning and assure Congress that he will not transfer detainees from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States in violation of the law.

The Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war but reserves to the president, as commander in chief, the ability to “make war.” This led Craig and Sloan to conclude that Congress cannot “direct specific facilities in which specific detainees must be held.”

Stated this broadly, I agree. But in framing the question as “whether Congress can tell the president where military detainees must be held,” they grossly mischaracterized the issue.

Congress has not required that any individual detainee be held in a specific facility. Rather, it prohibited the use of federal funds to move detainees from Guantanamo to the United States. This is not a de facto mandate that the president maintain the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, as Craig and Sloan seemed to assume. It is a legitimate exercise of congressional power to prevent the president from housing some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists on U.S. soil. This, emphatically, Congress can do.

The Constitution’s separation of powers is also a balance of powers. While the president has broad powers as commander in chief, Congress has equally broad authority in its power of the purse and its exclusive grant of legislative powers. The Constitution gives Congress authority to “make all Laws necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the . . . Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States.” In other words, Congress makes the rules, and the president executes them. Relative to detainees, the Constitution even gives Congress the explicit power to “make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.” Congress has done exactly that.

In banning transfers of dangerous terrorists into the United States, Congress is exercising a legitimate legislative function. We saw with the June escape of dangerous criminals in upstate New York that it is impossible to guarantee Guantanamo Bay detainees will remain confined. Congress has the right to legislate to protect against this risk and to protect the emotional security of Americans who may feel justifiably concerned about living in close proximity to enemy combatants responsible for the deadliest attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor.

Moreover, in United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution does not protect noncitizens outside our country. If the president were to unilaterally move alien terrorists into the United States, those terrorists could argue for constitutional protections. Congress has the right to protect against this possibility, especially because Congress, not the president, has the authority to determine how and when the domestic criminal laws should be applied.

Craig and Sloan wrote that Congress can pass military regulations, authorize detentions and military tribunals and broadly regulate the treatment of prisoners of war. But for some reason they emphatically denied that it can prevent known terrorists from being transferred to U.S. soil.

In so arguing, they did not mention Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer — the seminal Supreme Court decision on the relative powers of the executive and legislative branches of government.

In Youngstown, a labor dispute led to a strike that threatened to close the nation’s steel mills in the midst of the Korean War. President Harry S. Truman believed this would cripple the war effort and ordered that the U.S. government take control of the nation’s steel mills to prevent their closure. In passing the Taft-Hartley Act, however, Congress specifically considered and rejected an amendment that would authorize government seizures in cases of emergency.

Truman’s order was in direct contravention of congressional will, but he argued it was justified because it was necessary to avoid national catastrophe in a time of war. The Supreme Court disagreed.

In a concurrence that has become a foundation of constitutional law, Justice Robert H. Jackson described executive authority as ebbing and flowing in conjunction with congressional will. When the president acts with congressional authority, this power is “at its maximum.” When the president acts in the absence of either a congressional grant or denial of authority, there is a “zone of twilight” where Congress may have concurrent authority. When the president acts against the express will of Congress, however, his power is at its “lowest ebb.”

Jackson presciently warned of the danger of allowing the president to ignore Congress: “Presidential claim to a power at once so conclusive and preclusive must be scrutinized with caution, for what is at stake is the equilibrium established by our constitutional system.”

With these stakes, and against this precedent, Craig and Sloan concluded that the president can and should ignore the expressed will of Congress and transfer the Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States. I disagree. Hopefully, as a constitutional scholar, President Obama does as well.
View the op-ed online here.
Next month, President Obama heads to Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, and he isn’t going empty-handed. In coordination with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, the President has created his Clean Power Plan, a dangerous and costly climate change initiative that would leave America at an international economic disadvantage for little environmental gain. As the conference gets closer, here are three things to remember about the President’s Clean Power Plan: 

1. Similar legislation could not pass in 2009
In 2009, President Obama was riding a wave of popularity and turned his focus from his campaign victory to the legislative wish list given to him by liberal lobbyists and the radical base of the Democratic Party. A top priority was climate change, but despite his personal popularity, overwhelming democratic majorities in both chambers, and help from then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, he could not pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the Waxman-Markey Bill. The failure of that bill was a severe example of just how disastrous the legislation was. 

2. The Clean Power Plan, and the President’s climate agreements, will put America at a disadvantage 
President Obama is intent on reaching stringent emissions agreements in Paris next month, but in his negotiations, it’s imperative that any agreement include equal commitments from other countries. If not, he will put America at a severe economic and technological disadvantage. Enacting stricter regulations for the U.S., while allowing competing nations to advance under lax emissions standards, would reduce incentives for American businesses to develop responsible environmental technologies. It would also give our competitors an economic edge on the international market while simultaneously killing American jobs. We saw this previously in his negotiations with China. Under that terrible agreement, China was allowed to continue increasing their emissions through 2030, while the U.S. agreed to cut emissions. 

3. The Clean Power Plan would increase energy prices for the American taxpayer 
Energy prices are guaranteed to increase under the Clean Power Plan, and the United States Chamber of Commerce estimates that the initiative will cost American taxpayers $51 billion. That means much higher energy prices for the people of Southeastern Wisconsin. When you consider that our national debt is already at a crippling $18 trillion, the President’s plan unnecessarily puts additional financial burdens on hardworking middle class families and businesses – burdens that have increasingly become too heavy to bear – burdens that hit Wisconsin families harder than most due to the state’s reliance on coal. 

President Obama’s Clean Power Plan is a bad deal for America. If we want to continue being an international leader while building our economy and protecting the hardworking taxpayers, it’s critical we oppose this failed policy and ensure the President cannot cause further damage to this country in his last months as Commander-in-Chief.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Sensenbrenner released the following statement regarding the alarming indications that UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest health insurer, may be opting out of the Obamacare exchanges:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “UnitedHealth Group’s recent threats of leaving the Obamacare exchanges are not surprising, but they’re indicative of what we already knew –the Affordable Care Act is a disastrous policy that harms Americans. Increased deductibles, fewer options in healthcare providers, and a general lack of coverage are not only hurting American businesses, but also the most vulnerable in our society. This terrible initiative was doomed from its conception and should be completely repealed and replaced with a true, free-market system that would provide the first rate healthcare that our citizens need and deserve.”


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Sensenbrenner released the following statement on H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Protecting the safety of American citizens should not be a political issue. The American SAFE Act will temporarily halt the admission of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the United States until the Obama Administration successfully creates a thorough vetting, identification, and monitoring process. America’s top security experts have voiced their concerns over the current system, which should make the President take pause. This country has always been a world leader in helping those in need, but we simply cannot take a casual approach to our own safety.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, along with dozens of bipartisan lawmakers, sent the following letter to President Obama urging him to temporarily halt the admission of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the United States. 

Concerned lawmakers are urging the President to immediately halt the admission of refugees from Syria and Iraq into the United States until the Administration successfully creates a thorough vetting process that will identify all individuals who may pose a security threat, as well as contain an effective monitoring process for all refugees.

Dear Mr. President:

Our thoughts and prayers remain with victims of the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, and we support your efforts to assist the French people during their time of need.

Nonetheless, we cannot ignore that, despite your claims, the recent attacks in Paris and the suspected bombing of a Russian airliner, demonstrate that the threat of ISIS is not contained to Syria and Iraq.

Disturbingly, media reports indicate one terrorist killed during the Paris attacks may have arrived in Europe from Syria under the guise of a refugee. These events coincide with your Administration’s plan to raise the United States’ refugee ceiling in order to admit thousands of additional Syrians onto U.S. soil.

The United States has a proud tradition of opening its arms to those in need. However, the current conflict raging in the Middle East is unique and we cannot be certain that all individuals seeking refuge from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq pose no threat to Americans. Our first priority must be to protect our own citizens from harm.

Consequently, we urge you to immediately halt admissions of refugees from Syria and Iraq onto American soil. We ask that these admissions remain suspended until your Administration creates both a truly thorough vetting process to identify individuals who pose a security threat and an extensive monitoring process for all relocated refugees that ensures Americans are safe from potential threats. In order to meet this standard for effective security screening and monitoring, your Administration must first notify Congress of all policy changes, provide all information used to justify admission for each refugee to the House and Senate Intelligence, Judiciary, and Homeland Security Committees and satisfy the concerns of all Committees.

We urge your immediate action to suspend these admissions until effective vetting and monitoring processes are established that ensures the safety of the American people. We look forward to your timely response.

See full text here.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner sent a letter to National Aeronautics and Space Administrator Charles F. Bolden, as well as a letter to Inspector General Paul K. Martin seeking answers on NASA’s contracting practices.

After awarding a $1.3 billion contract to update the NASA Integrated Communications Service (NICS), NASA’s full and open competition requirements have been called into question. In his letters, Congressman Sensenbrenner calls on Administrator Bolden and Inspector General Martin to address all concerns regarding transparency in awarding Agency contracts. 

See full letter to Administrator Charles F. Bolden here.

See full letter to Inspector General Paul K. Martin here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Monday, Assistant Attorney General Peter J. Kadzik sent a letter to the United States House Committee on the Judiciary in support of the Judicial Redress Act of 2015, bipartisan legislation introduced by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner.

Kadzik notes that the Judicial Redress Act is “critical to ensuring continued strong law enforcement cooperation between the United States and the European Union,” and that the “diminishment of lawful information sharing options… would dramatically reduce cooperation and significantly hinder counterterrorism efforts, in addition to the prevention, detection, investigation, and prosecution of other criminal offenses.” 

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “We live in a time of unprecedented threats of violence, crime, and terrorism. Data and information sharing is a key component to combat these threats, as well as strengthen our international relationships and increase national and international security. The Judicial Redress Act is an important step forward in building trust and cooperation between nations, and with the support of the Justice Department, I’m confident this common sense, bipartisan legislation will be passed by my colleagues in the Senate.”

The Judicial Redress Act of 2015 (H.R. 1428) was passed in the House of Representatives on October 20, 2015 and referred to the Senate for consideration. The legislation would extend certain privacy protection rights to citizens of European countries, as well as other allied nations, if the federal government willfully discloses information in violation of the Privacy Act. Under the Judicial Redress Act, citizens of designated countries would be extended the core benefits of the Privacy Act, which already applies to Americans, with regard to information shared with U.S. law enforcement authorities, including the ability to bring a lawsuit for the intentional or willful disclosure of personal information.  Many countries already extend such protections to U.S. citizens.