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On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a rule aiming to cut 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions nationwide by 2030, an Obama Administration order that skirts congressional authority and puts our economic growth in jeopardy. Of course, this most recent promulgation is part the President’s broader War on Coal, which adheres to a radical, dogmatic brand of environmentalism at the expense of American jobs.
 
Like most of my colleagues, I care deeply about the environment—Wisconsin has some of the most beautiful hills, lakes and farmland in the country. But I also believe we should be wary of environmental policies that have an adverse effect on economic growth. Under the proposed plan, electricity prices would skyrocket, the cost of doing business would increase and our international competitiveness would diminish.
 
It's troubling that the President uses the rhetoric of free enterprise and states’ rights to push a plan that is inherently anti-free market. States that don’t meet the Administration’s unrealistic benchmark would fall under a blanket federal plan that ignores the intricacies and nuances of state economies. Rather than relying on stale partisan talking points, which result in inflexible, overreaching policy prescriptions, the President should work with businesses and other affected stakeholders to craft workable solutions to climate change.
 
Now is not the time to impose schemes that hit consumers’ wallets, damage the economy and affect nearly every stage of production and consumption. Congress already voted down Cap-and-Tax when Democrats controlled the House and Senate—the American people and businesses staunchly opposed it. I will not accept this Administration’s unilateral attempt to enact economy-crushing regulations, and will work with my colleagues to craft policies that protect jobs and produce tangible improvements to the environment.
The House Science, Space and Technology Committee yesterday approved an important bipartisan provision offered by Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) for speedier public access to basic scientific research that would have had lengthy delays imposed under H.R. 4186, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act.  In a mark-up vote by the committee, lawmakers chose to adopt the Sensenbrenner-Lofgren provision reducing the embargo period on accessing federally funded peer-reviewed research to twelve months, in line with the industry standard, instead of the FIRST Act’s proposed and arbitrary two-to-three year embargo period.

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner: “This amendment is a strong compromise between competing interests. While not the wish list of either the publishers or the open access community, it meets the ultimate goal of providing taxpayer access to federally-funded research. It benefits all Americans when their tax dollars are used to craft life changing ideas rather than to fund articles with tax dollars only to have them sit behind pay walls. The American taxpayer has paid for this research and deserves access to its results.”  

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren: “While the FIRST Act still needs improvement, I am happy my colleagues agree on the principle that the public should have more open access to taxpayer-funded research. It’s not in the public’s interest to put up barriers to taxpayer-supported basic scientific research because it lays the groundwork for future discoveries.  Greater public access accelerates the kind of robust collaboration that can turn this research into the building blocks for breakthroughs that have immense benefits for the public and our economy.”

The Sensenbrenner-Lofgren amendment writes into law a process proposed by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) after extensive input from stakeholders—including the publishing industry—for agencies engaged in scientific research like the National Science Foundation (NSF) to institute a twelve-month embargo on peer-reviewed research.  The amendment also offers flexibility by providing an additional six-month extension if stakeholders can demonstrate the public interest would be substantially or uniquely harmed by a one-year embargo.
Last Thursday, the House of Representatives passed the USA FREEDOM Act by a vote of 303-121. It was the culmination of nearly a year of hard work to restore trust in our intelligence community and bring much-needed reform to our government’s surveillance authorities.

Senator Leahy and I wrote the USA FREEDOM Act because the government misapplied our nation’s existing surveillance laws, upsetting the delicate balance between privacy and security. Our bill ends bulk collection, increases transparency and restores accountability. In this age of rapidly developing technologies, these goals are constitutional and practical necessities.

Of course, there were setbacks, compromises and concessions made along the way in order to garner the required support. The Obama Administration insisted on broadening certain authorities and lessening certain restrictions to preserve core operations of the intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Some of these changes raise justifiable concerns and I share the disappointment many of you feel that this bill doesn’t do more.

But throughout my career, I have not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. With the passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, we made a powerful statement: Congress does not support bulk collection. The days of the NSA indiscriminately vacuuming up innocent Americans’ communications are over. Most importantly, after this bill becomes law, we will have critical transparency provisions to ensure that if the government again violates our trust, Congress and the public will know about it.

Last week’s vote was a first step—not a final step—in our efforts to reform surveillance. It gives us the tools to ensure that Congress and the public can provide an adequate check on the government, while also protecting our national security. Chairman Leahy has indicated that the Senate Judiciary Committee will take up the USA FREEDOM Act next month. Fortunately, the upper chamber will have the opportunity to strengthen this bill before the President signs it into law.
The House of Representatives today passed H.R. 3361, the USA FREEDOM Act, by a vote of 303-121, which was introduced by Crime Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.).

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner: “I was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee when we passed the PATRIOT Act, which made our country safer while maintaining the civil liberties that differentiate us from our enemies. But the government abused the law and upset the delicate balance between privacy and security. Today, after months of negotiations, the House publicly and unequivocally rejected the notion of bulk collection by passing the USA FREEDOM Act. While I wish it more closely resembled the bill I originally introduced, the legislation passed today is a step forward in our efforts to reform the government’s surveillance authorities. It bans bulk collection, includes important privacy provisions and sends a clear message to the NSA: We are watching you. I hope the Senate works expeditiously and eagerly await looking over the President’s shoulder as he signs the USA FREEDOM Act into law.”

View Congressman Sensenbrenner’s prepared floor remarks here.
View video here.
It’s no secret that Congress has grown more divisive over the past decade, so it’s gratifying—even nostalgic—for me to see the USA FREEDOM Act, which I authored, pass through the House Judiciary Committee unanimously by a vote of 32-0. The House Intelligence Committee followed suit and approved my bill by voice vote the following day.

I remember the Judiciary Committee similarly coming together after the September 11 attacks, passing the USA PATRIOT Act with unanimous, bipartisan support.  Our actions in 2001 made the country safer, while also protecting the cherished civil liberties that distinguish us from our enemies. Over time, however, the government misapplied the law we passed.
 
After revelations of NSA overreach surfaced last summer, I knew Congress had to act to protect the civil liberties of innocent Americans. As a result, in October of last year, I introduced the USA FREEDOM Act with Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy. Since the bill’s introduction, I have worked with members of Congress in both chambers from across the political spectrum and incorporated reform ideas from privacy groups, legal experts, tech companies, allied governments and the American people.


The amended Freedom Act makes it crystal clear that Congress does not endorse bulk collection and ensures Americans’ civil liberties are protected, while maintaining the necessary tools to protect our national security. While there have been many speed bumps along the way, the path forward is clear. I eagerly await looking over the President’s shoulder as he signs the USA FREEDOM Act into law.
Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 3361, the USA FREEDOM Act, by a vote of 32-0, which was introduced by Crime Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.). Today, the House Intelligence Committee passed the bill unanimously by voice vote.

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner: “The House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees passed the USA FREEDOM Act, which presents a clear path forward for the House and Senate.  Compromises made with the Intelligence Committee are consistent with our original goals to rein in the NSA and strike the proper balance between civil liberties and national security. I look forward to seeing the USA FREEDOM Act quickly enacted into law.”

The House Judiciary Committee today passed H.R. 3361, the USA FREEDOM Act, which Crime Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced last October. A substitute amendment was offered by Congressman Sensenbrenner on behalf of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.), Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Congressmen Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Randy Forbes (R-Va.), which was accepted by the Committee.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Today, the Judiciary Committee came together to address one of the most pressing issues facing our nation. The Committee voted unanimously to rein in the NSA, end bulk collection and ensure Americans’ civil liberties are protected, while keeping intact the necessary tools to protect our national security. I thank my colleagues, privacy groups, legal experts, tech companies, allied governments and the American people for their input, and urge the House and Senate to promptly pass the USA FREEDOM Act.”

View Opening Statement, Manager’s Amendment: here
The separation of powers—reinforced through checks and balances—is a bedrock principle of our political system. It limits overreach by the executive branch and prevents the over-centralization of power. The primary mechanism of the legislative branch to thwart executive branch overreach is congressional oversight.

Effective oversight, however, requires truthful testimony from executive branch officials. On March 12, 2013, during a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence panel, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, “Does the N.S.A. collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Director Clapper answered “No, Sir.”  Wyden pressed, “It does not?”  Clapper replied, “There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly.”

Declassified documents reveal that Director Clapper’s testimony was false, and further, that he knew it was false when offering it. Congress is currently considering proposals regarding intelligence gathering reform. In considering these proposals, we need assurances that Congress can adequately conduct oversight following new legislation.

Once again, the Administration that promised to be the most transparent in history has fallen short. It has hidden monumental Fourth Amendment abuses behind the veil of national security. During a House Judiciary Committee hearing on April 8, 2014, I questioned Attorney General Eric Holder about Clapper’s untruthful testimony:


 

Although the Attorney General was evasive, I am committed to pursuing the truth. If Congressional oversight depends on truthful testimony, government officials cannot be permitted to lie with impunity.



Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) introduced a bill today 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 from 2015-2017.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “We need someone with ambassadorial rank to show that the U.S. is serious about being an Arctic nation. As Russia continues to act aggressively, including making claims in the Arctic, and as China states its own interest, the U.S. must coordinate its Arctic policy and protect its domestic energy supply at the highest level.”

Congressman Larsen: “The Arctic is fast becoming the 21st century version of the Northwest Passage. An ambassador-level position takes an important step to coordinate U.S. commercial, environmental and security interests in the region. The position also signals our country’s commitment to international cooperation on Arctic policy.”