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James Sensenbrenner

Jim Sensenbrenner
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin's 5th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2003
Preceded by Tom Barrett
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin's 9th district
In office
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 2003
Preceded by Bob Kasten
Succeeded by District abolished
Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee
In office
Preceded by Henry Hyde
Succeeded by John Conyers
Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology
In office
Preceded by Bob Walker
Succeeded by Sherwood Boehlert
Wisconsin State Senator
In office
Wisconsin State Senate Assistant Minority Leader
In office
Member of the
Wisconsin State Assembly
In office
Personal details
Born (1943-06-14) June 14, 1943 (age 71)
Chicago, Illinois
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Cheryl Warren Sensenbrenner
Children Frank Sensenbrenner
Bob Sensenbrenner
Residence Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin
Alma mater Stanford University, University of Wisconsin
Occupation attorney
Religion Episcopalian, Anglican Catholic [1]

Frank James "Jim" Sensenbrenner, Jr. (born June 14, 1943) is an American politician who has been a member of the Republican Party in the United States House of Representatives since 1979, representing Wisconsin's 5th congressional district. The district, the state's richest, includes many of Milwaukee's northern and western suburbs, and extends into rural Jefferson County. It was numbered as the 9th District until 2003.

He is the former Chairman of the House Science Committee and the former Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; when the Republicans lost control of the House, he finished his six-year term as Chairman, and was not able to be chosen as the Judiciary Committee's ranking minority member (that honor went to Lamar S. Smith of Texas).[2] He served as the Ranking Republican on the House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming from 2007 to 2011, when Republicans abolished the committee after regaining control of the House.

Early life, education, and early political career

Sensenbrenner was born in Chicago, Illinois. As one of the heirs to the Kimberly-Clark fortune, he grew up in very comfortable circumstances. He was raised in Shorewood, Wisconsin, and attended the private Milwaukee Country Day School, from which he graduated in 1961. He matriculated at Stanford University, graduating with a B.A. in Political Science in 1965. He received a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1968. Sensenbrenner served as staff assistant to California U.S. Congressman J. Arthur Younger and Wisconsin State Senator Jerris Leonard.[3]

Wisconsin legislature

Sensenbrenner was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1968, the same year he graduated from law school. He was there until 1975, and in the Wisconsin State Senate from 1975 to early 1979.[4]

U.S. House of Representatives


When 9th District Congressman Bob Kasten vacated his seat to run for governor in 1978, Sensenbrenner ran in the election to succeed him, defeating his primary opponent, Susan Engeleiter, by 589 votes with a plurality of 43%.[5][6] He was elected in November 1978 with 61%,[7] and has been reelected 16 more times with no substantive opposition, sometimes running unopposed. His district was renumbered as the 5th after the 2000 census, when Wisconsin lost a district. He has never won re-election with less than 62% of the vote. In fact, his worst two re-elections were in 2004, when he defeated UW-Milwaukee professor Bryan Kennedy with 67% of the vote,[8] and in 2006 defeated him in a rematch with 62%.[9]


In 1998, Sensenbrenner had an important role in the impeachment of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, acting as one of the House managers.

Sensenbrenner introduced the USA PATRIOT Act to the House on October 23, 2001. He did not write the act; the primary author was Assistant Attorney General of the United States Viet Dinh. Nevertheless, Sensenbrenner has been recognized as "one of the architects of the Patriot Act."[10] In November 2004, Sensenbrenner and California Congressman Duncan Hunter objected to provisions of a bill that, among other things, created a Director of National Intelligence, a key recommendation of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, known as the 9/11 Commission.

In 2005, Sensenbrenner authored the Real ID Act, which requires additional scrutiny of citizenship before issuing drivers' licenses and set forth certain requirements for state driver's licenses to make it more difficult for terrorists and criminals to alter their identity by counterfeiting documents. He attached the controversial act as a rider on military spending bill HR418. Subsequently, it was passed by the Senate without debate.[11] In March 2005, Sensenbrenner sided firmly with the parents and siblings in the Terri Schiavo case, who fought unsuccessfully in federal court and the House to block her husband's decision to allow the withdrawal of her feeding tube.

On June 17, 2005, Sensenbrenner, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, abruptly ended a meeting where Republicans and Democrats were supposed to be debating the renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act and walked out in response to Democratic members raising issues regarding human rights violations at the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp and the ongoing Iraq war. He ordered the court reporter to halt transcriptions of the proceedings, C-SPAN cameras covering the meeting be shut off, and that discussion on the issue be halted. Sensenbrenner defended his actions by claiming that the Democrats and witnesses had repeatedly violated House rules in discussing issues he believed to be unrelated to the subject of the meeting.[12] His abrupt walkout was contrary to House parliamentary procedure, which is to adjourn either on motion or without objection. Political journalist Matt Taibbi described the incident in a profile of the 109th Congress published around October 2006: "Last year, Sensenbrenner became apoplectic when Democrats who wanted to hold a hearing on the Patriot Act invoked a little-known rule that required him to let them have one. "Naturally, he scheduled it for something like 9 a.m. on a Friday when Congress wasn't in session, hoping that no one would show," recalls a Democratic staffer who attended the hearing. "But we got a pretty good turnout anyway." Sensenbrenner kept trying to gavel the hearing to a close, but Democrats again pointed to the rules, which said they had a certain amount of time to examine their witnesses. When they refused to stop the proceedings, the chairman did something unprecedented: He simply picked up his gavel and walked out. "He was like a kid at the playground," the staffer says. And just in case anyone missed the point, Sensenbrenner shut off the lights and cut the microphones on his way out of the room. Commenting on Sensenbrenner's actions on The Daily Show, comedian Jon Stewart said, "Oh my God, he literally took his gavel and went home; we are officially being governed by children."

Sensenbrenner was the main sponsor of H.R. 4437, a bill passed by the House in 2005 that would provide additional criminal penalties for aiding and abetting illegal immigration to the United States.[13]

On September 8, 2005, Sensenbrenner voted against a bill to provide $50 billion in emergency aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina.[14] The bill passed and was signed into law by President George W. Bush.

On December 16, 2005, Sensenbrenner introduced the Digital Transition Content Security Act. In 2006, it was reported that Sensenbrenner would help lead the effort to pass the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2006, which is supported by large copyright holders and opposed by fair use activists.[15]

Sensenbrenner receives high marks from the National Taxpayers Union, a non-profit organization that supports low taxes.[16]

In 2006, Sensenbrenner joined with House Speaker Dennis Hastert in expressing outrage concerning the FBI raid of the congressional office of Democratic Representative William J. Jefferson, asserting constitutional concerns over separation of powers. He held Judiciary Committee hearings in May 2006 on this issue. Many Republican and conservative pundits, including Rush Limbaugh, took a dim view of this stance, and a June 1, 2006, ABC News poll found 86% of Americans supported the right of the FBI to search a congressional office when they obtain a warrant.

In fall 2006, The Animal Fighting Prohibition Act bill unanimously passed the Senate, but Sensenbrenner used his position to block final House consideration of the legislation, even though the bill had 324 co-sponsors. The act creates felony-level penalties for animal fighting activities. The Right to Life Act had hearings scheduled for December 12, 2006 at 10 am, but Sensenbrenner cancelled them right before the House adjourned on December 9 at 3:17am.[17] The purpose of H.R. 552 is to "implement equal protection ... for the right to life of each born and preborn human person." In the 109th Congress, the legislation collected 101 cosponsors.[18]

Sensenbrenner was the only Republican to join House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Congressional delegation to meet the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India during the March 2008 protests against China by Tibetans.[19] While there he said, "In the US Congress, there is no division between Democrats and Republicans on the issue of protecting Tibetan culture and eliminating repression against Tibetans around the world".[20]

Sensenbrenner was named the 2006 "Man of the Year" by the conservative publication Human Events because of his opposition to open-borders immigration policies.[21] In contrast, in the same year he was rated the second-worst member of the House by Rolling Stone, which dubbed him "the dictator".[22]

In 2009, by a voice vote, the US Federal House approved H.R. 445, the Heavy Duty Hybrid Vehicle Research, Development, and Demonstration Act of 2009,[23] authored by Sensenbrenner.

Sensenbrenner, in spite of unanimous Congressional support,[24] attempted to delay a bill[25] in December 2010 that would have been benefited Hotaru Ferschke the Japanese born widow of a United States Marine killed in combat. Congressman John Duncan and other supporters of Ms. Ferschke were able to get the bill passed in spite of Sensenbrenner's objections.[26]

Sensenbrenner believes in criminal prosecution of broadcasters and cable operators who violate decency standards as opposed to the current FCC regulatory methods.[27] In July 2012, Sensenbrenner advocated amending the Espionage Act of 1917 to enable the prosecution of journalists involved in publishing leaks of state secrets.[28]

In December 2011, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Sensenbrenner referred to First Lady Michelle Obama’s “big butt” while talking to church members at a Christmas bazaar at St. Aidan's church in Hartford.[29] Church member Ann Marsh-Meigs told the newspaper that she heard Sensenbrenner’s remarks. She said the congressman was speaking about the first lady’s efforts to combat childhood obesity, and added, “And look at her big butt.” On December 22, Sensenbrenner’s press secretary said Sensenbrenner had sent Obama a personal note and released a statement saying he regretted his “inappropriate comment.” Sensenbrenner’s office would not release the text of the note.[30]

In June 2013, Sensenbrenner objected to the FBI and NSA's use of the PATRIOT Act to routinely collect phone records from millions of Americans without any suspicion of wrongdoing. "The Bureau’s broad application for phone records was made under the so-called business records provision of the Act," he said. "I do not believe the broadly drafted FISA order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act. Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.”[31] He released a statement saying “While I believe the Patriot Act appropriately balanced national security concerns and civil rights, I have always worried about potential abuses.” He added: “Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.”[32][33]

He had similar criticism of the PRISM program. Sensenbrenner said the Patriot Act, which he authored, while granting law enforcement increased surveillance powers to prevent terrorist incidents, did not authorize the PRISM program.[34] In an article he authored in the Guardian, he said, "This is well beyond what the Patriot Act allows."[35]

Sensenbrenner supported the Amash Amendment, a plan to defund the NSA's telephone surveillance program. According to the New York Times, "Never, he said, did he intend to allow the wholesale vacuuming up of domestic phone records, nor did his legislation envision that data dragnets would go beyond specific targets of terrorism investigations". The Amendment fell seven votes short of the number it needed to pass.[36][37]

In October of 2013, he introduced the U.S.A. Freedom Act in the House, a bill designed to curtail the powers of the NSA and end the NSA's dragnet phone data collection program. The bill is supported by various civil liberties advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union.[38]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships
  • Congressional Coalition on Adoption
  • Congressional Grace Caucus
  • International Conservation Caucus

Personal life

In 1977, Sensenbrenner married Cheryl Warren, daughter of former state attorney general and U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Warren. The couple have two sons, Frank (born 1981), and Bob (born 1984). Frank worked as a lobbyist for the Canadian embassy in Washington D.C. starting in 2007, although he didn't register with the U.S. as an agent for a foreign government.[39] He is currently a Visiting Fellow at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, his research focusing on Eurozone financial markets, and has blogged for the Huffington Post on Italian politics and the Vatican.[40][41]

When not in Washington D.C., Sensenbrenner resides in Menomonee Falls. His family also owns a summer home on Pine Lake near Delafield, Wisconsin.

Sensenbrenner has a net worth of about $11.6 million.[42] His net worth in 2010 was $9.9 million.[43] He is an heir to the Kimberly-Clark family fortune,[44] but no longer owns any Kimberly-Clark stock.[43] His great-grandfather invented Kotex napkins and served as Kimberly-Clark's second president but he has never served on the board or been directly involved with the company.[43] He has put his money into stocks, as detailed in the Congressional Record.[6] Sensenbrenner has also won lottery prizes three times, the largest, $250,000, in 1998.[42][45]

In August 2009, Sensenbrenner announced that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. His doctor said the cancer was caught in the early stages when the cure rate is between 85-95 percent.[46]

Electoral history

Wisconsin's 9th congressional district: Results 1978–2000[47]
Year Republican Votes  % Democratic Votes  % Third Party Party Votes  % Third Party Party Votes  %
1978 Jim Sensenbrenner 118,386 61% Matthew Flynn 75,207 39%
1980 Jim Sensenbrenner 206,227 78% Gary Benedict 56,838 22%
1982 Jim Sensenbrenner 115,503 100% No candidate
1984 Jim Sensenbrenner 180,247 73% John Krause 64,157 26% Stephen Hauser Constitution 1,306 1%
1986 Jim Sensenbrenner 138,766 78% Thomas Popp 38,636 21%
1988 Jim Sensenbrenner 185,093 75% Thomas Hickey 62,003 25%
1990 Jim Sensenbrenner 117,967 76% David Morrill 36,946 24%
1992 Jim Sensenbrenner 192,898 70% Ingrid Buxton 77,362 28% David Marlow Independent 4,619 2% Jeffrey Millikin Libertarian 1,881 1%
1994 Jim Sensenbrenner 141,617 100% No candidate
1996 Jim Sensenbrenner 197,910 74% Floyd Brenholt 67,740 25%
1998 Jim Sensenbrenner 175,533 91% No candidate Jeffrey Gonyo Independent 16,419 9%
2000 Jim Sensenbrenner 239,498 74% Mike Clawson 83,720 26%
Wisconsin's 5th congressional district: Results 2002–2012[47][48][49]
Year Republican Votes  % Democratic Votes  % Third Party Party Votes  % Third Party Party Votes  %
2002 Jim Sensenbrenner 191,224 86% No candidate Robert R. Raymond Independent 29,567 13%
2004 Jim Sensenbrenner 271,153 67% Bryan Kennedy 129,384 32% Tim Peterson Libertarian 6,549 2%
2006 Jim Sensenbrenner 194,669 62% Bryan Kennedy 112,451 36% Bob Levis Green 4,432 1% Robert R. Raymond Independent 3,525 1%
2008 Jim Sensenbrenner 275,271 80% No candidate Robert R. Raymond Independent 69,715 20%
2010 Jim Sensenbrenner 229,642 69% Todd Kolosso 90,634 27% Robert R. Raymond Independent 10,813 3%
2012 Jim Sensenbrenner 250,335 68% Dave Heaster 118,478 32%

See also


External links

  • Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. official U.S. House site
  • Jim Sensenbrenner for Congress
  • Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Ballotpedia
  • NNDB
  • Project Vote Smart
  • GovTrack
  • OpenCongress
  • Roll Call
  • Federal Election Commission
  • The Washington Post
  • On the Issues
  • The Library of Congress
  • The Washington Post
  • C-SPAN programs
  • Internet Movie Database
  • The New York Times
  • The Washington Post
  • SourceWatch
  • Critique of Sensenbrenner at
  • Sensenbrenner's opening statement at the Clinton impeachment trial January 14, 1999
  • Rolling Stone, October 17, 2006
Preceded by
Bob Kasten
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin's 9th congressional district

District abolished following 2000 Census
Preceded by
Tom Barrett
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin's 5th congressional district

Political offices
Preceded by
Robert S. Walker
Chairman of House Science Committee
Succeeded by
Sherwood Boehlert
New York
Preceded by
Henry Hyde
Chairman of House Judiciary Committee
Succeeded by
John Conyers
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Nick Rahall
D-West Virginia
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Tom Petri

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