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Gripes pepper meeting

April 17, 2019

JOHNSON CREEK -- Although the fireworks were nowhere near what they have been in past years, a visit by U.S. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, to several Jefferson County town and village halls Monday offered moments of confrontation.

The fiery veteran congressman has never been known to back down during these town hall meetings he uses to make contact with his constituents. Likewise, certain members of the citizenry are usually armed with a few strategic political jabs and questions of their own.

State Rep. Barbara Dittrich, R-Oconomowoc, of the 38th Assembly District, accompanied Sensenbrenner on his visit to the Johnson Creek Village Hall.

Sensenbrenner is recovering from hip replacement surgery he underwent early this year and told his audience of 18 with a laugh that he will be able “to kick some behinds again thoroughly in about a month.”

The Johnson Creek meeting began with questions regarding immigration into the United States by people from Mexico and other parts of Central America.

Sensenbrenner said he favors the building of a wall to keep out illegal immigrants, along with the substantial funding of such a physical barrier.

Sensenbrenner said there also needs to be changes in asylum laws to make verification systems tighter. He said if people can make it into the country illegally and get amnesty, they can often bypass those who are trying to enter the United States legally.

“And most Americans are in favor of legal immigration,” Sensenbrenner said.

He said if people want asylum, they should stay in Mexico, apply for it, get it and then come north legally.

Sensenbrenner said the Mexican government is to be congratulated for offering opportunities for those from other Central American countries to locate there for at least a year, but most do not accept the invitation and want to move straight up and into the U.S.

“I give the Mexican government credit for its efforts,” he said.

One woman at the Johnson Creek meeting suggested putting chips in those people coming into the U.S. from Mexico illegally, so after they come in, if they disappear, they can be found and deported.

Sensenbrenner said he felt this was too “Big Brother-ish.”

“Once we do that, then we will all have chips put in us,” he said.

One member of the audience said he wanted to see taxes that are put on dealings made by FFA and 4-H students in Wisconsin related to county fair meat animal sales made simpler. He said the taxes are too complicated for the youths and for the committees that govern these events.

“The IRS has a knack for finding ways to tax good things,” Sensenbrenner said.

The congressman said President Donald Trump’s recent approaches toward “emergency declarations” as they relate to controlling the U.S. border with Mexico irritate him at times. He said if the Trump declarations would have been enacted in a full-blown manner, they would have taken money from the military that, in Sensenbrenner’s estimation, deserves it more for construction projects and improving soldiers’ living conditions.

“Congress directed this money to the military. Congress controls the purse strings and (Trump) wanted something different,” Sensenbrenner said.

Medicare, Medicaid, gerrymandering and redistricting were also brought up in Johnson Creek Monday before Sensenbrenner headed to a meeting with 10 more constituents in Helenville.

There, one audience member asked why the U.S. does not do away with foreign aid and pay off the country’s deficit.

Sensenbrenner said foreign aid comprises only a small portion of the U.S. budget and the goodwill it engenders worldwide is very much worth the expenditure.

“Doing away with foreign aid would have little effect on our debt,” he said. “Foreign aid allows us to show the world what America is really like.”

When asked if the American public should have better access to the tax returns of Donald Trump, Sensenbrenner said he did not believe such an option would shed much light on the current president’s financial dealing beyond what the public already knows.

“I don’t think these should be released for political reasons,” Sensenbrenner said. “You can see if a president is lining his pockets as it is already. The information is there. A tax return will not allow you to do that ... The Mueller report came back and said there is ‘nothing.’ It was an independent counsel that found nothing.”

Under further questioning from an audience member, Sensenbrenner said he would “never be able to convince” this visitor to the town hall session that Trump had not been aided in the election by Russia. He said he and his assistants watch some of the television networks that are considered by most to be left-leaning and suggested this person, a self-described Democrat, to watch Fox News.

“That way you can balance things out,” he said.

Sensenbrenner said the U.S. economy is booming at present and there are more jobs available than people willing to fill them. In response to a question, he said the country’s debt and deficit are due, in part, to Congress spending too much, but he would not take the blame for that, saying he has the strongest record on the congressional panel for voting against excessive spending.

The remainder of Sensenbrenner’s day in Jefferson County, as scheduled, included visits to Sullivan and Palmyra.

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