Restoring The Rule Of Law
Mr. CARTER. Mr. Speaker, it's the first day of a new work week here, and we're going to talk about restoring the rule of law.
You know, we've talked about this now for about 14 weeks. It's so important that we talk about the rule of law because, quite frankly, it's what keeps our society together. It's what makes us different from anybody else and what makes America different from everybody else. And, you know, it's so simple that we take it for granted.
Every American that--I'll bet you can stop anybody on the street and ask them about their rights and they all know what their rights are because they're Americans and they know they have rights. But what does it mean to have rights? Well, what it means is you have a place, you have a set of rules that establishes your rights.
Now, our Constitution says certain rights are inalienable and given by your Creator. That means that all men are born with those rights. These are rights of liberty and freedom. When we had the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, that's what we were talking about. You're born with these rights. These are the rights of free men everywhere. They are inalienable. They are given by the great Creator of the universe.
But everybody also knows I've got a right to free speech, I've got a right to assembly, I've got a right to a lawyer. And at all ages you can say, That's my right. That's my right. It is your right, but it becomes your right because it is enforceable, and that means that we have established a set of rules that our society operates under. And under those rules, there's a set of rules that's usually in the courts that enforce your rights, protect your rights.
You know, for 20 years I tried criminal cases and other cases, and we spend most of our time, at least the judges that sit in these court cases, we spend our time making sure people's rights are protected. And we have a whole series of cases that establish rights of criminal cases. Enough of you have watched television to know a lot about--we're some of the most educated, nonlawyers in the country, the folks who watch television in the United States, because we know about Miranda rights. So we know about other rights. In other countries maybe they don't know about them. Now, why wouldn't they know about them? Because they don't have them, okay. That's it. They don't have them.
And there are places on this Earth, and most of them are in Third World countries, where the rule of law does not prevail, where the average citizen doesn't have a place to go get recourse, recourse for injury that's happened to them in some form or fashion, a way to enforce a contract.
There are countries full of good people, but they haven't established the rule of law to the extent that the average citizen can protect their little plot of land or protect their little business or make a deal with somebody, a contract, and then when the other side doesn't do it, enforce that contract against them because the rule of law does not prevail. For whatever reason, whether it be history or culture, whatever it is, it doesn't prevail.
And so if a rich person or a wealthy group of people who wanted to go invest in that place or maybe they have a dictatorial system or they have a socialist, communist system that hasn't established a rule of law, so you can't go enforce it.
You know, when Russia first opened up and started working on capitalism, I had a friend who went over there and opened a clothing store. And if he's listening, he knows who I am talking about. And he said the problem was the clothing store was as popular as it could be and everybody wanted to buy American-cut suits, they wanted to look like Americans, prosperous Americans, and he had a booming business; but unfortunately he had to pay cash for everything.
He couldn't make a contract with somebody based on a bill of lading or anything like that at the time because he wasn't sure he'd be able to enforce it if he had to take it to court. He was afraid he would be out on a limb. And, quite honestly, he pointed out the Russians were doing the very best to correct that, and maybe they have. I haven't kept up with it. But it was putting a real strain on his national clothing chain that he tried to take to Russia.
I hope he fixed it. I don't know. I haven't talked to him in years
But the point is at the beginning of the establishment of capitalism in the former Soviet Union, in Russia, the rule of law had not come down to where you could feel comfortable with making contracts with people and believe they could be enforced. And hopefully that's been fixed. I would assume it has because I had the good pleasure to go to Russia with the Homeland Security Department and, quite frankly, they're doing pretty well over there. Looked like to me, anyway. Lots of stores and lots of prosperous-looking people.
But the glue that holds society together that allows you to trade both inside and outside your country is the rule of law; there are rules and regulations that everybody is a part of, everybody is protected by and required to abide by. That's a basic premise in American society.
Now, we went through a time when there was sort of a 60s rebellion against the establishment, and people would say things like, It's okay to rob from ``the man,'' but you can't rob from the little guy. And ``the man'' was the big guy. Now, nobody really defined who the big guy was. Of course, everybody knew that Coca-Cola was the big guy and Exxon was the big guy and U.S. Steel was the big guy. But was it the neighborhood grocery? Was he the big guy? Well, yeah, maybe if he was big enough, if he had more than two grocery stores.
In other words, somebody was saying it was okay to break the law if somebody was really a lot better off than you were. That was insanity. That was when I was in law school. And we debated all of this in law school. And it was insanity. Because if you've got rules, you've got to abide by the rules; and if you're going to decide you don't like a rule, you're not going to abide by the rule, then you don't get the rule of law. You get anarchy.
Well, the United States Congress has rules. We write those rules down. The first set of rules was written by Thomas Jefferson; and to a great extent, we still follow those rules of decorum and procedure in this House of Representatives by using Thomas Jefferson's manual on this place. Now some of it's been changed and altered. I think most of them are basic fairness, basic honesty, fair treatment for all concerned; and you're supposed to abide by those rules.
We have rules that we run our government by, and those rules, they bind all of us. We have certain forms that we have to file; we have to tell people what our income is. You know, it's a funny world we live in because the American people are generally private about what they make, and it's kind of ``none of your business'' in most families to ask somebody what's your daddy--what kind of salary does your daddy make? What's your
husband make? It's kind of a none-of-your-business question.
Unless you're in the public eye. If you're in public life, it's everybody's business what you make. And you're required to report what you make. And if you don't report it, there are penalties for that.
All of these things are some of the stuff we've been talking about.
But I would argue that we have some certain subjects that are really of concern to the American people today, and we've been talking about one pretty consistently, talking about Chairman Rangel's issues. I am going to move past those for today. They may get mentioned a bit. We're going to talk about some things we talked about in the past, but I think there's a passion for these issues among the American people.
Part of that passion is the man we elected President because he told us, ``I am campaigning on changing Washington and bottom-up politics. I don't want to send the message to the American people that there are two sets of standards: one for the powerful people and one for the ordinary folks who are working every day and paying their taxes.''
So the President set the standard back in February, on February 3 on CNN, 2009. That standard is going to be out there right now. And that's just right. I don't think there's any American that's going to argue with that. That's right, nobody is above the law. Nobody gets to not abide by the rule of law, because the rule of law governs our society; and that's basically what the President is saying. Nobody because of who they are, what office they hold, how much money they've got in the bank should get any other privileges above and beyond what ordinary people get.
Now, we've got some issues tonight. Let me say we're going to talk about a lot of stuff. But several people last week thought we were going to talk about some of that stuff, and one of the things that they wanted to talk about was the czars. Let me be real clear up front. We're going to get to the czars in just a minute. So if anybody's listening that wanted to talk about the czars but thought we weren't talking about it, come on down. We're looking for you.
Just briefly, I'm going to tell you in my opinion one of the things that most people are most upset about is this outfit called ACORN. This outfit was supposed to be a do-good public service, the group that was out there organizing communities and organizing groups so that we could have a better country.
So they got really involved in working on elections last time, and here's some of the results: in Colorado they were charged with voter fraud, multiple counts, with convictions; in Florida, vote fraud, cases are pending; in Michigan, voter fraud, multiple counts with convictions; Minnesota vote fraud, multiple counts with convictions; Missouri, vote and mail fraud, identity theft, multiple counts with convictions; Nevada, vote fraud, multiple counts pending; Ohio, vote fraud, multiple counts with convictions; Pennsylvania, vote fraud, multiple counts with convictions; and the same thing in Washington State.
So this good group has not been doing good things, nor have they been abiding by the rule of law.
Now, we have a bill that's been introduced by Minority Leader John Boehner to defund ACORN. And what he's basically saying in this is the American people have looked at this, they've listened to this stuff that's going on, they've watched these videos of these people advising folks about child prostitution and prostitution and so forth, and they've said we've had enough of these people and we darn sure don't want to pay for them. We don't want to pay them to go out and break the law.
And so the fact that they received millions of dollars in Federal funding offends people because they're not following the law.
So John Boehner has proposed that no Federal contract, grant, cooperative agreement or any other form of agreement will be awarded or entered into with the organization known as ACORN. No Federal funds will be given to ACORN; no Federal employees may promote ACORN; and that ACORN includes State chapters, organizations with financial stakes in ACORN, and organizations that share directors and employees with ACORN.
And I think this bill is designed to do what the American public is asking for. They're saying it's bad enough these crooks are out there; it's bad enough that they've got these cases pending against them. Of course, they're innocent until proven guilty. But they've been proven guilty here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here.
They have been found guilty. That's what ``conviction'' means.
Now why in the world would the Federal Government want to fund people who are out committing voter fraud? And that's not just it. Why would we want to fund somebody that would advise people on how to open a house of prostitution using underage girls? Why would we want to fund those people with my taxpayer and your taxpayer dollars? I don't know. I think that Members of this House have a real question about that.
I think this is a good idea and a good bill that has been offered by JOHN BOEHNER. And I think that our leadership of this House, the Democrat leadership, should go forward on this bill. No matter how much these people worked to help their candidates in the last election, now they should say, whoa, wait a minute. And I presume that there was no knowledge that all this was going on. So they should be out front to stop this stuff because it's just not right. It's just not right.
We talked before, and we are going to keep talking, about the fact that ACORN needs to be taken off the Federal Government's money list.
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Mr. CARTER. Reclaiming some of my time, I'm glad you brought up the smelt in the San Joaquin Valley, because it's kind of interesting. Until this came up, most people in America probably didn't even know that the San Joaquin Valley is considered the breadbasket of this country. Now here is something interesting. It rained cats and dogs in Texas this week. We were real happy for that rain. But it meant my wife and I stayed indoors one Sunday afternoon because there wasn't anything else to do. And the movie ``Treasure of the Sierra Madre'' with Humphrey Bogart was on television. That movie was made in 1948.
One of the characters in the movie was reminiscing about what they were going to do with their share of the gold. And he said, and it struck me because I have been talking to Devin Nunes so much about this tragedy that is going on in the San Joaquin Valley and that whole valley region of California, and this character says, ``I grew up in the San Joaquin Valley, an agricultural region in California, growing fruit. And the happiest days I ever had was right after the harvest, when all the workers got together and celebrated the harvest. And if I get out of here, what I want to do is get me an orchard with my money.''
It struck me, because he was talking about the fact that in 1948 that was a major production region. Now the only way that region could produce anything is with water. It is the desert. I live in the desert. If you look at an 1845 map of the United States, starting just west of Kansas, you will see a sign that says ``Great American Desert.'' It goes all the way across the Rocky Mountains to California. And Texas is within the Great American Desert. We used to joke about it when I was in school, let's drive across the Great American Desert to Dallas. But the truth is, those of us who live in a water shortage State, and Wyoming has to have underground water or it wouldn't be able to exist, we know the value of water. That's why a vast majority of our laws have something to do as far as our land with water.
Taking away the water in the San Joaquin Valley is taking away a growing region, which I have evidence from the movie, that was prospering in 1948. Now how long ago was that? Sixty years ago. Now it's a shame that like you say, some laws that ought to have some exceptions don't. And we have unemployed people in literally entire counties.
It's a great thing to talk about when you talk about the rule of law. That's the responsibility of legislators. That's the responsibility of Congress people. When you have a rule of law that has to be changed, you shouldn't take to the streets with guns unless you have got a tyrannical society, which is what we had when we had our revolution. You should take it to the legislature with votes and change the laws that need to be changed. Make the exceptions to make things work. And this body would decide what is best for everyone involved. That's what ought to be happening.
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Mr. CARTER. That's right. Reclaiming a portion of my time, Greg Walden, Culberson and Brian Baird have H. Res. 554, the 3-day reading rule, which just basically they want to put in writing and have this body adopt as a--agreed by both sides voting on, legislation must be available to Members and the public for 72 business hours before taking action, requires the full text of the legislation and each committee report to be posted continuously on the Internet. And by the way, this is what one of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, thought was a good idea, and we're just basically redefining his rules and modernizing it a little bit with the Internet.
But an interesting thing you said--we keep talking about this health care plan and I want to get on to other things, but it's an important thing, but there will be another health care debate later--and that is, it's important, but you need to look at history. I just saw on television the oldest health care plan in the world was created by Otto Von Bismarck in Germany when he united Germany, so it's the oldest one they've got. They tried all ways of funding it, but it comes down to coming out of your paycheck. And today, in Germany, 42 cents out of every dollar is taken out by the government to pay for the health care program, and they're having real problems with it in the modern world.
So, there's lots to be talked about, and what you said is right; let's talk. And by the way, something else. The Senate supposedly passed something today, but they haven't got it in writing. In fact, they passed something which is a concept. I think this is a new thing. I have never quite heard anything like this. They passed a concept, which none of it has been reduced to writing the way I understand it. So it's just we've got a bunch of ideas and here's what they are, and we're not going to write them down because somebody might hold us to them. So we're just going to say we've got some great ideas and we pass it. What is that?
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My good friend from Iowa is here, which brings up another rule of law issue that we've been discussing. I know he wants to talk about it, so I'm going to shift gears here.
I am first going to talk about Marsha Blackburn's H. Con. Res. 185, reining in the czars. And she is proposing that the President will report on the responsibilities, qualifications, and authorities of his special assistants, known as czars. She is saying the President will certify that czars will not assert powers beyond those granted by law to a commissioned officer on the President's staff, and that Congress will hold hearings on the President's report and certification within 30 days, I assume, after the receipt of those reports. All of this is a part of multiple pieces of legislation that are out there now talking about czars.
I'm going to yield to my friend, Congressman King from Iowa, as much time as he needs to consume. And I've got some kind of interesting stuff he might want to use here.
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Mr. CARTER. I, too, and I think Brother King also supports the auditing of the Federal Reserve. It's our money. We want to know what's going on. We want to make sure we know that things are right. We are not questioning anybody's honesty; we just want to know what's going on. We are at a point in our society right now where it's pretty desperately needed to know.
I want to say one more thing: Mr. King's comment on the safe schools czar, what he is proposing is against the law, this man boy sex thing. Aggravated sexual assault of a child is the number one sexual offense in America today, at least by my experience. In 20, almost 21, years on bench, I tried--that used to be called rape. I tried lots of aggravated sexual assault cases. One out of probably a thousand was two adults and all the rest were children.
Now that will tell you, at least in my experience, in an active trial court, where I was--in fact, the one adult I was sitting as a visiting judge in Travis County, it wasn't even my county. As far as I know, over all my side, where I was trying my cases, we had three courts. I only saw aggravated sexual assault of the child cases and that means it's just rampant because the victim is unable to be a very good witness sometimes because they are so young.
It is a very tragic situation. It just shocks me that somebody that would be advocating those things would be put by a responsible administration in charge of safety in our schools. It is shocking.
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Mr. CARTER. I thank my friend for coming down here and talking about a new subject, but a subject that is important. These czars, when we have got individual issues on the rule of law, we ought to talk about them. And I encourage all my colleagues, if they have issues about laws that they don't think are being enforced right or that they are concerned about the enforcement of, that is what this hour is about. It is about the rule of law.
I thank you for bringing up that issue. I hope everyone will be very concerned about the issues that you raised today.
Mr. Speaker, we thank you for the hour, and we will yield back the balance of our time.