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Mr. Speaker, I am disappointed to have to vote today in opposition to the conference report on H.R. 2647, the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act. For House Democrats to bring it to the Floor in its current form shows that they are not above playing politics with our troops.
I commend the House Armed Services Committee and House conferees on the bill for their good work in support of our military. The conference report provides much-needed funding for our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan at a time when the Administration's commitment to those missions is in question. We must continue to do everything in our power to give our troops the resources they need to succeed, and also to support their loved ones at home.
I applaud the important provisions of this conference report that authorize funding for equipment acquisition, research and development, and reset. I am pleased that the legislation increases the size of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps to address current and future threats.
The conference report bars the transfer of detainees at Guantanamo Bay to the United States pending a review on the threats they would pose to Americans. I find it unconscionable that the Obama Administration is still contemplating bringing terrorists to American soil after this Congress and the American people have gone on the record against such a reckless move.
Most importantly, the conference report authorizes an across-the-board military pay raise above what President Obama's defense budget requested. I was proud to vote to fund this pay raise in July when it was included in the 2010 defense appropriations bill, and look forward to quick action on a final version of that bill to provide this well-deserved increase.
The extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform make it of utmost importance that we give them the equipment and the support they need to complete their mission. They deserve far more than they are getting today from Congress, which is cynically using this bill to advance social policies favored by the Left. Attached to the bill by Senate Democrats is a wholly unrelated and unconstitutional so-called hate crimes bill.
This hate crimes bill represents an unprecedented departure from the deeply rooted American principle of equal justice under law. Justice should be blind, rendered through a criminal justice system that does not take into consideration such issues as race, gender, and religion.
Mr. Speaker, all violent crime is rooted in hatred. All violent crime is deplorable and should be punished to the fullest extent. Crimes not aimed at certain classes of people are just as reprehensible as those committed for other reasons. Crimes committed against one citizen should not be punished any more or any less than crimes committed against another.
But this hate crimes bill treats senseless, random violence less harshly than other, less ``random'' crimes. Justice will depend on whether a victim is a member of a category deemed worthy of protection under this bill--a list, for the record, that does not include the unborn, pregnant women, the elderly, and others who are among society's most vulnerable.
In fact, when the hate crimes bill was considered in the Judiciary Committee earlier this year, I offered an amendment to add the unborn to this list. The amendment was ruled non-germane on the outrageous grounds that the unborn are not ``persons.'' So much for defending our most defenseless.
I find it intriguing that a provision offered by Republicans but opposed by Democrats in committee--heightening penalties for attacks on servicemembers--is now hailed by Democrats as a vital part of this legislation.
The hate crimes bill raises the very real possibility that religious teachers of every faith could be prosecuted based on the sermons they give. By permitting legal action against anyone who ``willfully causes'' action by another person, it is not hard to imagine charges being filed against a pastor if a misguided parishioner claimed that the pastor's message caused him to commit a violent act. Subjecting pastors' sermons to prosecutorial scrutiny would prove a chilling effect on the rights of all individuals to freely practice their religion.
It is beyond shameful that these hate crimes provisions have been stapled onto the defense authorization. They are completely irrelevant to the protection of our troops, and provide yet another example of how terrified the Democrat majority is of free and open debate. Just as the hate crimes bill was originally debated in the House under a closed rule allowing for no amendments, it is now being presented to the House for only one hour of debate with no opportunity to amend it.
Mr. Speaker, defense authorization bills have traditionally been free of politics, almost always garnering widespread bipartisan support. The actual defense provisions in this authorization bill are good. I would be proud to support this bill, absent the unrelated and unconstitutional hate crimes provisions included in it.
The American people have a right to be ashamed of the poisoned process that forces pro-defense members of Congress to vote against what might otherwise be a good defense bill.
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