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Appointment of Conferees on H.R. 4200, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005

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Location: Washington, DC


APPOINTMENT OF CONFEREES ON H.R. 4200, NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2005 -- (House of Representatives - September 28, 2004)

Mr. SAXTON. Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to take from the Speaker's table the bill (H.R. 4200) to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2005 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, and for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe personnel strengths for such fiscal year for the Armed Forces, and for other purposes, with a Senate amendment thereto, disagree to the Senate amendment, and agree to the conference asked by the Senate.

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Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Madam Speaker, I am torn. I cannot decide which argument has less merit. There was the gentleman from Florida who said, do not take it up on this bill; it is in the jurisdiction of the Committee on the Judiciary. It is in the dungeon of the Committee on the Judiciary. I envy the gentleman's ability to say that without smiling. This bill is introduced, and it is sent to the Committee on the Judiciary. And that committee, of which he is a member, consistently refuses to take any action on it. Of course, it would be better if the Committee on the Judiciary did its duty and had a markup and let us vote on the bill.

The Committee on the Judiciary tyrannically refuses to deal with the bill. That is bad enough. But it literally adds insult to the democratic process to injury of the democratic process to refuse to act on the bill, and then complain when people find another way around. This is like locking somebody up, and she escapes through your backyard, and you charge her with trespassing. We have found a way out of your prison, and that bothers you. How can anyone seriously argue that, having refused to let the bill be subjected to the normal processes, we are the ones who are at fault because we have found another way to bring it up?

And then we have the gentleman from North Carolina who said this is a violation of free speech. I guess it is easy when you do not read the bill. This bill criminalizes actions that consist of violence against individuals. It allows the Attorney General to enter under certain limited circumstances, if it is a Federal crime of violence under the Federal U.S. Code. It allows certain other things if there is an act of bodily injury or an attempt to cause bodily injury. Nothing in here criminalizes speech. In fact, when people start talking about Sweden, it is a pretty good indication that they do not have anything to talk about with regard to the law that we are voting on in America. By the way, America, unlike Sweden, has a first amendment, and the Supreme Court would have banned that if anybody tried to.

Finally, to refute that argument, which is without any merit whatsoever; I mean, sometimes we get close questions here. That one has no merit. There is nothing remotely in this bill that threatens anybody's speech. But here is the proof of it, and it also is a sign of the gross inconsistency of those on the other side. We are not starting down any path today, except the path of their illogic. What we are doing is adding a category to existing Federal categories. There are already on the books laws that create hate crimes. It is not the case that every crime is treated equally.

By the way, there was one category of people, and violence against them is much more seriously treated than violence against anybody else. If you are so offended by that, where is your motion to amend the law and take away the statute that says it is a super Federal crime to assault one of us. If a Member of Congress and a private citizen are walking down the street and they are both assaulted, it is a much more serious crime against the Member of Congress. Where is your consistency? If you mean what you say, why have you not gone after that, or is it okay if you are protected, Madam Speaker?

And then we have race on the books, and we have religion. Has anybody ever found a case where they say, well, once you do this, someone's free speech will be impugned? Are you telling me there are no racists in America? Are you telling me that no one makes racially offensive remarks? People do. And none of them, none of them have ever been prosecuted for hate speech.

So, in fact, you deny the reality, Madam Speaker, when people say this, that there are already on the books certain categories that are treated as hate crimes. None of them have led to there being any impugning of people's free speech.

Then the question is, why do we want to do this? In the first place, no one is saying that if you were violently assaulted, you will not be protected by the law. Why do we add an additional element if it is a hate crime? And here is the reason: When people are going out and singling out people because of their race or their color; and, by the way, if people who are white are being assaulted by people of another race because of their race, that is a hate crime, and it ought to be treated as such. I do not share the view that that is a bad thing. It is wrong for thugs to tyrannize people because of that, and it is worse than another crime for this reason.

If some individual is walking down the street and is randomly assaulted, he or she is traumatized. But if another individual is singled out because of her race or religion or sexual orientation or gender, then it is not simply the individual who has been assaulted but others who share that characteristic who are put in fear.

We do have a particular problem. The gentleman said, well, you are saying gender instead of sex. Yes, there are people who are transgendered in our society. They are sadly often victimized. They are often victims of violence. Yes, I think it is a good idea to come to their aid. And if the gentleman thinks it is a mistake to go to the aid of people who are transgendered who are more often than others victimized and who are put in fear for that, then we do disagree, and I welcome the chance to vote on it.

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Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman for the time.

Does he then seek to undo the Federal law that singles out race and religion currently for a protection of this sort? If he thinks it is wrong to do division, does he oppose the existence of those laws and do we expect to see a law repealing these?

Mr. FEENEY. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

No, but I will support my colleague when he files the bill to take away the special protections of Members.

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Well, why not race and religion?

Mr. FEENEY. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman for his question.

The point of this is that we should not be giving certain people special protections that we are not giving all Americans, and the gentleman earlier stated that he thinks it is very different for a thug to come along and batter, for example, somebody because of their race or their color or their ethnicity than it is to beat up somebody just on the street because of the fear it creates.

Madam Speaker, I can tell my colleagues that a lot of senior citizens, a lot of little old ladies carrying their purses from and to the market, one example, who are not protected by this bill live in fear every time they have to go out on to the streets. All of us deserve equal protection.

What we want to do in opposing this is make sure all Americans get the equal protection they are entitled to under the law.

Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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