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The Longview News Journal - Amendment Protects Americans' Rights

Op-Ed

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Location: Washington, DC

By Representative Louie Gohmert

Sept. 11, 2001, is etched in the minds of every one of us over the age of 16. On that horrible day of death, our great nation was attacked and more than 3,000 innocent lives were taken by the hands of radical Islam. The country was in a state of panic.

One week later, while we still did not know who hit us and while Ground Zero was being carefully excavated for survivors, Congress passed a joint resolution named "Authorization for Use of Military Force." This resolution gave the president authorization to use all force he personally deemed necessary against those nations, organizations or persons he determined had planned, authorized, committed or aided the 9/11 terrorist attacks or attackers.

Like most Americans, I had not paid attention to that hurriedly thrown together resolution. It was not until the National Defense Authorization Act came up before Congress years later that I started researching the issue. Many became concerned with the act as being a grossly overreaching authorization. The National Defense Authorization Act was a mere extension of the original resolution. Having language that attempted a fix but did not actually change the status quo from the Authorization for Use of Military Force, the act itself did not give the president more power over citizens. However, it did not fix the significant underlying problem in the resolution, which it extended.

I was determined to fix the real problem of the original resolution. My staff and I spent a tremendous amount of time reviewing the offending language, working with legal experts and legislative counsel on it, crafting and critiquing proposed solutions, and doing continued legal research. Eventually, language was drafted that satisfied most all concerned, except for two groups who wanted to provide cover to foreign radical Islamists who were in our country illegally.

After confronting Speaker Boehner with my concerns, he gave me his assurance he would allow me to make an amendment so the president would not have more power over American citizens than he had before Sept. 18, 2001. We built a coalition of Republicans and some Democrat friends who wanted Americans protected as the Constitution guaranteed.

Though wrangling continued, I introduced an amendment with Reps. Landry, Rigell, Duncan and Barletta. For days, many tried to water down the rights that I demanded must be reinstated for those legally in the U.S. I fought for more protection, built a coalition, and won the internal fight. After hot debate, the Gohmert-Landry-Rigell-Duncan-Barletta amendment was adopted in the House by a vote of 243-173. Ultimately supported by the House Armed Services Committee and the Heritage Foundation, adoption of this amendment was a great victory for the Constitution and all American citizens.

Leftists and an Islamic group, which was shown in federal court to have ties to known terrorists, wanted an alternative amendment passed that gave rights to foreign terrorists illegally in the U.S. and captured on our soil. They even convinced some well-meaning libertarians to support their positions. However, their language gave incentives to foreign terrorists to enter the U.S. illegally as it would then be the safest place in the world for them.

Disinformation by groups mentioned above has confused many. However, the fact remains the leftists and radical Islamic-backed proposal would have provided greater judicial rights to foreign terrorists illegally in the U.S. than our own military receive under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

America was built on a foundation of unequivocal rights that were endowed to us by our Creator. That's our heritage. It's vital to give people more than just a feeling of protection; their rights must actually be protected. My amendment did that, despite what a previous letter writer (letters, Sept. 18) said. For a U.S. president to have been granted that much power by an overly subservient Congress was simply wrong, and I was able to provide the fix.

It is now up to the U.S. Senate to act on the House language that includes my amendment and fix the 2001 law to protect and ensure the future rights and liberties of all Americans.


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