Often, in Congress, we hear a great deal about problems. There is something very satisfying to be holding a hearing on solutions.
I want to commend the Task Force on the bipartisan nature of these proceedings. As I stated when this Task Force was formed, "Over-criminalization is an issue of liberty," and it is reassuring to see that we can find common ground when it comes to fundamental principles of American democracy.
The testimony from the Task Force's first regulatory hearing demonstrated the problems associated with agency regulations that carry criminal penalties. The Task Force heard testimony from two ordinary citizens who described their respective ordeals, noting that "If this can happen to us, it can happen to anyone."
There are several issues for us to consider today. I think there is wide bipartisan agreement that the Judiciary Committee should consider enacting a default mens rea standard for the federal code. However, there are many more areas to explore and solutions to consider. For example, I am interested in further examining the propriety of criminal sanctions, rather than stiffer civil penalties, for malum prohibitum offenses that society does not consider inherently wrong.
I am also interested in hearing our witnesses' perspective on whether Congress should consider codifying the common law rule of lenity, to ensure that courts apply it regularly and consistently.
Again, I commend the Task Force for its efforts to date to closely analyze the growing problem of over-criminalization. I am confident the Task Force will continue its bipartisan and effective analysis of this issue in the future. I thank our distinguished panel of witnesses, and look forward to their testimony.