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Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding to me.

Mr. Chairman, I am pleased that this appropriations bill increases funding for the United States Marshals Service to enhance judicial protection. We have all heard of the deadly shootings that have claimed the lives of a judge, a judge's family members, a court reporter, a sheriff's deputy, and others inside and outside courthouses and even at private residences. This increase in funding is a good step, but I hope this Congress will continue to address this important issue so that we can ensure the safety in our courtrooms and the safety of our distinguished jurists.

Mr. Chairman, in addition to the physical attacks we have witnessed, the judiciary has also been the subject of many verbal assaults as well. The independence of the judiciary, a matter so fundamental to our separation of powers, has recently come under attack and has even become a matter of contention for some, even those at the highest levels of leadership in Congress who have made no effort to disguise a growing hostility towards the courts.

In bill after bill, many of our colleagues have been calling to strip the courts of jurisdiction over issues where they believe the courts have erred, or might err, and arguing we have no need of them. The proposed sanction for judges who tread on this prohibited ground, and a word spoken in the Halls of Congress with less and less restraint: impeachment.

Perhaps the single greatest example of the magnitude of the challenge to the independence of the courts, though, came with the Congress's extraordinary intervention in the case of Terry Schiavo. This heartrending private tragedy became the focus of efforts to overturn the Florida courts' interpretation of Florida law. When the Federal courts rejected this private bill and its effort to provide jurisdiction to courts that could not properly exercise it, the reaction among many in Congress was one of wrath. The same congressional leaders who had spent the last several months trying to strip the Federal courts of jurisdiction were now trying to extend it where it did not belong. Some have decided that the independence of the judiciary is an inconvenient impediment to a results-at-all-costs philosophy.

As a Member of Congress with a strong interest in improving the relationship between the legislative and judicial branches, I have formed, with the gentlewoman from Illinois (Mrs. Biggert), a bipartisan congressional caucus dedicated to improving comity between the branches of government. Our Congressional Caucus on the Judicial Branch currently consists of some 35 Members from both sides of the aisle, and I encourage my colleagues who share our goal to join our efforts to restore the historical comity between our two branches.

For the last 2 years, Chief Justice Rehnquist has cited the deterioration in relations between the Congress and the Federal judiciary, using his year-end reports to urge a restoration of comity between the branches. He has quoted Chief Justice Hughes' admonition to the Congress of his day that ``in the great enterprise of making American democracy workable for all partners, one member of our body politic cannot say to another 'I have no need of thee.'''

So today I offer on the House floor a simple sense of Congress amendment to demonstrate to our colleagues in the judicial branch and to the American people that we are committed to working together with the other branches and to upholding the fundamental separation of powers that the Founders envisioned, even if we do not always agree with each other.

It reads: ``It is the sense of Congress that all necessary steps should be taken to provide adequate security for the judiciary and to protect and uphold the independence of the judicial branch.''

Mr. Chairman, efforts by Congress to force the courts to look at our transient wishes, rather than the Constitution, will damage the courts and undermine our own integrity. In the end, we cannot expect to belittle the courts without belittling ourselves. I urge support for this amendment.

I know the chairman has a point of order on this. I would like to, on a separate topic, just thank the chairman; and I would also like to thank not only the gentleman from Virginia (Chairman Wolf) but the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. Mollohan), ranking member, for their work on the NASA budget in particular as it impacted JPL. I really appreciate the chairman's diligence. He was very kind to meet and discuss this with me several times, to reach out to me after our discussions. I want to thank the chairman again for all his diligence on that issue.


Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, if the gentleman will yield further, I thank the chairman, and I do appreciate the increases in courthouse security. I would ask my colleagues to join in supporting not only the physical security measures, but also the independence of the institution of the judiciary.


Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

The CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.

The text of the amendment is as follows:

Amendment offered by Mr. Schiff:

At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following:


SEC. 801. None of the funds made available in this Act for a DNA analysis and capacity enhancement program, and for other State, local, and Federal forensic activities, may be used for a grant to a State that does not have in effect policies and procedures to ensure that the State collects DNA from every felon convicted in the courts of the State.

Mr. WOLF. Mr. Chairman, I reserve a point of order against the gentleman's amendment.

The CHAIRMAN. Pursuant to the order of the House of yesterday, the gentleman from California (Mr. Schiff) and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California (Mr. Schiff).

Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, as a former Federal prosecutor, I understand how the use of DNA profiles has become a powerful tool in solving crimes. States have taken the lead by expanding the use of DNA in crime-solving efforts.

The distinguished chairman's home in Virginia was the first to pass a DNA data bank law in 1989, requiring all convicted sex offenders to provide a DNA sample. Since then, Virginia has continued to be a leader in this area, expanding their law in 1990 to include all convicted felons, and further expanding it since. As a result of these laws, Virginia has obtained a staggering 2,747 hits by searching their database, solving countless crimes.

Because of the amazing crime-solving successes in Virginia, I introduced legislation in 2002 seeking to mandate an expansion of State collection regimes and an expansion of the Federal database by permitting States like Virginia to upload the increasing number and types of profiles they were obtaining.

At the time only 23 States had enacted legislation requiring DNA from convicted felons. Twenty-seven States, including my own State of California, were 12 years behind what Virginia had accomplished. Since then, I am pleased to report that 42 States have passed laws to require DNA from all convicted felons. It is now time for those last remaining eight States to come on board.

The U.S. Congress is putting a significant amount of money into DNA programs, over $177 million this year alone, with the goal of not just reducing backlogs, but also solving and preventing crimes. The eight States that do not currently collect from all convicted felons are not obtaining the hits that they should and are therefore making the entire system inefficient since cross-State matches are not being made.

These States must modernize their collection. Since these violent offenders know no State boundaries, the failure to upload these samples puts all citizens at risk, and the Federal Government has a compelling interest in making it so.

Statistics show that as many as half of the criminals that commit violent crimes have nonviolent criminal histories. Therefore, offenders who are required to submit DNA when convicted of nonviolent felonies will be identified as they leave DNA behind later at rape and murder scenes.

States originally thought there would be no law enforcement value to collecting samples from convicted felons when the crime was not sexual in nature or not particularly violent. They were wrong. Virginia's offender hits, primarily from previous nonviolent and nonsexual convictions, have aided over 2,700 investigations, including 15 rapes, 255 murders and 521 sex crimes.

Mr. Chairman, I will cite only one of the countless examples we have seen of the tragic consequences of inadequate DNA collection schemes. Some years ago, four Springfield, Massachusetts, women fell victim to a serial rapist and murderer.

The man who later turned out to be the rapist and murderer had prior nonviolent felony convictions for breaking and entering and for larceny. He was sentenced to community supervision. If Massachusetts at the time had required him to give a DNA sample after either of his 1996 convictions, a DNA match could have been obtained after the first rape and murder, thereby preventing the subsequent three tragedies. Massachusetts has since modernized their law to obtain samples from all convicted felons.

Mr. Chairman, the results speak for themselves. DNA databanks are most effective with the inclusion of at least all convicted felons and applied to all forms of cases. While I will withdraw this amendment, as I know the chairman has a point of order, I intend to introduce legislation to make these important changes and would very much like to work with the chairman on it.

Mr. Chairman, I do have a second amendment which I will not speak on now because the chairman was kind enough to let me speak on it earlier, but I would like to take the opportunity immediately after consideration of this amendment to make the formal offer of that amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw my amendment.

The CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from California?

There was no objection.


Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

The CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.

The text of the amendment is as follows:

Amendment offered by Mr. Schiff:

At the end of the bill (preceding the short title), insert the following:


SEC. 8__. It is the sense of Congress that all necessary steps should be taken to provide adequate security for the judiciary and to protect and uphold the independence of the judicial branch.


Mr. WOLF. Mr. Chairman, I make a point of order.

The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman will state his point of order.

Mr. WOLF. Mr. Chairman, I make a point of order against the amendment because it proposes to change existing law and constitutes legislation in an appropriation bill and therefore violates clause 2 of rule XXI.

The rule states in pertinent part: ``An amendment to a general appropriation bill shall not be in order if changing existing law.''

The amendment proposes to state a legislative provision.

The CHAIRMAN. Does any Member wish to be heard on the point of order?

Mr. SCHIFF. I do, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, I will be very brief, and I appreciate the opportunity to speak again on the substance of this amendment.

This is merely a sense of Congress respecting the integrity and the independence of the judiciary. I know the honorable chairman offered a sense of Congress amendment on Darfur last year to the appropriation bill. This is similarly merely a sense of Congress amendment asking that we not only observe the independence of the judiciary, but make sure we provide for the safety of the bench. We just saw another shooting today outside of a courthouse, and I would ask the chairman to consider this sense of Congress much as the one that was offered last session.

The CHAIRMAN. Does any further Member wish to be heard on the point of order? If not, the Chair is prepared to rule.

The Chair finds that this amendment expresses legislative sentiment. The amendment, therefore, constitutes legislation in violation of clause 2 of rule XXI.

The point of order is sustained and the amendment is not in order.


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