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Private Property Rights

Location: Washington, DC

PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS -- (House of Representatives - November 01, 2005)


Mrs. BLACKBURN. I thank the gentleman from Georgia for yielding to me and inviting me to participate this evening as we do talk about our rights and private property rights and what makes America great.

As we begin this discussion, Mr. Speaker, I want to touch on something that a couple of our previous speakers, our colleagues across the aisle, had brought up, because we talk so much about what makes America so unique and so wonderful, and private property is one of those.

I know the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Gingrey) and so many of our colleagues have joined me in working with some of the individuals in Iraq as they have fought to establish their freedom and to seek to have the opportunity to own private property. And I found it so interesting listening to some of my colleagues as they were talking about how Iraq was a quagmire and things were not going right. And I thought, my goodness, you think about the thoughtfulness that our Founding Fathers put into establishing this Constitution and the years and years and the hard work that went into this as they came together as a body, as they met, as they came about developing that Constitution, as they worked to list out a Bill of Rights and things that they thought would be so important. It did not happen overnight. It did not happen within a year, and it did not happen within 2 years.

I could not help but think we have just witnessed a big vote in Iraq, very successful. Over 65 percent of the people in that great nation came out and voted on a Constitution. We are watching a nation walk very consistently and very slowly. Some days they take a few steps forward. Some days they take a step or two back; but they have to keep plugging along, working toward the time when they will enjoy the freedoms and the fruit and the benefits of a free society. And one of those definitely is private property.

Many of my constituents, as the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Gingrey) said, they know that that fifth amendment is important. They have worked hard to be able to stake out their little corner of the world. As some of them have said to me, We know something is wrong. It is not happening right in Washington when they see decisions like the Kelo decision. The people have a very fine-tuned sense of right and wrong, and they know it is wrong when the Supreme Court paves the way for the government to come in and seize private property in order to build malls and other commercial-venture structures. They know there is just not something right about that.

I rarely use the term un-American; but, Mr. Speaker, if there is anything that strikes me and my constituents as contrary to our values, it is this Kelo decision and there is just something about it that strikes it being un-American. It was a stunning display of judicial activism as the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Gingrey) has pointed out.

The Supreme Court stepped all over our property rights. And in Tennessee we watched this with a little bit of added interest because not only did we think in terms of those tangible property rights, but we think about those intellectual property rights that are so very important to our creative community, to our writers, to our television producers, to our film producers, looking at protecting both the tangible and the intellectual property rights. Our rights as Americans, our economy are based on very strong principles of private property ownership, private property protection, and the ability to work hard and to benefit by exercising those rights. It is such a fundamental right that it is hard to imagine our courts infringing upon it, but that is what they have done.

I certainly hope, and I know my colleagues that are gathered here tonight join me in having hope, that American property owners at home will know that they have an ally in this fight and they have an advocate in this discussion, and it is the majority here in this House of Representatives. It is this Republican majority. And I hope that the 69 percent of American homeowners who were watching this debate and watching our work on this legislation this week will know that we stand with them in maintaining that home ownership. We are just as concerned with this eminent domain issue as the American people are and we are going to work to strengthen the laws to protect private property, both real and intangible.

This week we are taking up the Private Property Rights Protection Act. We might not be able to overturn the Supreme Court's Kelo decision, that is not within our jurisdiction; but we can make sure that not one single penny of taxpayer money, not one single penny of Federal funds is used to support the forced taking of your private property by local and State governments. This bill will ensure that any State or locality abusing their eminent domain power by using economic development as a rationale for a taking will not be trusted with Federal economic development funds that could contribute to similarly abusive land grabs. And we are going to provide access to State and Federal courts for those who believe this bill has violated, has been violated in the seizure of their property.

All of us want economic development for our community. We also want our citizens to be secure in the knowledge that their property is just that, that it is their property. We do not want them to fear that that fundamental right has been infringed upon and their property taken for development.

I hope all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join with us in supporting this much-needed legislation.


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