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Flag Desecration Amendment--Continued

Location: Washington, DC

FLAG DESECRATION AMENDMENT--Continued -- (Senate - June 27, 2006)


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I have great respect for the Senator from Hawaii, for his service as a veteran, as well as his service in this body, but I couldn't disagree more.

Our Founders used the word ``speech.'' They didn't say ``expression'' or ``expressive behavior.'' They used the word ``speech'' very critically. It was discussed in the documents: What word will we use in the Bill of Rights in this first amendment?

They chose the word ``speech'' because they meant speech. They didn't mean behavior. They meant speech.

I think it is real important for the American people to understand what this debate is all about. It is not about burning the flag. It is about restoring the balance of the three branches of Government, and that when one of the three becomes imbalanced, that we have the right to restore that balance. Our Founders were wise in that regard to give us this vehicle of amending the Constitution.

We can talk about the flag all we want, but the real debate here is, when an overwhelming majority of Americans agree with this and all 50 State legislatures have passed requests that we do this, why we don't do this? The only way we have to balance the judiciary with the legislative branch is to do it in a manner that represents the will of the people as prescribed by our Founders.

Seven new Republican Senators were elected in 2004, and if there was an issue that dominated that debate more than anything, it was, what kind of judges are we going to put on the courts? Are we going to confirm judges who take what they want, twist the Constitution into what they believe, and change the basics of how we operate in this country or are we going to put judges on the courts who understand that they have a very limited role to interpret the Constitution, interpret the treaties, and interpret the statutes of this country?

The reason we were sent here, the seven of us, the vast majority of the impact of that election, was to have an impact on what kinds of judges we were going to put on the courts. This is that same debate coming from a different angle. Do we want a 5-to-4 decision where five Members of the Court determine and twist what the real words of our Constitution say--speech, not behavior; it says ``speech,'' not behavior, not expressive conduct; it says ``speech''--and do we want to allow that to continue to be twisted or do we want to reserve the right for Congress to go through the method that our Founders allowed to bring about a constitutional amendment that says we have the right to control whether somebody can do that.

To vote against this amendment will limit the ability of this body to hold on to its balanced share of one-third of the power of this Government. This is about restoring the power of this body and the House to, in fact, represent what the people in this country want in an overwhelming majority in all 50 States.

It is not about burning the flag. It is about reestablishing the proper role of the balance of the three branches that run this country--the executive, the judiciary, and the legislative.

We are going to miss a great opportunity if we don't do this. It will do two things: One, it will reestablish the power, but it will send a signal that when judges take an oath, they have to follow the oath and the oath is not to determine what they think is best based on what they believe. Their oath is to follow the Constitution, not change it but follow it; and No. 2, interpret the statutes and interpret the treaties.

We have to reestablish a balance. This resolution is about reestablishing that balance and sending the message that we are serious that judges take their oath seriously, that they don't get to play games with what they would like but they, in fact, have to uphold their oath. They also have to follow what the Constitution says, and the Constitution says the same thing as their oath. They don't get the privilege of deciding what they want. They have the privilege of only deciding what the Constitution says, what the statutes say, and what the treaties say.

I remind the Members of this body that our Founders put the word ``speech'' in the first amendment on purpose. They didn't put the words ``expressive behavior.'' They used the word ``speech,'' and we ought to establish the right of the Congress to establish within itself the right to do what the American people want and to follow the Constitution. That is what this is about.

There have been a lot of statements made about what would you do with a flag; what about a bathing suit? The way you judge what is a flag is what you drape over the coffin of one of our fallen soldiers. That is how you judge what it is. That is what it means. You can't define what it is other than the value of service and sacrifice that is part of the heritage of this country. To say we cannot preserve the value of that and bring back our constitutional responsibility to do that--No. 1, which does follow the Constitution and, No. 2, is the desired will of this country--means that we won't stand up to the obligations of our office, and we ought to be very serious about it as we do that.

I yield the floor.

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