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Freedom Of Speech


Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CARTER. Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight to sort of do a continuation of a theme that I have been discussing, but this one has gotten to the point where I'm very concerned about the seriousness of the offense.

We talked about failure of certain Members of Congress to pay their taxes, failure of Members of Congress to not disclose the influence peddling that is going on. We've talked about a lot of things. Last week we talked about the rule of law and how many are trying to circumvent the rule of contract.

In fact, I read today in the Wall Street Journal that the compensation czar is going to renegotiate the contracts. I assume that means strong-arm the parties to renegotiate the contracts on certain compensation packages; and however offended we may be by compensation packages, there are certain rules of contract that should be honored. That is one of the backbones of our Nation's freedom is that we have the right to make a deal and then be bound by it. But that's a different subject.

Tonight I want to talk about a subject that I think that if this doesn't concern people back home, if this doesn't concern the Members of this body, then I don't really know what will.

It is because the issue we are talking about here is something that is the beginning of tyranny, and it is something we should all be very concerned about, and that is when a political group starts to step on the free speech rights of others in this Nation.

Now, you may feel like this is a position that I am taking that is untenable, but I am going to tell you that 652,000 people in the various districts, and most of the districts in my State have grown to a million now, send a person to Washington, D.C., to speak and to communicate with them back home about what is going on here in Washington, and they expect to hear the words and the ideas and the thoughts of their elected representative when that elected representative is communicating with them back in Washington, D.C.

But recently, in fact, you started seeing some of this pop up back during what they called the cap-and-trade and we call the cap-and-tax bill, but it has gone now to where it has become rampant on this issue of health care. An organization that is designed to set rules concerning how we spend government money in communicating with our people back home--it is called the Franking Commission. It is made up of, as I understand it, and I could have the number wrong, three Republicans and three Democrats, and both are submitted a communication, say a weekly newsletter, that is sent back home or the lead-in to a telephone townhall or an e-mail back home, an instant e-mail telling people what is going on this day in Congress. And these things have to be submitted if they are being paid for by government money to the Franking Commission.

The Franking Commission, in a simple way to say it, they just basically don't think you should be using the government's money for politics. But they have never in the history of the Republic taken the position you don't have the right to express your opinion on the policies that are being proposed, or that you must reword the policies to suit the language of someone else. It is almost like, I hate to say it, political correctness run amok.

I want to start off by telling you what happened to me, and then I want to tell you what has happened to some of my colleagues, and I am going to be joined by some of those colleagues.

It is important that you understand that I write to my folks or I communicate with my folks back home every day. One of the tools I use is called a telephone townhall. On a telephone townhall you make a recorded message that leads into the townhall, and part of the recorded message is to tell the people what you are going to be talking with them about for the next hour, so they know what the subject matter is, because it narrows the scope and we get to narrow down the things we talk about.

So we made a telephone townhall recording submission to the Franking Commission in which I proposed to say the Democratic Party is offering their government-run health care program in the next 2 weeks, and this is what we are going to talk about tonight. The Franking Commission came back and told me I could not say ``government-run health care'' and I could not say ``the Democratic Party.'' I had to say the majority party is submitting its public option health care program.

In other words, what they are telling me is I have to use the same language that the President of the United States uses in his speech, or that Nancy Pelosi uses when Nancy Pelosi talks about this, ``public option,'' which they have done polls to discover that ``public option'' sounds better than ``government-run health care.''

But that is their opinion. I as an American citizen and a Member of this body am entitled to express my title for that to my constituents back home, and in fact to the entire American public, to say in my opinion they are submitting their government-run health care program. And I would submit there is no other real way you can describe that if you believe the government is running it, because it says the government is running it.

It is not like they are going to contract out, subcontract to insurance companies to put together a policy. No. The United States Government is going to offer a health care plan for the American public and it is going to be run by the Federal Government, the United States Government. That is the plan. That is what they are submitting in their 1,018-page health care plan, which to this point has not been completed and finally marked up, and we haven't seen the final product. And if it goes the way it has gone since we have been in Congress since January, when Mr. Obama was sworn in, this Congress will present it to us sometime between midnight and 2 in the morning of the morning before we vote on it.

But getting back to the seriousness of this situation, I was taken back by what they did to me. But it is not just about me. If it was just about me, I would not be standing up here. But I felt like they were telling me what I had to say. I had to use someone else's words to describe something that I wanted to describe.

But that wasn't all. My colleague Kevin Brady from Texas, and he may be here later on, we were delayed because of weather for a long time tonight, and Mr. Brady told me he would get here if he could, as fast as he could, within this hour.

My friend Kevin Brady prepared this chart. And what this chart is is Mr. Brady's interpretation of all of the entities that exist or that are being created by this plan that is put together by the Democrats, and it is what stands between the consumers, that is this little body of folks right here, and the health care professionals over there, and all of this stands between them.

Mr. Brady was told that he could not mail this to his constituents. He asked why, and they said it is not true. And he said, well, that is fine. Point to me one entity that is not in the bill, one, just one, and I will pull it down.

No one could point to any entity that is not contained in the bill. Everything that is seen on this chart is contained in the bill. But the point of this was they were trying to curtail Mr. Brady's freedom to express himself, his freedom of speech in this body.

Now, if you want to really lean and say, Oh, sure that is fair, they ought to be able to do that, well, let's look at something here that is kind of interesting.

Back during the Hillary Clinton ``HillaryCare'' debate, another chart was introduced into this Congress. It is not as pretty as Mr. Brady's, because it is not in color. This chart, during the HillaryCare debate, was submitted to the Franking Commission. I don't remember the date. Maybe it is on here. Anyway, it was during the HillaryCare debate, what was that, 1993, back in 1993, by Dick Armey of Texas. It went to the Franking Commission, and the Democrats and the Republicans approved it as appropriate to communicate to constituents with.

So what has changed between the nineties and the first debate about health care, which was approved by both parties, and today, 2009, which was blocked and refused by the Democrat Members of the Franking Commission? What has changed is someone is trying to tell us we don't have the right to speak our minds in the United States Congress.

Now, when you get a huge majority like they have in the House, and the 60 vote majority in the Senate, maybe you feel like the mandate is so great that you have the right to circumvent the freedom of speech of the Members of Congress on the minority side. But you don't.

Congressman Joe Barton used the words ``Democratic majority'' in his newsletter. The Franking Commission kicked it out and said he had to use ``congressional majority.'' But in Nancy Pelosi's newsletter in 2006 when she was in the minority, you find this statement: ``But too many here and across our Nation are paying the price for the Republican congressional majority's special interest agenda.''

So why was it okay for the now-Speaker of the House just in 2006 to use ``Republican congressional majority,'' but it is not okay for Mr. Barton to use the term ``Democrat majority?'' He has sent this back along with Ms. Pelosi's statement and is awaiting a response from the Franking Commission.

Now, what is wrong with that? Well, what is wrong with that is that if you await a response from the Franking Commission, then you lose your time to communicate. You try to communicate on issues as they come up. This had to do with cap-and-trade before it passed the House. He was not allowed to use it.

A Florida colleague submitted a franking review for the week of July 13th that said, This bill imposes a new payroll tax on employers who do not provide their employees with insurance. The Democrats demanded it be changed to read, In my opinion, this bill imposes a new payroll tax on employers who do not provide the employees with insurance.

The problem is, it is not an opinion; it is a fact. It was pointed out to them on page 150 of their own bill. It says specifically the language that was quoted by a colleague from Florida.

Mr. Ken Calvert from California pointed out that he quoted verbatim from President Obama in a speech that he made at his recent townhall meeting on health care in which he quoted this quote. When a lady asked about her elderly mother and special treatment for her elderly mother with heart troubles and receiving a pacemaker, the President, this is a direct quote from his speech, which was not allowed to be sent out and was deleted from Mr. Calvert's newsletter, it was a direct quote: ``Look, the first thing of all is to understand that we actually have some choices to make about how we want to deal with our end-of-life care. We as a culture, as a society, can start to make better decisions within our own families and for ourselves. At least we can let doctors know and your mom know that you know what--maybe it isn't going to help. Maybe you are better off not having the surgery, but taking painkillers.''

That was a direct quote from the President at his conference, news conference, townhall, which was not allowed to go in Mr. Calvert's newsletter by the Franking Commission.

There are more stories, but the following people have had censorship of their language recently: Representative Herger, Representative Lamar Smith, Representatives Lamborn, Bonner, Westmoreland, Olson, Shuster, Roskam, McCotter, Gingrey, Fleming, Boustany, Brady, Conaway, Price, Culberson, Garrett, Kline and Lee. All have been in some form or fashion censored in their freedom of speech.

Folks, if they will take the freedom of speech away from your Members of Congress, when will they take it away from the press? When will they take it away from the people? When will they take it away from you and your children and the next generation of Americans that we pass this great, beloved freedom on to, the right of an American to stand up and speak his mind?

Yet this party, in control of this House, is starting to interfere with the freedom of speech of American citizens who are elected by other American citizens to represent them on the floor of Congress. Well, I have talked for a long time, but I am upset about what's going on. I am joined by some of my colleagues.

I yield to my friend Judge Poe from Texas for whatever time he needs.


Mr. CARTER. I thank my friend for reminding us of Texas history. In reading over the list of people that have had the Franking Commission censor their language, I failed to mention Congressman Spencer Bachus, who's the ranking member of the Financial Services Committee and has had just horrendous hard times this year with all the issues of bailouts and all the things that are going on in the financial service industry. He submitted the term ``government-run health care.'' This is his exact sentence. ``Government-run health care system proposed by President Obama and his liberal allies in Congress.'' They would not allow him to say that.

He was also told during the cap-and-trade--we say cap-and-tax bill, which is our description of the bill, they would not let him use the term ``cap-and-tax'' and wanted it to be climate bill. He also had his language censored. One of my colleagues made the point, said, When people start censoring your language and telling you what to say, I think that most people in America start saying, Why are you doing that? We've got free speech in this country. Those are my elected representatives. They have the right to express their opinion. Why are you not letting them have that right to express their opinion? Why can't they call something a government-run health care that you want to call a public option plan? That ought to be part of the debate. I think the American people would ask that question.

I would also think they would ask the question about this chart, Why are you wanting to hide this? What's there to hide? If it creates those agencies, then it creates them. And we have asked and asked and asked to point out what agency that it says, and it's the colored agencies that are being created that aren't in the bill, and no one has yet pointed out one that's not in the bill.

So why can't we show it to people? Why would a branch of this House tell Members of this House what they can and can't say to the people that elected them to come up here and speak on their behalf?

I think we should be concerned about this. I think Americans should be worried. If they start telling us what we can say, when are they going to start telling you what you can say? You know, if we let it go, we are just as guilty as those who have let tyranny go in the past.

We, as Americans, fought a revolution to be able to set down in black and white, on paper, our God-given rights, and that's what our Constitution says. Man is endowed with these rights by his creator, certain unalienable rights, and we define those rights by setting them down in black and white in amendments to the Constitution.

In the first sentence of the First Amendment, it says that this House--this body, this government--shall not infringe on the right of free speech. I mean, it is a direct directive to this government. That means the House of Representatives of the Congress cannot interfere with the freedom of speech in this country. The Senate cannot interfere, and the executive branch, the President, and any of the agencies cannot impose upon the right of free speech in America. Yet a body created to decide how stamps are going to be spent is now telling us what we can and cannot say to the people who sent us up here.

I don't think I'm blowing this out of proportion. I don't think I was when Mr. Brady was told he could not publish this initially, in any form or fashion, until it was discovered that the Internet--you know, the Internet is a great protector of American freedom because the average American can make a copy of this, and he can send it to the world on the Internet. The Franking Commission can talk all they want to. It's already out there. If you had something to hide, the fact that you had something to hide will also be out there all over the world.

We feel like we have a duty and a responsibility to talk to and to communicate with the people who sent us up here to represent them. The majority party has every right, the Democrats have every right, to express their opinions on bills, to say what they think they say. We can say what we think they say, and we can describe them as we want to describe them. That's what this House is all about. We like to say this is the greatest experiment of democracy in history, the greatest experiment of self-government in history. Well, it can't be if somebody is curtailing the voice of even one of the Members of this body, if somebody is telling one Member that he can't do it.

Now, if this chart were written and if every third word said, ``Elect Candidate Brady to Congress,'' the Franking Commission would have every right to do this because that would be using government money for one's own purposes toward being elected to Congress. If it said, ``Elect only Republicans to Congress,'' I agree that the Franking Commission would have every right to say that because, quite frankly, that's why they're there, to keep us from using government money for political purposes.

Yet, when you're expressing your opinion and when you go to the trouble of using four researchers to dig through and to find out every agency that has been created in the new health care plan that is being proposed by this Congress and at the instruction of this President, Mr. Obama, and if these things are created, why can't you tell people about them?

If I want to describe the Federal Government's public health care plan as a government-run health care plan and if I choose to describe it that way because the government is going to run it, I mean, this isn't rocket science. The government is going to run it. In fact, a whole lot of these agencies are established to help them run it.

If I want to describe it that way, I've got a constitutional right to do that, and no colleague in this House and no organization set up by this House has the right to curtail the freedom of Americans, especially the Representatives of Americans, to speak their minds.

It may be a little thing, but do you know what? It just takes one drop of water, and eventually the bucket is full and then the barrel is full, and then the lake is full.

I didn't count these names, but I can count them. There's this list right here. Let's see, twenty-four Members of this House have had their language censored and their communications stopped because of something that they said, like ``government-run health care'' or like using the term ``Democrat majority'' in the newsletter. If this is going to happen--if you're going to tell people you can't state that the bill imposes taxes when it does impose taxes, if you're being told you can't send the letter out and that you can't communicate--I don't think you can define it any other way than as curtailing the freedom of speech in the United States. That's what's going on.

I've talked in the past about the fact that, a while back, in the middle of these Special Orders when we've been talking about the rule of law and about other things, Congress has just adjourned. We have a 3-day reading rule proposed by Thomas Jefferson that has been set as the standard for this House of Representatives since the beloved Thomas Jefferson, the patron saint of the Democratic Party. Yet the 3-day rule promised by the Speaker, promised by the President and established by Thomas Jefferson hasn't applied to a single one of these bills we've had thus far, not to one, not to one of these major bills starting clear back in the fall. Not one of them has given us 3 days to read them.

Yet if you'll remember, John Boehner dropped one that was about that tall--3,000 pages. He dropped it on the floor to show that we'd had 8 hours to look at it.

Now, I guess it's one of these things where, if you don't step up and speak now on the little things, like making you change your language or like telling you you can't mail your letter, then at some point in time, somebody is going to tell you, I'm sorry, Congressman, your opinion is not wanted here on this floor of the House. Sit down. You can't talk at all, or I'm sorry, that party's opinion is not wanted, and you can't talk at all, or whatever, or maybe, Your opinion is not wanted, and you can't express it at all.

That's not America. That's not the America that we created. That's not the America we are proud of. That's not the America we honor when we salute the flag and when we sing patriotic songs. That's not the America that we want.

We were talking about the national health care plan. I really haven't gone into the merits of it. I think my colleague did a very good job of going into the merits of it. I am so concerned about the fact that they're censoring. All I said was ``government-run,'' and it's like I committed a crime. What in the world would have happened if I'd started really saying what I thought about it?

I did see something on television yesterday on PBS. It was on Winston Churchill. He was kicked out of office in 1946, '47 or '48, something like that, by the Labor Party in England. He was reelected, I believe, in 1950, but don't hold me to those dates. They showed him making a speech. I won't quote it exactly, but it was close.

He said, 2 years ago, we thought socialism was the solution to all of our problems. Today, we know that it's not, and, in fact, it has failed miserably.

However, they passed socialized medicine in 1948, and even though Mr. Churchill came in in 1950 and said that socialism had failed, that was almost 60 years ago, they've still got socialized medicine. It failed then and it's failing now. Ronald Reagan said the hardest, closest thing to eternal life on the face of the Earth is a government program. Once it's created, you never get rid of it.

So, as to the government-run health care plan, once it becomes law--that's why they're in such a hurry to do it this week. We don't have any time. The sky is falling. We can't wait 30 more days to discuss this problem that's going to change America as we know it, that's going to completely change the way we do health care as we know it. We can't have just 30 more days to talk about it back home with our constituents. We can't kick this ball down the road.

We've got to do it when it really came to the center portion of this House 2 weeks ago. Most of the committees that reported it out reported it out last week. We've been told if we don't do it by Friday, we'll keep you Saturday and Sunday. If you don't do it Saturday and Sunday, we'll keep you next week or the week after, but you're going to do it before you go home for the August recess.

That's fine. I stood up here most of last August, talking in a dark Chamber because they turned off the lights and wouldn't let us talk, so we just talked in the dark. So I don't mind. I'll stay up here the whole August recess if that's what's supposed to happen. They're trying to hurry because the closest thing to eternal life seen on this Earth is a government program, and once these government programs are in place, you'll never get rid of them. That is the consequence of being in a hurry.

I'll just point out that we got in a hurry on TARP, that we got in a hurry on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and that we got in a hurry on the stimulus bill. We got in a hurry on cap-and-trade. We've been in a hurry on everything we've done this year, and I think everybody is seeing the results of not thinking things out and of not doing what we're supposed to be doing.

I love it when somebody says we're the greatest deliberative body on Earth. Then let's deliberate. You know, I've had juries deliberate longer on an issue than we're dealing with on health care for America. I mean, I had a jury deliberate for 2 weeks. We're in the second week this week, and not one committee has marked up and reported out a bill yet. The biggest committee and arguably the most important committee, Energy and Commerce, has not sent us a completed bill. Yet we are expected to finish it this week.

I had a jury deliberate, I believe it was 2 and maybe 3 weeks, close to 21 days, on a water tank and on a water system in Taylor, Texas. So this has got to be a little more critical to the American people than that.

It's about freedom. It's about liberty. It's about your liberty and my liberty to rely upon. The Bill of Rights and the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights says that this Congress shall not impose upon freedom of speech in America.

I thank the Speaker for his time. I yield back the balance of my time.


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