PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF H.R. 2028, PLEDGE PROTECTION ACT OF 2004 -- (House of Representatives - September 22, 2004)
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, by direction of the Committee on Rules, I call up House Resolution 781 and ask for its immediate consideration.
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Mrs. BIGGERT. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me time.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the rule for H.R. 2028, the Pledge Protection Act, because it makes in order an amendment that I strongly support. The amendment to be offered by my colleague, the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Watt), is very straightforward. It would restore to the bill the Supreme Court's jurisdiction over questions related to the Pledge of Allegiance, changing the bill back to the way it was originally introduced and as it was when I and 224 other Members of this body cosponsored it.
As introduced, H.R. 2028 would have restricted the Federal district courts and the appellate courts from hearing cases involving the Pledge of Allegiance.
When I signed on as a cosponsor of the original bill a week after its introduction back in May of 2003, H.R. 2028 was a good bill. It took care of those renegade jurists, but it retained the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court over this important constitutional issue.
Its title read, "To amend title 28, United States Code, with respect to the jurisdiction of Federal courts inferior to the Supreme Court over certain cases and in controversies involving the Pledge of Allegiance."
While the title has not changed, the content of the bill certainly has. As reported by the Committee on the Judiciary, H.R. 2028 now prohibits the Supreme Court from hearing such cases.
I recognize that Congress clearly has the authority under Article III of the Constitution to define the jurisdiction of the Federal district and appellate courts. The original H.R. 2028 was perfectly supportable on this point, for it related to the courts "inferior to of the Supreme Court."
I know that the gentleman from Wisconsin (Chairman Sensenbrenner) cited ex parte McCardle as authority under Article III to make exceptions to the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. But constitutional scholars say there is no direct precedent for making exceptions to the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
This unprecedented restriction of the Supreme Court's authority would violate the basic tenet of checks and balances within our system of government. The Founding Fathers created this balance of power within our democratic government to ensure the integrity of the Constitution. If the Supreme Court is not able to fulfill its constitutional purpose, our Federal Government will be unable to ensure that our laws reflect the rights set forth in our Constitution.
I would caution my colleagues to think twice before tampering with authorities clearly granted in the Constitution. The issue today may be the pledge, but what if the issue tomorrow is environmental protection, civil rights, second amendment rights or a host of other issues that Members may hold dear?
I would ask my colleagues not to succumb to a false comfort that the Supreme Court ultimately will strike down the legislation, so therefore it is acceptable to cast a politically expedient vote that you know is just wrong.
I would also ask my colleagues to think about, do we really want 50 different versions of the Pledge of Allegiance? I certainly do not think so. However, that is what could happen if you believe the Committee on the Judiciary's press release on this bill.
Its headline says it all, "Committee approves legislation allowing States to decide whether 'under God' should remain in the Pledge of Allegiance."
I believe the Supreme Court, not 50 different State courts, should be the final arbiter of any questions on the constitutionality of that congressionally approved phrase.
I come to the floor with a heavy heart on this but, Mr. Speaker, I revere the Constitution and the Pledge of Allegiance. I believe that "under God" are two of the most important words in the pledge. I also believe that the Supreme Court should be the final arbiter of all Federal questions. That is why I urge my colleagues to support this rule and the Watt amendment to the Pledge Protection Act.