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Public Statements

Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BROWN of Massachusetts. Madam President, I have enjoyed the previous speaker. It was very interesting.

I wish to shift gears and talk about S. 1728, the Stolen Valor Act of 2011. As many know, the Supreme Court recently struck down the Stolen Valor Act of 2011 by saying that lying about military awards, records, and service is protected by our first amendment rights. The Court has ruled. But let's be clear, it is wrong and cowardly for people to make fraudulent statements in order to receive distinctions they have not earned. Let me say that again. It is wrong and cowardly for people to make fraudulent statements in order to receive distinctions they have not earned.

As a 32-year member of the Army National Guard still serving, I feel very strongly about this issue, and I believe we need a Federal law to punish those who seek to benefit from making false claims and steal the true valor of our heroic men and women in uniform. My bipartisan, bicameral Stolen Valor Act of 2011 reminds me of the bill we worked on, the insider trading bill. We have an opportunity once again to send a powerful message to the American people that in the middle of the gridlock we can work together on something that makes complete sense. It addresses the Supreme Court's change by making a key change in order to protect first amendment rights. It would punish individuals who deliberately lie about their military service, their records or honors, with the intention of obtaining anything of value.

The key term is ``of value.'' One actually gets something of value as a result of their misrepresentations. Again, the new Stolen Valor Act makes it a Federal crime to lie about military service in order to profit or benefit, and that is the key distinction.

Yesterday, Congressman Joe Heck of Nevada and I--he is the lead sponsor in the House version of the bill, I in the Senate--held a press conference to start a fresh campaign to pass the new Stolen Valor Act. We had wonderful results. Within a few hours of that press conference, we gained 27 new cosponsors in the Senate, making a total of 29. I encourage the Presiding Officer and others on her side of the aisle to get involved in this very real effort to help our heroes who have served legitimately. Congressman Heck also has 67 bipartisan cosponsors in the House.

Also, yesterday, the Pentagon announced they will take a major step to deter con artists by establishing a searchable database of military awards and medals to confirm, in fact, that the person with whom one is dealing or speaking with is, in fact, deserving of the medals and honors they received.

It is clear this cause has momentum and the Supreme Court decision has given many a sense of urgency and clarity. In fact, today I wrote President Obama to ask for his public endorsement of the bill, very similar to the day he was walking up the aisle after the State of the Union and I said: Mr. President, I have a bill on Harry Reid's desk on insider trading. Let's get it out. He said: I will; I will get it out.

He can do the same here. He can give his public endorsement of this very important bill, and I am hopeful the Commander in Chief will lend his endorsement to this cause, to show leadership on this issue and give his blessing so we can actually get to work on legislation that will truly pass, I venture 99 to 0, in this Chamber. His voice would join several military organizations that endorsed the Stolen Valor Act of 2011: the Military Officers Association of America, the Association of the U.S. Army, Military Order of the Purple Heart, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

As bipartisan support of this effort grows, I ask my Senate colleagues who have not cosponsored the Stolen Valor Act of 2011 to get on board. It is time. It is time to send a very powerful message to the men and women who have served with dignity and honor that we respect that service and we are tired of the frauds who are out there perpetrating fraud and wearing medals and receiving honors to which they are not entitled.

If we choose to come together and pass this legislation, we can respond immediately to the Supreme Court's ruling with the urgency this issue deserves. It is very similar to how Senator McCaskill and I, in the middle of the gridlock a couple years ago, passed the Arlington Cemetery bill. We can do it with this legislation as well and send a message to the American people that we can work together and that unified message will protect the valor of our heroic veterans and servicemembers who defend our freedom and serve our country with the greatest of honor.

I yield the floor.


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