The likely chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in the next Congress outlined his agenda, telling Main Justice Wednesday that he will work hard with the Justice Department to combat crime and keep Americans safe.
Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the top Republican on the panel, which oversees the DOJ, said he would focus on efforts to improve national security, enforce immigration laws, reform the patent system, combat lawsuit abuse and fight child sexual exploitation if named chairman.
The chairman can subpoena DOJ officials in his oversight role. Smith, who has been highly critical of the DOJ under Attorney General Eric Holder, said in September that the biggest advantage of a Republican majority in the House would probably be the ability to “issue subpoenas and find out what this administration has been doing that the American people don’t know.”
The House member has raised concerns about several issues, including the DOJ’s decisions in the controversial voter intimidation case involving members of the New Black Panther Party, a proposal to try self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his alleged co-conspirators in a New York federal court, and reading Miranda warnings to terrorism suspects.
“Oversight is not a game of cat and mouse between Congress and the White House as the media often paints it,” Smith said in a statement to Main Justice. “Oversight is the legitimate and necessary work of Congress to improve the operation and function of the executive branch and ensure that federal agencies are operating in the best interests of the American people.”
Here’s his agenda:
1) Strengthen National Security: In the last year, there were three terrorist attempts (one successful) in the U.S. And in recent weeks, several additional terrorist plots were uncovered. The terrorist threat has not diminished. We have an urgent need to increase our efforts to prevent terrorist attacks.
We should not close the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay. The Pentagon has reported that 20 percent of released Gitmo terrorists have returned to planning attacks against Americans.
We should treat terrorists as enemy combatants, not U.S. citizens. Giving foreign terrorists constitutional rights has no legal precedent and makes it harder for prosecutors to obtain convictions. We should bring foreign terrorists to trial in military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, not in civilian courts in the U.S.
2) Enforce Immigration Laws: The enforcement of our immigration laws is critical to both our national security and economic prosperity. We need to know who is entering our country and why. The Judiciary Committee should enact policies that will better secure our border and discourage illegal immigration, human smuggling and drug trafficking. In the last five years, over 28,000 people have been killed along the border because of drug-related violence. More than 1,000 law enforcement personnel have died. Highway signs in Arizona more than 100 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border warn drivers that the area is unsafe because of drug and alien smugglers.
American citizens should not have to fear for their lives on U.S. soil! If the federal government enforced immigration laws, we could better secure the border and better protect U.S. residents.
Work site enforcement helps ensure that jobs go to unemployed citizens and legal immigrants. Unfortunately, work site enforcement efforts have dropped 77 percent in the last two years.
Citizens and legal immigrant workers should not have to compete with illegal immigrants for scarce jobs. Currently 14.8 million people are unemployed. Meanwhile, there are an estimated 7 million illegal immigrants in the work force. We could free up millions of jobs for Americans and legal immigrants if we enforced our immigration laws against illegal immigrant workers.
3) Patent Reform: Nearly 30 percent of American workers are found in intellectual property industries such as health care, entertainment, renewable energy and information-technology. Patents protect this intellectual property and encourage the creativity and innovation that generate jobs and increase productivity.
The theft of intellectual property costs Americans billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. When inventors and businesses invest in research and development that result in patents, they have the right to benefit from their efforts. The American economy benefits too by the jobs these patents create.
We need to improve our patent system to better protect intellectual property and help ensure that good patents are approved more quickly. There is bipartisan support for much-needed revisions to our patent system, which has not been significantly updated in over half a century.
4) Lawsuit Abuse Reform: We can reduce health care costs by enacting lawsuit abuse reform. We should consider ways to limit frivolous lawsuits that drive up health care costs. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, 40 percent of medical malpractice suits filed in the U.S. are “without merit.” The Congressional Budget Office estimates that lawsuit abuse reform would save federal taxpayers $54 billion over the next decade. This would help American families struggling with health care costs and protect medical personnel who are overburdened by the cost of malpractice insurance.
5) Combating Child Pornography/Child Sexual Exploitation: The Internet continues to be a playground for sex predators and pedophiles. Since the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children created the CyberTipline 12 years ago, electronic service providers have reported almost eight million images and videos of sexually exploited children. Many children are under assault by sex predators on the Internet. One in three kids receives unsolicited sexual content online and one in seven children is solicited for sex online. We need stronger data retention laws to help investigators track down predators who create and distribute child pornography online.