Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 02100744 (posted Oct. 7, 2002)"
Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy
Final Passage of the Conference Report on H.R. 2215
21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act
October 3, 2002
Mr. President, I thank the Senate for voting today to end debate and to pass the
bipartisan 21st Century Department of Justice Authorization Act conference
report. I commend the Majority Leader for bringing this important legislation
the floor and filing cloture in order for the Senate to take final action on the
conference report. I regret that consideration and a vote on final passage on
this important measure was delayed, but I thank the overwhelming majority of my
colleagues for supporting cloture and passage of the conference report.
This measure was passed by the House, by a vote of 400 to 4, last Thursday. All
Democrats were prepared to pass the conference report that same day last week
and any day this week. Given the Republicans’ objection to proceed to a vote and
given the refusal to agree to a time agreement, the Majority Leader was required
to file cloture. I am glad that the filibuster is over. This legislation is
truly bipartisan. It passed the House 400 to 4. The conference report was signed
by every conferee, Republican or Democrat, including Senator Hatch and
Representatives Sensenbrenner, Hyde, and Lamar Smith.
Senators from both sides of the aisle spoke in favor of the legislation. In
particular, I thank Senator Hutchison for coming to the floor on Tuesday to
support this conference report. Senator Hutchison has spoken to me many times
about the need for more judgeships along the Texas border with Mexico to handle
immigration and criminal cases. The conference report includes three new
judgeships in the conference report for Texas, one more than was included in the
bill reported to the Senate by the Senate Judiciary Committee and passed by the
Senate last December.
I thank Senator Sessions for his statements on Tuesday and today in support of
this bipartisan conference report. Although he opposes Senator Hatch’s
legislation regarding automobile dealer arbitration, which enjoys more than 60
Senate cosponsors and 200 House cosponsors and was included in the conference
report, Senator Sessions is supporting this conference report because it will
improve the Department of Justice and support local law enforcement agencies
across the nation. I appreciate Senator Sessions’ work on the provisions in the
conference report on the Paul Coverdell Forensic Sciences Improvement Grants and
the Centers for Domestic Preparedness in Alabama and other States. Senator
Brownback also spoke in favor of certain immigration provisions in this bill
that he worked on with Senator Kennedy, the Chairman of the Immigration
Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee. In particular, the conference report
includes language sought by Senators Conrad and Brownback to reauthorize the
program allowing foreign doctors educated in the United States to remain here if
they will practice in underserved communities. This is a crucial provision to
ensure that residents in some of our most rural states receive adequate medical
care. The conference report also contains another important immigration
provision to permit H-1B aliens who have labor certification applications caught
in lengthy agency backlogs to extend their status beyond the sixth year
limitation or, if they have already exceeded such limitation, to have a new H-1B
petition approved so they can apply for an H-1B visa to return from abroad or
otherwise re-obtain H-1B status. Either a labor certification application or a
petition must be filed at least 365 days prior to the end of the 6th year in
order for the alien to be eligible under this section. The slight modification
to existing law made by this section is necessary to avoid the disruption of
important projects caused by the sudden loss of valued employees. At a time when
our economy is weak, this provision is intended to help. I thank Senator Kennedy
and Senator Brownback for their work on this provision and their contributions
to the conference report.
I thank Senator Feinstein for her excellent speech earlier this week in support
of this conference report. Senator Feinstein has been a tireless advocate for
the needs of California, including the needs of the federal judiciary along the
southern border. She has led the effort to increase judicial and law enforcement
resources along our southern border. I am proud to have served as the chair of
the House-Senate conference committee that unanimously reported a bill that
includes five judgeships for the Southern District of California. Long overdue
relief for the Southern District of California could be on the way once this
conference report is adopted.
Senator Biden also contributed a great deal to this conference report. He has
fought doggedly to authorize a new Violence Against Women Office at the Justice
Department, and his efforts have borne fruit in this legislation. He has also
been one of the Senate’s best advocates for reauthorizing the Juvenile Justice
and Delinquency Prevention Act, which we do here. In addition, he was a
cosponsor of the Drug Abuse Education, Prevention, and Treatment Act, and we
have included many provisions from that bill in this conference report.
I also would like to thank Senator Durbin for statements on the Senate floor and
his dedicated efforts to authorize a new Violence Against Women Office, to
expand the number of Boys and Girls Clubs in our nation, and to create new
judgeships in Illinois. Senator Kohl was a tremendous help in our efforts to
reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, especially
Title V of that Act, which provides for crucial prevention programs for our
nation’s youth. Senator Carnahan deserves the credit for the inclusion of the
Law Enforcement Tribute Act in this conference report. That provision provides
Federal assistance for local communities seeking to honor fallen law enforcement
officers. Without her tireless work, we would not have been able to include that
provision in this conference report.
For his part, Senator Feingold was able to include his and Senator Hatch’s Motor
Vehicle Franchise Contract Arbitration Fairness Act in this conference report.
That bill will ensure that auto dealers will have a level playing field in their
disputes with the auto manufacturers.
Finally, I also thank Senator Reid for his helpful comments and support
throughout the debate on the legislation. Of course, our bipartisanship is
evidenced by our including authorization for additional judgeships not only in
California but also in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Ohio, North
Carolina, Illinois and Florida. I have tried to improve on the record
In the six and one-half years that they controlled the Senate, the Republican
majority was willing to add only eight judgeships to be appointed by a
Democratic President, and most of those were in Texas and Arizona, States with
two Republican Senators. We have, on the other hand, proceeded at our earliest
opportunity to increase federal judgeships by 20, including in the border States
where they are most needed, well aware these positions will filled with
appointments by a Republican President who has shown little interest in working
with Democrats in the Senate. These include a number of jurisdictions with
I also commend the senior Senator from California for her leadership on the
“James Guelff and Chris McCurley Body Armor Act,” the State Criminal Alien
Assistance Program reauthorization, and the many anti-drug abuse provisions
included in this conference report.
She spoke eloquently on the floor of the Senate regarding many of the important
provisions she has championed in this process. This conference report will
strengthen our Justice Department and the FBI, increase our preparedness against
terrorist attacks, prevent crime and drug abuse, improve our intellectual
property and antitrust laws, strengthen and protect our judiciary, and offer our
children a safe place to go after school. This conference report is the product
of years of bipartisan work. By my count, the conference report includes
significant portions of at least 25 legislative initiatives. This legislation is
neither complicated nor controversial. It passed the House overwhelmingly and in
short order with a strong bipartisan vote.
I thank my colleagues again for supporting the cloture motion and final passage
of this conference report so that all of this bipartisan work and all the good
that this legislation will do, will reach the President’s desk. I particularly
want to thank Senator Hatch, who worked very hard to help construct a good, fair
and balanced conference report as did all of the conferees. Likewise, I want to
thank Chairman Sensenbrenner and Representative Conyers of the House Judiciary
Committee for working with us to conclude this conference report successfully.
The staffs of these Members must also be thanked for working through the summer
and over the last month to bring all the pieces of the conference report
together into a winning package. In particular, the House Judiciary Committee
staff has been enormously helpful, including Phil Kiko, Will Moschella, Blaine
Merritt, Perry Apelbaum, Ted Kalo, Sampak Garg, Bobby Vassar, and Alec French. I
would also like to thank the staff of the House Education and Workforce
Committee, including Bob Sweet and Denise Forte. The Senate Judiciary Committee
staff has shown its outstanding professionalism and I want to thank Bruce Cohen,
Beryl Howell, Ed Pagano, Tim Lynch, Jessica Berry, Robyn Schmidek and Phil
Toomajian, Makan Delrahim, Leah Belaire, Michael Volkov, Melody Barnes, Esther
Olavarria, Robert Toone, Neil MacBride, and Louisa Terrell.
I appreciate that not all Members were or could be conferees and participate in
the conference, but after a full opportunity to study the conference report
passed last week in the House by a vote of 400 to 4, I hope that even those
Members who raised objection will conclude that on the whole this is a good,
solid piece of legislation. Although the debate is over, I want to address the
objections raised by a few Members to this legislation. I thank these Members
for coming to the floor to discuss their views and concerns, and want to show
them the respect they deserve by responding to those objections. I should note
that even in posing an objection to and delaying passage of the conference
report -- as is their rights as Senators -- these Members acknowledged that
there were parts of this bill they liked or may like upon review. Contrary to
those who may argue that this legislation is not a priority, it is. Congress has
not authorized the Department of Justice in more than two decades. While the
Justice Department would certainly continue to exist if we were to fail to
reauthorize it, that is not an excuse for shirking our responsibility now. I
know that Senator Hatch and Representatives Sensenbrenner and Conyers share my
view. It is long past time for the Judiciary Committees of the House and Senate
-- and the Congress as a whole -- to restore their proper oversight role over
the Department of Justice.
Through Republican and Democratic administrations, we have allowed the
Department of Justice to escape its accountability to the Senate and House of
Representatives and through them to the American people. Congress, the people’s
representative, has a strong institutional interest in restoring that
accountability. The House has recognized this, and has done its job. I am glad
that we have done ours. I agree with those Members who say that we need to give
anti-terrorism priority, but not lose sight of the other important missions of
the Department of Justice. The conference report takes such a balanced approach.
Those critics who say that there is nothing new in this legislation to fight
terrorism, have missed some important provisions in the legislation as well as
my floor statements over the past week outlining what the conference report
contains to help in the anti-terrorism effort.
Let me repeat the highlights of what the conference report does on this
important problem. The conference report fortifies our border security by
authorizing over $20 billion for the administration and enforcement of the laws
relating to immigration, naturalization, and alien registration. It also
authorizes funding for Centers for Domestic Preparedness in Alabama, Texas,
New Mexico, Louisiana, Nevada, Vermont and Pennsylvania, and adds
additional uses for grants from the Office of Domestic Preparedness to support
State and local law enforcement agencies. These provisions have strong
bipartisan support. I thank Senator Sessions, Senator Shelby and Senator Specter
for supporting cloture on the conference report and for final passage.
Another measure in the bill would correct a glitch in a law that helps
prosecutors combat the international financing of terrorism. I worked closely
with the White House to pass the original provision to bring the United States
into compliance with a treaty that bans terrorist financing, but without this
technical, non-controversial change, the provision may not be usable. This
law is vital in stopping the flow of money to terrorists. Worse yet, at a time
when the President is going before the U.N. emphasizing that our enemies are not
complying with international law, by blocking this minor fix, we leave ourselves
open to a charge that we are not complying with an anti-terrorism treaty.
I agree with other Members that we should do more to help the FBI Director in
transforming the FBI from a crime fighting to a terrorism prevention agency and
to help the FBI overcome its information technology, management and other
problems to be the best that it can be. The Judiciary Committee reported
unanimously the Leahy-Grassley FBI Reform Act, S. 1974, over six months ago to
reach those goals, but this legislation has been blocked by an anonymous hold
from moving forward. This conference report contains parts of that bipartisan
legislation, but not the whole bill, which continues to this day to be blocked
to this day. Since the attacks of September 11 and the anthrax attacks last
fall, we have relied on the FBI to detect and prevent acts of catastrophic
terrorism that endanger the lives of the American people and the institutions of
our country. Reform and improvement at the FBI was already important, but the
terrorist attacks suffered by this country last year have imposed even greater
urgency on improving the FBI. The Bureau is our front line of domestic defense
against terrorists. It needs to be as great as it can.
Even before those attacks, the Judiciary Committee’s oversight hearings revealed
serious problems at the FBI that needed strong congressional action to fix. We
heard about a double standard in evaluations and discipline. We heard about
record and information management problems and communications breakdowns between
field offices and Headquarters that led to the belated production of documents
in the Oklahoma City bombing case. Despite the fact that we have poured money
into the FBI over the last five years, we heard that the FBI’s computer systems
were in dire need of modernization. We heard about how an FBI supervisor, Robert
Hanssen, was able to sell critical secrets to the Russians undetected for years
without ever getting a polygraph. We heard that there were no fewer than 15
different areas of security at the FBI that needed fixing.
The FBI Reform Act tackles these problems with improved accountability, improved
security both inside and outside the FBI, and required planning to ensure the
FBI is prepared to deal with the multitude of challenges we are facing. We are
all indebted to Senator Grassley for his leadership in the area. Working with
Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee we unanimously
reported the FBI Reform Act more than six months ago only to be stymied in our
bipartisan efforts by an anonymous Republican hold.
The conference report does not contain all of the important provisions in the
FBI Reform Act that Senator Grassley and I, and the other members of the
Judiciary Committee, agreed were needed, but it does contain parts of that other
bill. Among the items that are, unfortunately, not in the conference report and
are being blocked from passing in the stand-alone FBI Reform bill by an
anonymous Republican hold are the following:
- Title III of the FBI Reform bill that would institute a career security
officer program, which senior FBI officials have testified before our
Committee would be very helpful;
- Title IV of the FBI Reform bill outlining the requirements for a polygraph
program along the lines of what the Webster Commission recommended;
- Title VII of the FBI Reform bill that takes important steps to fix some of
the double standard problems and support the FBI’s Office of Professional
Responsibility, which FBI Ethics and OPR agents say is very important; and
- Title VIII to push along implementation of secure communications networks
to help facilitate FISA processing between Main Justice and the FBI. These
hard-working agents and prosecutors have to hand-carry top secret FISA
documents between their offices because they still lack send secure e-mail
The FBI Reform bill would help fix may of these problems and I would hope we
would be able to pass all of the FBI Reform Act before the end of this Congress.
These should not be controversial provisions and are designed to help the FBI.
During the debate on this conference report, some Members complained it included
provisions that were not contained in either the Senate or House bills. Now,
each of the proposals we have included are directly related to improving the
administration of justice in the United States. We were asked to include many of
them by Republican members of the House and Senate. Let me give you some
examples. The conference report reauthorizes the State Criminal Alien Assistance
Program, which President Bush has sought to eliminate. On March 4 of this year,
Senator Kyl and Senator Feinstein sent me a letter asking me to include an
authorization for SCAAP - which was not authorized in either the House- or
Senate-passed bill - in the conference report. That proposal had been considered
and reported by the Judiciary Committee but a Republican hold has stopped Senate
consideration and passage. I agreed with Senator Kyl that we should authorize
SCAAP. I still believe that it is the right thing to do. In addition to
including the reauthorization of SCAAP, the conferees also authorized an
additional judge for Arizona. Members have been arguing for years that their
States need more judges. We took those arguments seriously, and added another
new judge for Arizona on top of the two that were added in 1998 and the third
that was added in 2000. As I said before, we have added 20 additional judicial
positions in this conference report. Some have been critical of the conference
report’s authorization of funding for DEA police training in South and Central
Asia, and for the United States-Thailand drug prosecutor exchange program. I
believe that both of these are worthy programs that deserve the Senate’s
I have listened to President Bush and others in his Administration and in
Congress argue that terrorist organizations in Asia, including Al Qaeda, have
repeatedly used drug proceeds to fund their operations.
The conferees wanted to do whatever we could to break the link between drug
trafficking and terror, and we would all greatly appreciate the Senate’s
assistance in that effort.
Beyond the relationship between drug trafficking and terrorism, the production
of drugs in Asia has a tremendous impact on America. For example, more than a
quarter of the heroin that is plaguing the northeastern United States, including
my State of Vermont, comes from Southeast Asia. Many of the governments in that
region want to work with the United States to reduce the production of drugs,
and these programs will help. It is beyond me why any Senator would oppose them.
Some have complained that the conference report demands too many reports from
the Department of Justice and that this would interfere with the Department’s
ongoing counterterorism efforts. It is true that our legislation requires a
number of reports, as part of our oversight obligations over the Department of
Justice. I assure the Senate, however, that if the Department of Justice comes
to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees and makes a convincing case that
any reporting requirement in this legislation will hinder our national security,
we will work out a reasonable accommodation.
I think, however, that such a turn of events is exceedingly unlikely, as no one
at the Department has mentioned any such concerns. Some Members have complained
that the conference report includes pieces of legislation that had not received
Committee consideration. Let me deal with some of the specific proposals that
have been cited.
- The Law Enforcement Tribute Act was mentioned as a provision not
considered by the Judiciary Committee, but this is incorrect. In reality, the
Committee reported that bill favorably on May 16. Its passage has been blocked
by an anonymous Republican hold.
- Complaints have been made about inclusion of the motor vehicle franchise
dispute resolution provision in the conference report for bypassing the
Committee. But, again, that is incorrect.
The Judiciary Committee fully considered this proposal and reported Senator
Hatch’s Motor Vehicle Franchise Contract Arbitration Fairness Act last October
31. It has been stalled from the Senate floor by anonymous Republican holds.
- A section allowing FBI danger pay was cited as a proposal that bypassed
Committee consideration, but, again, the Judiciary Committee did consider this
proposal as part of the original DOJ Authorization bill, S.1319.
- Some have complained that the Federal Judiciary Protection Act, which is
included in the conference report, had not come before the Committee, but on
the contrary, this legislation , S.1099, was passed the Judiciary Committee
and the Senate by unanimous consent last year and in the 106th Congress, as
- A complaint was raised on the floor about a provisions on the U.S. Parole
Commission being included in the conference report. That was included because
the Bush Administration included it in its budget request.
- A complaint was also raised about the conference report’s provision
establishing the FBI police to provide protection for the FBI buildings and
personnel in this time of heightened concerns about terrorist attacks.
Contrary to the critics, this proposal was considered by the Judiciary
Committee as part of the FBI Reform Act, S.1974, which was reported
unanimously on a bipartisan basis but has been blocked by an anonymous hold.
- Similarly, a complaint was made on the floor about bypassing the Committee
with the provision in the conference report for the FBI to tell the Congress
about how the FBI is updating its obsolete computer systems. Again, this is
incorrect. This provision was included in the FBI Reform Act, S.1974, which
was considered by the Judiciary Committee and unanimously reported without
- Some critics have complained that the conference report includes
intellectual property provisions that have passed neither the House or the
Senate. It is not for lack of trying to pass these provisions through the
Senate, but anonymous Republican holds have held up for months passage of the
Madrid Protocol Implementation Act, S. 407. This legislation has passed
the House on three separate times in three consecutive Congresses. Let us get
it passed now in the conference report.
- The conference report also contains another intellectual property matter,
the Hatch-Leahy TEACH Act, to help distance learning. Contrary to the critics’
statements, this passed the Senate in June, 2001.
- The Intellectual Property and High Technology Technical Amendments Act, S.
320, contained in this conference report, was passed by the Senate at the
beginning of this Congress, in February, 2001. It is time to get this done.
The criticism made on the floor that the juvenile justice provisions in the
conference report never passed the House or Senate is simply wrong. The
conference report contains juvenile justice provisions passed by the House in
September and October of last year, in H.R. 863 and H.R. 1900. The criticism
that the conference report contains criminal justice improvements that were
passed by neither the House or the Senate glosses over two important points:
First, that many of the provisions were indeed passed by the House, and,
second, that others have been blocked from Senate consideration and passage by
anonymous Republican holds. Let me give you some examples.
- The conference report contains the Judicial Improvements Act, S. 2713 and
HR 3892, that passed the House in July, 2002, but consideration by the Senate
was blocked after the Senate bill was reported by the Judiciary Committee.
- The Antitrust Technical Corrections bills, H.R. 809, had the same fate.
After being passed by the House in March, 2001, and reported by the Senate
Judiciary Committee, consideration was blocked in the Senate.
CONCLUSION. This conference report is a comprehensive attempt
to ensure the administration of justice in our nation. It is not everything I
would like or that any individual Member of Congress might have authored.
It is a conference report, a consensus document, a product of the give and take
with the House that is our legislative process. It will strengthen our Justice
Department and the FBI, increase our preparedness against terrorist attacks,
prevent crime and drug abuse, improve our intellectual property and antitrust
laws, strengthen and protect our judiciary, and offer our children a safe place
to go after school. The conference report merits the support of the United
States Senate to help the Justice Department and the American people.