AILA Doc No. 02120440 | Dated December 4, 2002
Final Passage of the Conference Report on H.R. 2215 21st Century
Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act
October 3, 2002
148 Cong. Rec. S11063 (daily ed. November 14, 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 we inherited.
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 Republican Senators.
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:
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 counterterrorism 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.
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.
####Statement of Representative Lamar Smith
Final Passage of the Conference Report on H.R. 2215
21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act
September 26, 2002
148 Cong. Rec. H6745 (daily ed. September 26, 2002)
Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary for yielding me this time. This legislation contains several bills originated by the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. The Juvenile Offender Accountability Act, the Law Enforcement Tribute Act, and the Body Armor Act will help make America safer. Additionally, this legislation increases penalties for threatening Federal judges and other Federal officials, and for threatening witnesses, victims and informants. An immigration provision I sponsored benefits the high-tech sector. It allows high-tech workers with H1–B visas who apply for an extension beyond their normal 6 years to extend their stay in the U.S. while their application is pending. This legislation provides for three additional judgeships in Texas, two permanent district judges in the western district and one temporary district judge in the eastern district. Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this conference report. Mr. Speaker, Section 11030 A of the conference report will permit H–1B aliens who have labor certification applications caught in lengthy agency backlogs to extend their status beyond the 6th 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. This corrects a problem created in the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (Pub. L. 106–313)(AC21). The provision, as it was originally written, allowed for extensions of H–1B status beyond the usual 6 years, but required that a labor certification be filed more than 365 days before the end of the 6th year and that an immigrant petition, the next step in the long line to permanent residency, be filed before the end of the 6 year as well. When it passed AC 21, Congress intended to protect foreign nationals and the companies who sponsor them from the inequities of government bureaucracy inefficiency. This specific provision was put in place to recognize the lengthy delays at INS in adjudicating petitions, rather than DOL. But since that time, DOL has slowed down its own processing, and the provision as it was originally written has become useless for many otherwise qualified applicants. This correction allows for those in H–1B status to get extensions beyond the six years when a labor certification was filed before the end of the fifth year, without regard to the ability to file an immigrant petition within the next year. The conferees intends that those who are about the exceed their six years in H–1B status should not be subject to the additional requirement of having to file the immigrant petition by the end of the sixth year, which is simply impossible when DOL has not finished its part in the process. This recognizes that these individuals are already well-valued by their companies, have significant ties to the U.S. and whose employers have to prove that they are not taking jobs from U.S. workers. It also is meant to permit those who have exceeded their six year limitation to return to H–1B status. The conferees intend for this provision to allow those who already exceeded the 6-year limitation to have a new H–1B petition approved and obtain a visa to return from abroad or otherwise re-obtain H–1B status. In addition, the compromise reached with the Senate on Title IV of Division B of this legislation relating to the Violence Against Women Office (VAWO) gives the Attorney General discretion about where to place the VAWO in the organizational structure and chain of command of the Department of Justice as did the version contained in the House passed bill.
Cite as AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 02120440.