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Republican VA 6

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  • Rules of the House

    by Representative Bob Goodlatte

    Posted on 2015-01-06

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    GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the rules package for the 114th Congress.



    I would like to begin by taking this opportunity to thank you, Chairman Sessions, the Speaker's Office, and the other committee chairmen for working with me to hone and clarify the Judiciary Committee's criminal law jurisdiction.

    For many years, the House rules have given the Judiciary Committee jurisdiction over, among other things, the judiciary and judicial proceedings, civil and criminal, and criminal law enforcement. The Judiciary Committee's jurisdiction over criminal law dates back to the creation of the committee in 1813.

    In recent years, however, we have become aware of an anomaly in the referral pattern that occasionally prevents the Judiciary Committee from obtaining a referral when a bill criminalizes [[Page H22]] new conduct without actually addressing the penalty portion of the criminal law. In other words, while the Judiciary Committee would have had jurisdiction over the underlying statute when it was enacted, it is sometimes unable to assert jurisdiction when the statute is amended in such a way as to criminalize new conduct. The result is that new criminal offenses are being created without being considered by the lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee, which is the committee best situated to provide valuable expertise in drafting and resolving potential conflicts with existing criminal law.

    Last Congress, the Judiciary Committee created a bipartisan Over- Criminalization Task Force with the goal of examining the problems associated with a bloated, disorganized, and often redundant collection of Federal criminal offenses. The Congressional Research Service recently reported to us that there are nearly 5,000 Federal criminal laws on the books. Unfortunately, Congress continues to add to this number at a rate of roughly 50 new crimes per year.

    One of the recurring themes from both the witnesses who appeared before the task force as well as the members of the task force is that it is crucial that the Judiciary Committee have the opportunity to review all new Federal criminal laws.

    Throughout its existence, this bipartisan task force endeavored to closely examine the problems posed by overcriminalization and over- Federalization, and to identify potential solutions to combat the regrettable circumstances that inevitably arise from the tangled web of Federal criminal provisions. Examples of similarly-situated defendants convicted of the same conduct under different statutes with different penalties, or individuals convicted of offenses without proof of any level of criminal intent, have been detailed in our hearings and are far too commonplace.

    The rules package today clarifies the committee's jurisdiction over criminal matters by adding one word--``criminalization''--to our existing jurisdiction over criminal law. By making this change, the Judiciary Committee will have a new jurisdictional interest only in those relatively rare instances that a bill criminalizes new conduct by amending a statute that is attached to a criminal penalty without amending the penalty itself. In this instance, the Judiciary Committee will look to work with the other committee on ensuring that the new conduct is worthy of criminalization and that the attached criminal penalties are appropriately drafted.

    The Judiciary Committee is not looking to insert itself into the regulatory schemes under the jurisdiction of other committees. However, to the extent that another committee chooses to use the criminal justice system to enforce the regulation under its jurisdiction, we would like to be involved so that we may ask the important question together as to whether particular conduct should be criminalized.

    In conclusion, I believe this small clarification of the Judiciary Committee's jurisdiction will allow us to address many of the problems associated with the tangled web of Federal criminal laws.

    Again, I would like to thank Chairman Sessions and his staff for working very closely with us on this issue and express my strong support.

    I urge my colleagues to vote for this rules package.

    I rise today in support of the Rules package for the 114th Congress.

    I would like to begin by taking this opportunity to thank Chairman Sessions, the Speaker's office, and the other Committee Chairmen for working with me to hone and clarify the Judiciary Committee's criminal law jurisdiction.

    For many years, the House Rules have given the Judiciary Committee jurisdiction over, among other things, ``the judiciary and judicial proceedings, civil and criminal,'' and ``criminal law enforcement.'' The Judiciary Committee's jurisdiction over criminal law dates back to the creation of the committee in 1813.

    Typically, the Judiciary Committee either receives a referral upon introduction or has the opportunity to seek a sequential referral when a bill creates a new criminal law or criminal penalties. This allows us to ensure that a criminal provision is properly drafted, or eliminated if it is unnecessary.

    In recent years, however, we have become aware of an anomaly in the referral pattern that occasionally prevents the Judiciary Committee from obtaining a referral when a bill criminalizes new conduct without actually addressing the penalty portion of the criminal law. In other words, while the Judiciary Committee would have had jurisdiction over the underlying statute when it was enacted, it is sometimes unable to assert jurisdiction when the statute is amended in such a way as to criminalize new conduct. The result is that new criminal offenses are being created without being considered by the lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee, which is the Committee best situated to provide valuable expertise in drafting and resolving potential conflicts with existing criminal law.

    Last Congress, the Judiciary Committee created a bipartisan Over- Criminalization Task Force with the goal of examining the problems associated with a bloated, disorganized and often redundant collection of federal criminal offenses. The Congressional Research Service recently reported to us that there are nearly 5,000 federal criminal laws on the books. And, unfortunately, Congress continues to add to this number at a rate of roughly 50 new crimes per year.

    One of the recurring themes from both the witnesses who appeared before the task force, as well as the Members of the task force, is that it is crucial that the Judiciary Committee have the opportunity to review all new federal criminal laws.

    Our Members and staff have the longstanding expertise to ensure that criminal laws are appropriately drafted, that they fit with the overall federal criminal law scheme, that they are appropriate in force relative to other criminal laws, and finally, that the new criminal law is even necessary.

    Throughout its existence, this bi-partisan task force endeavored to closely examine the problems posed by over-criminalization and over- federalization, and to identify potential solutions to combat the regrettable circumstances that inevitably arise from the tangled web of federal criminal provisions. Examples of similarly-situated defendants convicted of the same conduct under different statutes with different penalties, or individuals convicted of offenses without proof of any level of criminal intent, have been detailed in our hearings and are far too commonplace.

    The Rules package today clarifies the Committee's jurisdiction over criminal matters by adding the word ``criminalization'' to our existing jurisdiction over criminal law. By making this change, the Judiciary Committee will have a new jurisdictional interest only in those relatively rare instances that a bill criminalizes new conduct by amending a statute that is attached to a criminal penalty without amending the penalty itself. In this instance, the Judiciary Committee will look to work with the other committee on ensuring that the new conduct is worthy of criminalization and that the attached criminal penalties are appropriately drafted.

    The Judiciary Committee is not looking to insert itself into the regulatory schemes under the jurisdiction of other committees. However, to the extent that another committee chooses to use the criminal justice system to enforce the regulation under its jurisdiction, we would like to be involved so that we may ask the important question together as to whether particular conduct should be criminalized.

    In conclusion, I believe this small clarification to the Judiciary Committee's jurisdiction will allow us to address many of the problems associated with the tangled web of federal criminal laws.

    Again, I would like to thank Chairman Sessions for working with me on this issue, and express my strong support for this Rules package.

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