Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Madam Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 4472) to protect children, to secure the safety of judges, [Page: H658]
prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and their family members, to reduce and prevent gang violence, and for other purposes, as amended.
Mr. CONYERS. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume, and I am happy to be here today to join the debate around this bill. I am hoping that my good friend, the chairman of the committee, will somewhere in the course of this suspension explain to us why three bills were mentioned but one that was added by the majority of the House, H.R. 3132, which deals with hate crimes and is arguably one of the most notable pieces of civil rights criminal enforcement protection considered by
the Congress, was inexplicably left off. This makes the process very mysterious to me, because [Page: H677]
hate crimes is a very important part of any Child Safety and Violent Crime Reduction Act that is before us, and I am very disappointed that somewhere in the night this bill was dropped so that we are now combining three instead of four bills.
It is a Federal crime to hijack an automobile; it is a Federal crime to possess cocaine. It ought to be a Federal crime to drag a man to his death because of his race or to hang a man because of his sexual orientation. We should, and I hope we will through some parliamentary mechanism, seize upon the historic opportunity that is before us to enact legislation that would effectively augment existing Federal law and demonstrate that this Nation will not tolerate violence directed at any individual
because of their identity. But instead of supporting this principle, the measure before us takes an opposite direction. I am really, really sorry about this because it does the House an injustice.
I am also, at the same time, wishing to register notice that an amendment offered by the gentleman from New York (Mr. Nadler), which was adopted and would have prevented the sale of a firearm to anyone convicted of a misdemeanor sex offense, was also dropped. This is very troubling. Still others will talk about the 43 new mandatory minimum penalties and over 10 new death penalties that have become eligible by offenses in this new bill.
So I am hopeful that we can work out some kind of agreement or acknowledgment about the unusual parliamentary process by which this matter has been brought to us.
Mr. GREEN of Wisconsin. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time and for his great leadership on child safety issues.
There is one provision I wish to speak about in this bill that the people of Wisconsin are tragically familiar with: the Amy Zyla Act. It was inspired by the story of Amy Zyla, a young woman from Waukesha, Wisconsin. Amy is a young lady who has bravely crusaded to protect other potential victims. She herself was sexually assaulted by a young offender when she was just 8 years old. Her attacker was found guilty and was sentenced to a juvenile facility for this heinous act. Yet because he was a
juvenile, his record was sealed. When he turned 18, he was released into the community, only to reoffend shortly after he got out.
Law enforcement was not allowed to notify the community that a convicted, high-risk sex offender was back on the streets, because he had been a juvenile. As a result, he went on to portray himself as a youth minister and [Page: H678]
preyed upon others. He was given the trust of other parents because they simply didn't know that he was a convicted sex offender.
These subsequent crimes were absolutely preventable. Under the Amy Zyla provision of this bill, if a sex crime committed by a juvenile offender is serious enough that it would qualify reporting under the sex offender registry had he been an adult, law enforcement has the authority to notify the community when that sex offender is released.
Madam Speaker, communities, victims, and parents must be able to rely upon the sex offender registries. This provision, and certainly this bill, will help us get there.
Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.
Madam Speaker, this is a very difficult bill to try to debate because it includes a lot of different bills, everything except the hate crimes bill, which had broad support at least on this side. It includes a variety of slogans and sound bites, many of which have actually been shown to increase crime, disrupt orderly, proportionate, and fair sentencing, it wastes money and violates common sense.
Among these approaches are trying more juveniles as adults, the mandatory minimums, new death penalties, and habeas corpus restrictions, which is a process by which dozens of innocent people on death row have been able to show their innocence and escape the death penalty because they were innocent of the underlying charges. It also includes a national sex offender registry that includes misdemeanors and juveniles in the same kind of registration as the most serious predatory offenses.
If we are going to be serious about dealing with child sexual abuse, we ought to face the fact that virtually all of the abusers are either related to the child or at least known to the child's family. No studies have shown that these things actually reduce child abuse; and, in fact, anecdotal evidence would suggest that we might be actually increasing crime. Because the people who are the subject of these are unable to get a job, unable to live in any kind of neighborhood, have nothing to lose,
the restrictive covenants now restricting where they can live, and all of these things may in fact increase crime. But there are certainly no studies to show that they have reduced by any measurable amounts the amount of child sexual abuse.
We are treating more juveniles as adults. That thing has been studied over and over again, and we know that treating more juveniles as adults will increase the crime rates. In every State, the most heinous crimes are already subject to juveniles being treated as adults. So if this passes, we are talking about those who are not now treated as adults who would be treated as adults under this bill. Those are the marginal cases.
We know that those marginal cases sent to adult court will not have education and psychological services and family services available in the juvenile court. They will either be locked up with adults or just released on probation. Whatever the adult court judge does will be more likely to have crime in the future than if the juvenile court can provide those services.
We know how to reduce juvenile crime. It is the prevention programs. And unlike many bills, there is actually some money in this bill for prevention programs. They work. So those provisions are actually meaningful. We also have reentry programs in here. They work and have been proven to reduce recidivism. So there are at least some provisions of the bill that have something to recommend them.
But the mandatory minimums in the bill have been studied. We know from all the studies that mandatory minimums have been shown to waste money, discriminate against minorities, and violate common sense. This bill includes mandatory minimums for juveniles that includes a 20-year mandatory minimum for a fistfight that results in a serious injury, and 10 years mandatory minimum if there is no serious injury; 10 years mandatory minimum for a fistfight in a school yard. This bill cannot be serious.
We have death penalties which have been proven to have no effect on crime. Innocent people are convicted. We have a habeas corpus provision that will eliminate the possibility that many of those who are innocent on death row, and we know there are many of them, will not have the opportunity to have their cases adjudicated.
We saw in the confirmation hearings for Justice Alito, when he was asked if an innocent person had a constitutional right against execution, and he didn't give a straight answer. We need to make sure people's rights are protected and that habeas corpus provisions are eliminated from the bill.
Mr. KELLER. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time and for his leadership on child safety issues.
Madam Speaker, I rise today in strong support of the Child Safety and Violent Crime Reduction Act because it is a commonsense way to protect our school children from pedophiles.
Isn't it a matter of common sense to allow a local school district in Orlando, Florida to do criminal background checks on coaches, janitors, and teachers who work with our children, to make sure they are not convicted pedophiles from Georgia or some other State?
Isn't it common sense to protect young school children in the first place by keeping these pedophiles locked up with lengthy prison sentences?
Isn't it common sense that coddling repeated sex offenders with self-esteem courses and rehabilitation doesn't work, and that locking them up does work?
Madam Speaker, the best way to protect young children is to keep child predators locked up in the first place, because someone who has molested a child will do it again and again and again.
Last year, two young Florida girls, 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford and 13-year-old Sarah Lunde, were abducted, raped, and killed. In both cases the crimes were committed by convicted sex offenders who were out on probation. This law imposes a mandatory minimum punishment of 30 years for those who commit violent crimes against children, as well as a punishment of life in prison or a death sentence when that crime results in a child's death.
It is high time that we crack down on child molesters by implementing these commonsense reforms, and I urge my colleagues to vote ``yes'' on H.R. 4472.
Mr. CONYERS. Madam Speaker, I now yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Frank), who has worked on a number of issues connected with the measure presently being debated.
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Madam Speaker, I yield myself 1 minute.
Madam Speaker, this is not giving a pill to a dog. What this legislation does is it combines three bills that the House already debated and passed but which got stalled in the other body. What it does is it takes away the poison pills that have caused the essential legislation to be stalled in the other body. And it makes some amendments, some of which have been requested by people on the other side of the aisle such as getting rid of a certain number of mandatory minimum penalties.
The purpose of this exercise is to get legislation signed into law and it is important legislation on protecting children from pedophiles, protecting Americans from gangs, and protecting judges from kooks who want to try to do them and their families harm. That is why this procedure is being used today so that we can make a law.
Madam Speaker, I yield 1 1/2 minutes to the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Harris).
(Ms. HARRIS asked and was given permission to revise and extend her remarks.)
Ms. HARRIS. Madam Speaker, I rise today to urge my colleagues to support H.R. 4472, the Children's Safety and Violent Crime Reduction Act.
Unfortunately, there are thousands of reasons why this legislation is so vitally important. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the location of between 100,000 and 150,000 of the 500,000 sex offenders currently registered in the United States are unknown. But the victims are known, and their names are known. And today, we know we are not powerless.
This bill takes commonsense steps towards ensuring sex offenders are not free to prey on the most vulnerable members of our society. We require States to expand the definition of sexual offenders to include juveniles, alert other States when predators seek refuge in another State and make community notification proactive, not reactive efforts.
There are many reasons which cause parents across America to lie awake at night. Our failure to pass this valuable legislation should not be one of them.
Madam Speaker, sexual predators live in darkness but their victims live in vibrant colors of all our memories. In pinks and blues. And in purple.
Prior to her abduction and murder at the hands of a sexual predator in February of 2004, that was the favorite color of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia. It still is.
Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Madam Speaker, I just want to point out that the poison pill the gentleman from Wisconsin was referring to was an amendment adopted on the floor of this House by a majority of the House. So the poison pill is the result of a majority of this House. The problem is the gentleman from Wisconsin has Thomas Jefferson confused with Lucretia Borgia. When the will of the House works its will under this regime, and the gentleman from Wisconsin does not like the outcome, it
becomes a poison pill and we go through this whole procedure just to get rid of it.
Mr. NADLER. Mr. Speaker, this bill manipulates the legislative process by repackaging legislation that for the most part has already passed the House, and by taking out of that legislation two amendments that were passed on the floor of the House and giving us no opportunity, giving the House majority no opportunity to correct this.
The bill includes three previous bills. On one of them I offered an amendment to prohibit gun possession by convicted misdemeanor sex offenders against minors. The amendment was agreed to unanimously and incorporated in the underlying bill. This is one of the poison pills. One of the poison pills, in other words, is that apparently the sponsors of this bill think it is essential to allow people convicted of misdemeanor sex offenses against minors to possess firearms, so they can use firearms
against minors the next time.
The other amendment, the ranking member offered an amendment to combat crimes based on race, religion, national origin, disability, gender and sexual orientation by allowing the Federal Government to provide resources to local law enforcement to act as a Federal backup if local authorities do not prosecute these crimes. The amendment passed 223-199.
Now we are faced with this legislation on a suspension calendar. We are told that it is on a suspension calendar and it is unamendable because we have already debated. Yes, but we passed it in different forms, and they are just taking out the two poison pills.
Who has the right to decide that what the majority of the House voted is a poison pill and not give this House the right to vote on whether it agrees with them or not?
If the gentleman brought forth this bill under the regular calendar and said should we remove these two provisions because we cannot pass them in the Senate, let the House debate that. Maybe we would decide it is more important to let the Senate pass this bill and permit misdemeanor sexual offenders to have firearms than not to pass the bill. Maybe we would decide that, but that should be decided in a debate, not because someone behind the scenes decides that the will of the House can be overturned.
I urge Members to oppose this bill because it does not include these two provisions, to ban gun possession by those convicted of misdemeanor sex offenders against minors. We should not go on record today, as a vote for this legislation would be in favor of gun possession by people convicted of misdemeanor sex offenses. And it also does [Page: H680]
not include the hate crimes amendment that was sponsored by Mr. Conyers and included by the House by majority
It is wrong to prostitute the procedures of this House to undo the majority votes on the floor by behind-the-scenes manipulation and then say this is democratic procedure.
Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, I know some Members here will not remember it, but there used to be something called a conference committee, and if we sent the Senate a bill and they did not like it, they could amend it and send it back. We do not have to do the bidding of the Senate by taking the tough issue off the table for them.
Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I want to refer to a letter that says, ``For the first time, the statute would implicate a wide array of legitimate, mainstream businesses that have never been linked in any way to the sexual exploitation of children.'' It continues, ``In some instances, the proposed amendments are vague and offer little guidance as to what is required of those needing to comply, and in others, they impose requirements that are simply impossible to meet.''
The letter is signed by the Chamber of Commerce, the American Library Association, the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, Screen Actors Guild, American Association of Advertising Agencies, the American Association of Law Libraries and others.
February 7, 2006.
Hon. Orrin G. Hatch,
Dear Senator Hatch: We are writing to express our continuing concern with the legislative language contained in S. 2140, the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation of Children Act that would significantly expand the scope of Title 18 U.S.C. §2257. As you know, we strongly support the objective of increasing the Justice Department's ability to combat child pornography and exploitation. The members of our broad coalition are committed to protecting children from exploitation. That is why
we appreciate and acknowledge the efforts of the sponsors of S. 2140 to address many of the issues raised by prior attempts to amend §2257. However, serious concerns remain.
S. 2140 would significantly expand the types and categories of conduct that would trigger the requirements of §2257. For the first time, the statute would implicate a wide array of legitimate, mainstream businesses that have never been linked in any way to the sexual exploitation of children. S. 2140 dramatically expands the class of persons required to keep records and to label products under §2257. Many affected by the proposed expansion are businesses and individuals that have no
actual contact or relationship with the performers in question. In some instances, the proposed amendments are vague and offer little guidance as to what is required of those needing to comply, and in others, they impose requirements that are simply impossible
to meet. Expansion of §2257 as envisioned by the proposed legislation will likely divert even more resources toward legal challenges to the statute and away from the legislation's primary objective of prosecuting those who sexually exploit children.
It is important to note that since §2257 was passed in 1988, the inspection regime of the law has, to our knowledge, never been used. Rather than expanding the scope of §2257 to cover a myriad of lawful, legitimate, Main-street businesses, we believe effective enforcement of the existing regime is first necessary. Accordingly, any amendments to the statute should be narrow and focused on individuals that seek to harm young people.
Finally, from the outset of this process, we have been prepared to discuss the serious concerns our coalition has with the proposals to amend §2257. However, we are not involved in the negotiation of the current bill language. While we remain committed to working with all interested parties, we do not believe that in its current form, S. 2140 addresses the myriad of legitimate concerns raised by our coalition.
We applaud you for your continued leadership and dedication to protecting children [Page: H681]
and reiterate our commitment to work with you to address this serious issue.
United States Chamber of Commerce; Video Software Dealers Association; Americans for Tax Reform; American Library Association; American Conservative Union; National Association of Broadcasters; National Cable & Telecommunications Association; Motion Picture Association of America; Screen Actors Guild; Media Freedom Project; American Hotel and Lodging Association; The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists; Magazine Publishers of America; Directors Guild of America; Digital Media
Association; Computer & Communications Industry Association; Association of Research Libraries; The Creative Coalition; Association of National Advertisers; Association of American Publishers; American Association of Advertising Agencies; American Advertising Federation; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; Publishers Marketing Association; Freedom to Read Foundation; American Association of Law Libraries
Ms. GINNY BROWN-WAITE of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of the bill that we have before us, the Children's Safety and Violent Crime Reduction Act.
February 23 marked the 1-year anniversary of Jessica Lunsford's death. I knew the family; I knew the grandmother. If Jessica were still with us, she would have been in the fifth grade. She would be learning about decimals and fractions and the solar system. Instead, her life was taken by a sex offender who assaulted and murdered her, and then buried her in his backyard. That is what this bill is all about; it is going after those, as someone once described, pond-scum predators.
Congress has responsibility to punish those who perpetrate the worst and most disgusting crimes against our children. My heartfelt thanks to the chairman who was gracious enough to work with all of us on these various bills to protect our children in America today.
Mr. Speaker, we cannot afford to wait one day longer for this bill to become law. On behalf of Jessica Lunsford's family, I urge every Member of this House to vote in favor of this bill. It is important that we send a loud and clear message that Congress is serious about protecting America's children from predators, those same predators who would harm our children, our grandchildren, and our neighbor's children. That is what this bill is all about. It is about protecting America's children and
I urge support of the bill.
Mr. GIBBONS. Mr. Speaker, I want to add my strong voice today in support of H.R. 4472, the Children's Safety and Violent Crime Reduction Act of 2005. I also want to thank Chairman Sensenbrenner for his solid effort in making sure that this House is once again on record in working to protect our children and our families.
I am pleased that an amendment that I offered to the original legislation last year, which was adopted with a unanimous vote, is included once again in today's final bill.
My amendment requires the GAO to study the feasibility of implementing on a nationwide basis a tough annual driver's license registration requirement that my home State of Nevada has imposed on sex offenders.
Just last month, it was reported that there are almost 2,000 convicted sex offenders living in Nevada that are out of compliance with these registration requirements. Something must be done to fix this problem. It is nationwide.
This bill takes a huge step forward in protecting the most vulnerable among us, our children.
I strongly urge my colleagues to support this critical bill and send a message to all that preying on our children will not be tolerated anytime, anywhere.
Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. I thank the distinguished gentleman, and I can't thank you enough for the work you have done in a bipartisan effort to preserve a very valuable piece of legislation, the hate crimes legislation that this Congress has gone on record any number of times to be able to support.
Mr. Speaker, I wish as I listened to my good friends on the other side of the aisle that we were squarely focusing on protecting our children. In fact, I support the National Sex Offender Registry that is in this particular legislation, the sex crimes, that provides, if you will, a list of the sex offenders all over America. I think that is an important element. I obviously support the idea of preventing sexual assault on juveniles in prison and certainly the vetting of foster care parents that
are taking care of our children. But I think the basic fault of this legislation doesn't lie in the House, it lies in the majority leader of the Senate refusing to put this particular legislation on the floor of the Senate and going into conference.
My difficulty, of course, is the various kitchen sink elements that are included. I may want to see the Federal judges that are included and protected in this legislation protected, but have we vetted the question of allowing judges to carry guns in the courtroom? Should we not provide more resources to the U.S. marshals who are there to protect both the families of the judges and the people who are in the courtroom? Are we particularly studied on the issue dealing with juvenile crime? Time after
time after time it has shown that the trying of a juvenile as an adult does not work. I believe more studied consideration of these legislative initiatives would represent the work of a studied body who cares about getting legislation that is going to withstand judicial scrutiny.
This legislation, which I am still in dilemma as to its merits for voting on, raises severe questions. Why didn't the gun legislation get in that eliminates sex offenders from being able to recklessly carry guns? We want to protect our children. We want to pay tribute to the legacy and the work of John Walsh and the legacy of his lost child and the many lost children that we don't want to see happen again. But for God's sake, can we do legislation that embraces all of us who believe in the necessity
of protecting our children? There is a frustration of wanting to do what is right and yet having legislation that doesn't allow the vetting, the amending and the responsible consideration.
This bill that seeks to protect children has very many merits. I would just beg my colleagues to understand that this process must be one that can last and survive.
I can assure you that this will still have trouble in the Senate, because you have left off the hate crimes legislation which was a bipartisan effort. I ask my colleagues for consideration of this bill in the context in which I have discussed this legislation.
Mr. POE. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the chairman for making sure that our children are safer. The days of child predators playing hide and seek are over in this country. No longer will they be able to hide in our communities and seek out our children as their prey.
The national registration in this bill will help protect our children so that when child molesters leave our penitentiaries and move about from State to State, we will be able to keep up with them.
As many Members of the House, I am the parent of four children, three grandchildren and two on the way. I have met with parents who have lost their children to child predators who left penitentiaries and preyed against them. Mark Lunsford and Marc Klaas both came to Washington to talk about the loss of their children to these criminals.
We need to have a response, and the first duty of government, which is to protect the public and to protect our children, is the greatest cause that we can be involved in. As a member of the Victims Rights Caucus that was started with Katherine Harris and Jim Costa, we support these efforts and applaud this act.
Ms. BALDWIN. Mr. Speaker, I rise not to address the substance of this bill, but to address a matter that is most unfortunately missing from this bill. Today we consider H.R. 4472, the Children's Safety and Violent Crime Reduction Act of 2005, under the suspension calendar, which, of course, means that amendments cannot be offered.
This bill encompasses H.R. 3132, the Children's Safety Act of 2005, which passed the House in September of 2005. When that bill was considered on the floor, a hate crimes amendment was offered by the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers), and it passed by a strong bipartisan vote of 223--199. Yet despite that strong bipartisan support from the Members of this Chamber, the hate crimes provision has been stripped out of the bill before us today, and there is simply no good reason for the
House to consider H.R. 4472 without hate crimes language.
One cannot fully address the issues of crime reduction and child safety without acknowledging the terrorizing impact hate-motivated violence has in [Page: H683]
our society, especially in subjecting groups of individuals to a debilitating state of fear for their safety and security. Hate crimes reduction is violent crime reduction, and it is about keeping millions of Americans, including children, safe from hate-motivated violence.
It is a shame that by introducing an omnibus crime prevention bill and proceeding under suspension of the rules that the majority undermines the democratic process by doing an end run around hate crime prevention. I urge my colleagues to bear these facts in mind as they consider this legislation.