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Goodlatte Announces Judiciary Committee Agenda for 115th Congress

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Washington, February 1, 2017 | Beth Breeding (202-225-5431) | comments
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today announced his agenda for the 115th Congress in a speech before the Federalist Society at the National Press Club. Below are Chairman Goodlatte’s prepared remarks.

Chairman Goodlatte: Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to be here with you today. I find that my work as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is a pursuit similar to the work here at the Federalist Society.

For over three decades, the Federalist Society has been devoted to the preservation of our Constitutional Republic and the principles of individual liberty, the separation of powers, and the rule of law.

As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I am equally committed to safeguarding and promoting these core values. It’s both fitting and a privilege to lay out the Committee’s agenda before you today.

The Judiciary Committee plays a particularly critical role in advancing pro-growth policies for hardworking Americans, ensuring that America’s laws are efficient, fair, and enforced, and guarding against the consequences of executive overreach. Under my leadership, the Judiciary Committee will continue to advance an agenda that is focused on making America more competitive and free.

Our nation’s capitalist system was designed to reward innovation, efficiency, and persistence so that hardworking Americans would be uniquely situated to succeed both domestically and internationally. When the American economy is thriving, there are more job opportunities, higher wages, and lower prices for Americans.

However, for far too long, our federal government has continued to pile unnecessarily complicated new burdens and red tape on American businesses, which have effectively tied the hands behind the backs of our nation’s small businesses and entrepreneurs. Viewed from another angle, these burdens on U.S. businesses subsidize our foreign competitors. It’s long past time to untie these binds and unleash American ingenuity.

As House Judiciary Committee chairman, I will seek to restore accountability for and provide relief from excessive regulation for our nation’s small businesses and job creators.

Federal regulations now impose an estimated burden of nearly two trillion dollars. That equals roughly $15,000 per U.S. household, over 10% of America’s GDP, and more than the GDP of all but eight countries in the world.

Unfortunately, over the last eight years the Obama Administration doubled down on its determination to create a regulatory state by adding tens of thousands of regulations – including many within the last months of his presidency that could have far reaching effects for years to come.

The problem with excessive regulation is that it hurts all Americans. It leads to higher prices, lower wages, fewer jobs, less economic growth, and a less competitive America.

But it’s a new day in the United States. While I have been calling for these reforms for years, we now have a President, a Senate, and a House focused on enacting laws to reduce the regulatory burdens that our nation’s small businesses are facing, to get more Americans back to work, and to help grow our economy.

Last month, the House approved a series of bills to rein in unnecessary red tape, create transparency within the rulemaking process, and restore power back to the American people. Given our commitment to curbing the regulatory state, it’s no surprise that optimism among America’s small businesses has soared by the most since 1980.

To make America more competitive again we must also make our legal system more efficient and fair. America’s legal system is considered the costliest in the world. In fact, one study found that liability costs in the United States are more than 2.5 times that of Eurozone countries.

While we must protect the ability of Americans to seek redress through the courts when they are truly damaged or injured, there are measures we can take to reduce the wasteful burden that truly frivolous lawsuits impose on American competitiveness. Like excessive regulation, frivolous lawsuits are a drain on businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators, and hardworking Americans. We can and must do better.

Over the next Congress, the House Judiciary Committee plans to reform the litigation system by seeking to reduce frivolous lawsuits, making it harder for trial lawyers to game the system, and improving protections for consumers and small businesses.

We’ll also work on reforms to discourage abusive patent litigation and keep U.S. patent laws up to date. Collectively, these reforms will help alleviate the wasteful burden of unnecessarily expensive litigation costs, thereby freeing small businesses to flourish, unleash innovation, and create new jobs for Americans.

The House Judiciary Committee will also build upon its review of our nation’s copyright laws to ensure that America’s global leadership in creativity and innovation continues in the 21st century and beyond.

At the end of 2016, we issued our first bipartisan proposal to ensure the Copyright Office keeps pace in the digital age. Among the reforms contained in our first proposal are granting the Copyright Office autonomy and requiring it to maintain an up-to-date digital, searchable database of all copyrighted works. This proposal is the first of what we intend to be numerous policy proposals to reform aspects of our copyright laws.

Furthermore, to increase our competitiveness we need to get our fiscal house in order. The federal debt is nearly 20 trillion dollars. That’s over $61,000 per person! For years, the federal government’s mantra has been “borrow, spend, rinse, and repeat.” The current path is unsustainable and we must end runaway government spending.

One good first step would be to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment. Since 2007, I’ve introduced proposals every Congress to require a balanced annual federal budget and prevent Congress from spending more than it receives in revenues. These proposals have received strong support over the years, and I am hopeful that we can address this problem soon so that we do not continue to impoverish our children and grandchildren by passing a massive debt on to them.

The Judiciary Committee also has the solemn responsibility to ensure our laws are fair, efficient, and enforced. Under my leadership, the Committee will continue to advance an agenda that ensures our federal criminal laws are designed to appropriately punish wrongdoers, are effectively and appropriately enforced, safeguard civil liberties, increase public safety, and work as efficiently as possible.

Both Ranking Member Conyers and I remain committed to passing bipartisan criminal justice reform. We must rein in the explosion of federal criminal laws, protect innocent citizens’ property from unlawful seizures, and enact forensics reforms to identify the guilty and quickly exonerate the innocent. We must also reform sentencing laws in a responsible way and improve the prison system and reentry programs to reduce recidivism.

Additionally, it’s imperative that we continually examine federal criminal laws to ensure they protect civil liberties while also providing law enforcement with the tools needed to fight crime and keep us safe.

This Congress, the Committee will once again work to reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. This law is outdated and contains insufficient privacy protections for Americans’ email communications in today’s digital age. We must modernize this decades-old law to better protect constitutional rights without impeding law enforcement’s efforts to protect public safety. In this same vein, the Committee will also continue to explore solutions to govern law enforcement’s access to data stored overseas.

The Judiciary Committee will also seek to reform and reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The Committee has a strong record of enacting solutions that protect both privacy and national security. When Section 215 was up for reauthorization a couple of years ago, bipartisan leaders of the Judiciary Committee led the way to enact the USA Freedom Act. That law ended the bulk collection of metadata while ensuring the law enforcement community has the tools needed to keep us safe.

With Section 702 set to expire at the end of the year, Committee leaders will again work together in a bipartisan fashion to ensure American’s privacy is protected as the government lawfully surveils the online activities of foreigners seeking to harm us.

We must also ensure our laws protect the most vulnerable among us, the unborn. Since Roe v. Wade, nearly 60 million babies have been aborted. The House Judiciary Committee will continue its work to save more innocent lives by enacting measures to reduce abortions, help promote alternatives like adoption, and ensure taxpayer dollars are not used to fund abortions.

The House Judiciary Committee also has jurisdiction over our nation’s immigration laws and we will strive to restore the rule of law and make the immigration system work better for our country.

Throughout President Obama’s tenure in office, he refused to fully enforce our nation’s immigration laws and used his pen and phone to unilaterally rewrite the law. These actions are not without cost. They ignore the will of the American people, violate the Constitution, allow criminal aliens to evade the law, make our communities less safe, punish legal immigrants, and encourage more illegal immigration.

Fortunately, President Trump is rolling back these abusive and overreaching actions and is committed to enforcing our nation’s immigration laws. This will help stem the tide of illegal immigration and restore integrity to our immigration system.

But Congress also has an important role to play. Nearly everyone agrees that there is room for improvement in the immigration system. We must strengthen the interior enforcement of our immigration laws and remove the ability of any President to unilaterally shut down immigration enforcement. We need to ensure criminal aliens are detained and deported and end dangerous sanctuary policies that jeopardize public safety. We must also reform the asylum system, which has been increasingly abused, and make sure unaccompanied alien minors who make the dangerous trek to the United States are safely returned home.

The House Judiciary Committee will also work to improve the legal immigration system. The United States has the most generous legal immigration system in the world. However, we select less than 12% of immigrants on the basis of the education and skills they can bring to America. And it’s only 5% if you exclude their accompanying family members. Other countries, such as Canada, the U.K., and Australia, select over 60% of immigrants based on skills. In order to remain competitive in the global economy, this must change.

Additionally, we also need a workable agricultural guestworker system so that when our nation’s farmers cannot find U.S. workers, they have access to a legal workforce and are able to continue growing our crops and economy.

Lastly, I want to make clear that the House Judiciary Committee will continue its important oversight work over the course of the next Congress. As explained by James Madison in the Federalist Papers, our constitutional government only works when each branch checks and restrains the others from exceeding their legal limits. Men are not angels and the House Judiciary Committee has a duty to continue its vigorous oversight of both the executive and judicial branches. We must ensure that they are bound by their constitutional limits so that we protect individual liberty and the separation of powers now and for the generations to come.

The topics I outlined this afternoon are by no means exhaustive. The House Judiciary Committee has much important work to do over the next two years, including addressing many additional issues that have not been discussed today.

In closing, with the President, the Senate and the House aligned, the American people have spoken and we have a unique opportunity to deliver on what Americans have been asking for for years. I am excited about the prospect we have before us to make America more competitive, deliver more jobs to hardworking Americans, protect our national security, and make Americans more free.

It is truly an honor to serve our nation as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and I look forward to continue working on the significant issues facing our great nation with the new Trump Administration.