"In the News"

Richmond Times Dispatch: Editorial: Good for Goodlatte for defending free speech on college campuses

By Editorial Board

August 19, 2015 | Hyperlink

In recent years, colleges and universities have come under tremendous pressure from a wide array of sources, from the federal Education Department to student activists on campus, that has led them to ride roughshod over the constitutional right to free speech.

Far too many public institutions have adopted campus speech codes that restrict not only where and when members of the community can speak freely to small “free-speech zones,” but also sharply curtail what they can say. Campus speech codes have prohibited everything from “humor and jokes about sex” to any expression that might “offend” anybody else at the university.

In recent years, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has become something like the ACLU for higher education by defending students and faculty members, of every political persuasion, who have run afoul of such speech codes. By publicizing egregious cases and advocating for those censured, it has helped to roll back some of the more outrageous speech codes around the country.

Not long ago, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff testified before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice about how much work remains to be done. “Highly restrictive speech codes are the rule rather than the exception on public college campuses nationwide,” Lukianoff noted. In some places, Lukianoff testified, speech codes “persist even in the very jurisdictions where they have been ruled unconstitutional.” (Only one public college in Virginia, Norfolk State, gets a red-light rating from FIRE, although several others get a yellow-light rating.)

Now the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Virginia’s 6th District Rep. Bob Goodlatte, has written to the presidents of 161 public institutions that have among the worst speech codes in the nation. The letter reminds the presidents of what they seem to have forgotten: Their institutions are part of the government and, as such, are obliged to adhere scrupulously to the First Amendment. That means they cannot censor speech just because it might hurt somebody’s feelings. It concludes by asking the university presidents “what steps your institution plans to take to promote free and open expression on its campus(es), including any steps toward bringing your speech policies in accordance with the First Amendment.”

Goodlatte’s letter serves as an important counterweight to the “Dear Colleague” letters and other regulatory decrees of the Education Department. It ought to put both the universities and the federal education bureaucracy on notice that they remain subject to the First Amendment, and any rules they consider should first be tested against it before moving toward adoption.

University administrators want to maintain a serene atmosphere on campus. And they certainly want to avoid the loss of federal funding that they might incur if they too blatantly flout the Education Department. But those desires do not trump the nation’s founding document and its most fundamental principles. Goodlatte deserves a round of applause for reminding them of that.

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Washington Times: Bob Goodlatte wants answers from Loretta Lynch on Obama drug pardons

By Maggie Ybarra

July 14, 2015 | Hyperlink

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee wants U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to answer detailed questions about the 89 drug offenders to whom President Obama has granted clemency.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, and 18 other committee Republicans say they are deeply concerned that Mr. Obama has been using his pardon power to benefit specific classes of offenders. They listed their concerns about the presidential pardons, which they say appear to be going to a vast number of federal drug offenders, in a letter Tuesday to Ms. Lynch.

The Committee oversees the Department of Justice, including the functions performed by the Office of the Pardon Attorney, and is now demanding answers about the pattern of the presidential pardons.

Earlier this week, Mr. Obama commuted the sentences of 46 men and women convicted of nonviolent drug crimes. He also commuted lengthy prison sentences for eight people convicted of drug offenses and issued pardons to 12 other federal convicts in December 2014.

From the surface, it looks as if the clemency initiative is a “plainly unconstitutional practice of picking and choosing which laws to enforce and which to change,” Mr. Goodlatte said in the letter. That initiative was established in April 2014 and calls on qualified federal inmates to petition the president for reduced or commuted prison sentences.

“This is not, as the Founders intended, an exercise of the power to provide for ‘exceptions in favour of unfortunate guilt,’ but instead the use of the pardon power to benefit an entire class of offenders who were duly convicted in a court of law – not to mention a blatant usurpation of the lawmaking authority of the Legislative branch,” he said.

Committee members are now asking Ms. Lynch to answer nine questions ranging from narcotics quantities to heroin trafficking. They have instructed her to respond to those questions no later than July 24.

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U.S. News & World Report: An Unnecessary Invasion of Privacy

By Patrick Leahy and Bob Goodlatte

May 21, 2015| Hyperlink

For the past nine years, Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act has been used by the National Security Agency as legal authority to indiscriminately collect Americans' telephone records into a massive, secret database. Americans were outraged when they learned that billions of their phone records were stocked away in a government database – especially when national security experts examined the program and concluded that it was not essential to preventing terrorist attacks. And recently, a three-judge panel of a federal appellate court unanimously confirmed that the NSA's bulk collection of Americans' phone records is unlawful. This program must end. 

Make no mistake, the debate in Congress over the future of the NSA's bulk collection program is about far more than just phone records. We know that for years the NSA indiscriminately collected Americans' Internet metadata – that is, information about who we communicate with online. That is why it is so important to put a stop to this now. 

A strong bipartisan coalition of leaders in Congress, which includes us, has come together to do just that. The USA Freedom Act reforms our nation's intelligence-gathering programs to protect Americans' civil liberties and enhance our national security. Recently, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved this bill, but unfortunately some in the Senate continue to advocate for mass surveillance and are using scare tactics and misleading arguments to block reform. 

Supporters of mass surveillance argue that it is critical to our national security, but the experts disagree. Richard Clarke, a senior Bush administration counterterrorism official on Sept. 11, 2001, recently said that there is no benefit to a massive database of Americans' phone records. None. He also said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last year that this program would not have prevented the terrorist attacks on 9/11 – as did former Sen. Bob Graham, who investigated the Sept. 11 attacks as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee. And while some claim that the USA Freedom Act would take us back to a pre-9/11 posture, experts including the attorney general and the director of national intelligence agree that our legislation preserves key national security authorities. 

We know that our intelligence agencies do not need massive amounts of private, personal information on law-abiding Americans to keep this country safe. We also know that the intelligence community is facing a critical deadline before authorities under the Patriot Act are set to expire. If Senate leaders continue to block our bipartisan path forward to improve intelligence capabilities and protect Americans' privacy rights, the authorities they consider so critical will cease to exist. 

President Barack Obama, the director of national intelligence, the attorney general, civil liberties groups, technology companies and an overwhelming majority of the House of Representatives – 196 Republicans and 142 Democrats – all support this bill. Most importantly, the American people support the USA Freedom Act. The handful of senators who advocate for mass surveillance should listen to the court, the intelligence community and the American people and not hold up progress any longer. 

Patrick Leahy is a Democratic senator from Vermont and the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Bob Goodlatte is a Republican representative from Virginia. He is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

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USA Today: Let the taxman die

By Bob Goodlatte and Kevin Brady

May 13, 2015 | Hyperlink

Tax Day — a day that more Americans hate than any other — has come and gone. The recent scandals and bureaucratic bungling by the Internal Revenue Service have so angered the public that cries to "Abolish the IRS" trigger enthusiastic applause at political rallies and have become popular bumper stickers all over the country.

Americans rightly gripe about taxes and lawmakers from left to right tout their commitment to tax reform, and occasionally efforts to reform certain aspects of the code do take shape. While they are often just nibbling at the edges of the larger problem, thankfully progress has begun. Following three hard years of work by the House Ways & Means Committee, its former chairman, Dave Camp, successfully produced the first full tax reform draft in three decades. The panel's new chairman, Paul Ryan, is making pro-growth tax reform his signature issue.

But the truth is it will probably take something dramatic to finally get the president and Congress to act: eliminating the current tax code.

With a skeptical electorate tired of gridlock, we think this has actually made 2015 an ideal time to establish a timetable that culminates in meaningful, lasting tax reform that truly helps hardworking taxpayers and creates a healthier economy. That's why we are working hard to see the Tax Code Termination Act (H.R. 27) approved by the Congress and signed into law.

Sunsetting — legislatively terminating — the tax code is a sure fire way to spur the reform the tax code needs. Across the political spectrum, there is almost universal agreement we can do far better by the American people than the current tax code.

Our current code is just too big, too complex, and fraught with loopholes and abuse. It's inherently unfair and inefficient.

In 1914, the U.S. tax code was about the same length as American Sniper or Gone Girl. Now it's grown to almost 74,000 pages — the length of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, if you read it nearly 70 times!

And yes we've heard the horror stories; in fact, many of us know people who have lived these horror stories. In the last two years more than 360,000 taxpayers were the victims of a scam involving fake IRS agents who threatened consumers and conned their victims out of over $15 million.

In February, the tax service provider H&R Block reported that more than 50% of Obamacare customers received subsidies that were too large, and as a result they will have their tax refunds reduced or need to send in additional money with their returns. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the confusion and harm caused by our tax code's complexity.

The best way to reform is to first do away with what we have now. Under our plan the current tax code would expire on December 31, 2019. Between now and then there would be a presidential election and a mid-term congressional election. That provides plenty of time to debate and agree upon a new and reformed tax structure that would kick in with the New Year on January 1, 2020.

This approach will allow us, as a nation, to collectively decide what the new tax system should look like. There are many competing alternatives but having a set date to end the current tax code will drive the issue and the debate to the top of the national agenda.

This would give everyone an equal opportunity to make their case and contribute to the debate. Whatever tax plan you may support, we'd all be at the starting line together.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia., is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Let Freedom Ring, has independently begun a grassroots communications effort with the website SunsetTheTaxCode.com.

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The Hill: Pass Freedom Act now

By Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.)

May 12, 2015 | Hyperlink

Recently, a federal appeals court ruled that the National Security Agency’s bulk collection program is not authorized under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. This court ruling confirms what we’ve been saying all along: bulk collection of data is not authorized under the law and is not accepted by the American people. 

It also reaffirms that a straight reauthorization of the bulk collection program, as some have proposed, is not a choice for Congress. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we reform our nation’s intelligence-gathering programs so they protect both national security and Americans’ privacy.

For more than a year, we have worked to craft a bill that does just that. The result is the USA Freedom Act, which contains the most sweeping set of reforms to government surveillance practices in nearly 40 years. And this week, the House will vote on this bipartisan legislation.

Last year, the USA Freedom Act passed the House 303-121. It narrowly failed to advance in the Senate, garnering 58 votes in its favor but falling 2 votes short of reaching the 60 required for cloture. That could have been the end of the reform effort, but we believed it was important to keep tackling this issue, because core American values are at stake. 

Consequently, we have worked since January on a bipartisan, bicameral basis to update the USA Freedom Act. The result is an even stronger bill that achieves greater reforms, unequivocally ends bulk collection of data, protects Americans’ civil liberties and increases the transparency and oversight of our intelligence community, while also protecting national security and specifically including targeted enhancements to combat foreign terrorists like members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Some argue that protecting both individual liberty and national security is unattainable, but these two goals are not in conflict with each other. From the founding of the American republic, this country has been engaged in a profound debate about the limits of government. In the Federalist Papers, the founders argued passionately for a federal government that would protect the American people from foreign threats. At the same time, the founders struggled to create a structure to contain and control that government in order to protect the God-given rights of the American people. They carefully crafted the Constitution and Bill of Rights to accomplish these two different, yet complimentary, goals.

The debate surrounding the NSA’s intelligence-gathering programs has illuminated the exceptionality of the United States. The ceaseless effort to restrain the reach of government is in our DNA as Americans. And for 225 years, we have refused to accept the idea that in order to have national security, we must sacrifice our personal freedoms. 

The USA Freedom Act lives up to these ideals, proving once again that we can protect both Americans’ civil liberties and our national security without compromising either one. 

For example, the bill protects Americans’ civil liberties by banning the bulk collection of any business records and prohibiting large-scale, indiscriminate collection, such as data from an entire state, city or even zip code. It also creates a panel of experts to advise courts examining the government’s national security requests on matters of privacy and civil liberties, communications technology and other technical or legal matters. 

In addition, the USA Freedom Act increases the transparency of the government’s intelligence-gathering programs by making more information available to the American public. It requires the declassification of all significant court opinions, mandates the attorney general and the director of national intelligence to provide the public with detailed information about how they use these national security authorities, and provides even more robust transparency reporting by America’s technology companies.

The USA Freedom Act contains several important national security enhancements to keep our country safe from those who wish us harm. It closes loopholes that make it difficult for the government to track foreign terrorists and spies as they enter or leave the country, enhances investigations of international proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and increases the maximum penalties for material support of a foreign terrorist organization. With the rise of ISIS and other foreign terrorist groups, these targeted provisions could not come at a better time.

The USA Freedom Act represents government at its best — the product of a robust public debate and intense bipartisan negotiations dedicated to finding a way to protect our constitutional rights while enhancing our safety. Once the House passes this legislation, the Senate should do the same.

Goodlatte has represented Virginia’s 6th Congressional District since 1993. He sits on the Agriculture Committee and is chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Sensenbrenner represents Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional District and has served in the House since 1979. He sits on the Science, Space and Technology; and the Judiciary committees.

 

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News & Advance: Lynchburg's Goodlatte at Fore of Civil Liberties Fight 

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD 

May 10, 2015 | Hyperlink

There’s a civil liberties revolution brewing in the House of Representatives, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is leading the fight.

When Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency whistleblower, began leaking details of the NSA’s intelligence gathering operations and the scope of the data the U.S. government was collecting from around the globe, many Americans were shocked. And nothing shocked the average American more than the revelation that the NSA was vacuuming up metadata on every, single cellphone call made in the country. Not the actual voice content of calls, but data that could identify who made a call, to whom, from where using what cell towers and for how long. The agency was then storing the information at massive data centers built around the country, including one in the deserts of Utah.

The clincher for many Americans and civil liberties advocates was that none of it was done with a warrant. The NSA used an obscure section of the USA Patriot Act, passed in the immediate wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as the legal foundation for its program.

That just didn’t sit well with Goodlatte, and rightly so.

Though the Sixth District congressman is as strong on law-and-order issues as any Republican, the lawyer and former aide to the late Caldwell Butler, the Republican congressman from Roanoke who played a pivotal role on the Judiciary Committee in the impeachment of President Richard Nixon, is just as strong on issues of government overreach and impingement of personal liberties.

Which brings us to this past week and two big, news stories.

First, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously declared the NSA phone data collection program unconstitutional in a sweeping victory for privacy advocates.

Second, Goodlatte successfully shepherded a massive intelligence bill, the USA Freedom Act of 2015, through the Judiciary Committee on a 25-2 vote, sending it to the full House for action.

The Patriot Act, last renewed in 2010, sunsets on June 1 if Congress takes no action to renew it.

With less than three weeks to go, a major fight between the House and the U.S. Senate is about to explode onto the public stage. The House — led by Goodlatte, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (the Republican who authored the original Patriot Act) and the House leadership — want to see major reforms to the intelligence-gathering process, especially in the wake of the Snowden revelations. In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is holding firm for a blanket extension, addressing none of the concerns of civil libertarians.

Right now, it’s a matter of which chamber’s legislation is first to gain approval. And in that race, Bob Goodlatte is ahead. If he and the House leadership can quickly approve the USA Freedom Act and send their legislation to the Senate first, then the House bill becomes the primary path for reform.

First and foremost, Goodlatte’s bipartisan legislation ends the NSA’s warrantless, bulk collection of metadata by clarifying and rewriting Section 215 of the Patriot Act. But equally important are reforms of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act federal court that handles highly sensitive intelligence cases. Goodlatte’s bill creates a panel of privacy experts to advise the court on behalf of the American public and also greatly increases transparency of the court itself. Under the bill, for example, all major opinions of the court must be made public and the U.S. attorney general and director of national intelligence regularly report to Congress and the American people how their intelligence gathering powers are being used.

Goodlatte, a member of Congress for more than 20 years, is not naive; he knows America has mortal enemies abroad who must be dealt with. He also knows that intelligence gathering simply cannot take place in glare of legal sunshine. But he also has been a staunch defender of the individual when confronted by the power of the central government.

The intelligence reforms he and his Democratic and Republican colleagues have crafted strike a good balance between the need to protect the nation and the need to protect the individual from the nation’s government. We expect the full House to concur and hope the U.S. Senate sides with him in the fight over the Patriot Act, a needed weapon in the war on terrorism but one in need of reform.

 

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Goodlatte & Capuano: College ratings plan is not the answer
February 26, 2015 | Hyperlink

Do engineers matter more than the science teachers who fired their imaginations? Are accounting majors more valuable to our society than someone studying theology? Should a university receive less financial aid because their students choose humanitarian service instead of high paying jobs? How can these incomparables be measured – and should we try?  The Obama administration raises these important questions with its Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS) for colleges and universities. In December, the Administration unveiled its proposed framework, but many questions remain.

We, a Republican from Virginia and a Democrat from Massachusetts, have been skeptical of these efforts since they were first announced more than a year ago. We’ve heard concerns from many in the higher education community. Last summer, in response to these concerns, we introduced a resolution, H. Res 614, expressing support for the quality, value and diversity of our nation’s higher education institutions and strong disagreement with the Administration’s plans to implement a college ratings system.

Now that the Department of Education has released its draft framework for rating post-secondary education, we are renewing efforts to build support for our resolution, introducing it in the 114th Congress as H. Res 26.

The criteria that federal education officials would use to create a ratings system – “access, affordability and outcomes” – illustrate the problems they will face. All of these benchmarks are certainly important considerations, but there will be enormous and unavoidable difficulties in comparing institutions based on these criteria. Perhaps more importantly, where are the benchmarks that consider an individual’s personal determinations of value? One size certainly will not fit all.

An Ivy League university cannot be compared with a small rural college on the basis of alumni income. Nor should one compare completion rates for a selective private college with a large state university that admits, and in some cases may be required to admit, many local high school graduates with widely varying levels of academic preparation. Unless the criteria are developed in a way that accurately accounts for the academic diversity of America’s colleges, the data will be misleading and ineffective.

Moreover, and even more troubling, earned income should be no measure of the contributions that individuals make to society. This will easily incentivize colleges and universities to encourage students to choose majors such as pre-med or computer science over social work and education.  A perfect example of how this rating could negatively impact a university can be found in President Obama himself. He chose to work as a community organizer after graduating from Columbia, a position for which he would have been modestly compensated. His lower income could have negatively impacted Columbia’s rating, if such a rating system existed in 1983. Surely we would not value anyone’s work solely based on their salary. We do not want federal policy to discourage public service.

Another concerning aspect of the proposal is the linking of ratings to eligibility for financial aid. Schools with a mission to serve low-income or first-generation college students may, for reasons quite apart from the excellence of their teaching, show lower rates of completion and lower alumni earnings. These schools, however, provide crucial opportunities for many young people. If the financial aid available to them were limited by poor ratings, their essential mission would be jeopardized.   Higher education would become unattainable for many underserved students.

Our nation boasts a rich history of student-choice in higher education. For some individuals, a city school is preferred over a rural school, for others extracurricular offerings such as music or sports may be important. The Department of Education in its own proposed framework does not claim “at this time” to have “metrics” for those aspects of education they admit are “intangible.” If a characteristic is intangible it is by definition abstract and impossible to quantify.  No one can place an arbitrary value on an individual’s experience at an institution, tie federal funding to that value, and expect to have accomplished some measure of accountability.

Everyone agrees we must address issues of college affordability and student debt. We agree that taxpayer dollars should be spent responsibly and effectively.  We also agree that prospective students should have data available to help them make informed decisions and provide as much objective information as possible towards that end. Federally rating our colleges and universities is not the way to do this. Such a divisive and subjective ratings system, with too many unintended consequences, will threaten the special characteristics and diversity that make our postsecondary system the best in the world today.

We stand ready to work with those interested in protecting that diversity while ensuring that taxpayer dollars are wisely spent and anyone who wishes to go to college has the opportunity to do so.

Goodlatte has represented Virginia’s 6th Congressional District since 1993. He is chairman of the Judiciary Committee and also sits on the Agriculture Committee. Capuano has represented congressional districts in Massachusetts’ Boston area since 1999. He sits on the Ethics; the Financial Services; and the Transportation committees.

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Goodlatte & Grassley: Ensuring Trust in Internet Governance
February 12, 2015 | Hyperlink

This week in Singapore, important decisions are being made about the future of the Internet at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) 52 conference. At stake are fundamental questions: Should the American people surrender stewardship over core technical functions that have preserved the open and neutral operation of the Internet since its inception? Should the Obama Administration cede this authority to an organization many consider to be non-transparent, unaccountable and insular? If the administration insists on a transfer, what guarantees, capabilities and conditions first should be demanded and stress-tested by the global multi-stakeholder community?

This discussion began with the surprise announcement by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an agency within the Department of Commerce, which asked ICANN to develop a proposal to transition NTIA's role as "the historic steward of the Domain Name System (DNS)." The announcement came as a shock to many who follow Internet governance issues and others who depend upon the Internet to communicate freely or conduct commerce around the world.

Indeed, NTIA's announcement appeared to directly contravene long-standing positions of both the legislative and executive branches that the United States should retain its stewardship in overseeing the management of the Internet for the benefit of users worldwide.

Since this announcement, the administration's process and the factors it weighed preceding this decision have not been fully disclosed. However, evidence suggests that the proposal to transition the responsibility for administering changes to all top-level domains, as well as serving as the historic guarantor of the DNS, was dictated not by technical considerations but rather in response to political motives. Moreover, questions persist as to whether the Obama Administration had the authority to commence such a transition without congressional oversight and approval in the first place.

In its original press release and subsequent communications, NTIA referred to two congressional resolutions, S.Con.Res.50 and H.Con.Res.127, which were passed by the 112th Congress. These resolutions affirmed House and Senate opposition to attempts by foreign governments and inter-governmental organizations to assume control over the Internet and generally endorsed the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance. These resolutions were specifically intended to signal U.S. opposition to efforts by other nations to enlist the United Nations and empower the International Telecommunications Union as the global regulator of the Internet.

However, neither resolution mentioned ICANN, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions that NTIA now proposes to transfer oversight over, or contained a suggestion, explicit or otherwise, that the United States should contemplate surrendering stewardship over the administration of these critical functions to ICANN or any other entity. In fact, two other resolutions passed in 2005, H.Con.Res.268 and S.Res.323, affirmed that operation and management of the Internet's domain name and addressing system should remain under the oversight of the United States. The administration's practice of playing fast and loose with clear statements of Congressional intent is not the way to inspire confidence, build support or work towards achieving consensus.

Serious questions remain about the wisdom of ceding this authority, as well as the specifics of any transition. Our committees have been conducting oversight of ICANN and we will continue to closely examine the processes of the United States government and ICANN as these transition discussions continue.

We welcome NTIA Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Larry Strickling's recent acknowledgements that there are no hard and fast deadlines for completing this process. If the administration is determined to give up oversight of ICANN and the IANA contract, permanent improvements to ICANN's accountability and transparency are critical to building public and congressional trust for any proposed transition. Any consideration of such a transition must be done carefully and in close coordination with Congress, rather than in a unilateral way. Further, we encourage members of the public and the many constituencies with interests in this process to make their voices and concerns heard. We also encourage ICANN to ensure that whatever results from this process shows that the outcome emanated from a true bottom-up multi-stakeholder process and was neither imposed on nor unduly influenced by ICANN's leaders, staff, or members of its board.

The U.S. has served as a critical and responsible backstop against censorship and threats to openness and free speech on the Internet. As a result, the Internet has thrived. We must ensure that these principles remain intact for all Internet users across the globe. The future of the Internet as a medium for free speech, the flow of ideas and global commerce is at stake, and must be protected.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

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News Virginian: Goodlatte to chair Judiciary Committee for another two years
By Bob Stuart
November 20, 2014 | Hyperlink

Sixth District Rep. Bob Goodlatte will serve another two years as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Goodlatte's chairmanship selection for the 114th Congress was announced on Wednesday after the House Republican Conference confirmed the GOP Steering Committee's recommendation.

Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, who will begin his 12th term in Congress in January, said he was pleased with the progress of the committee during the past two years.

"I am proud of the numerous legislative accomplishments we had in the 113th Congress, including the House passage of the bipartisan USA Freedom Act, ending bulk collection of data by the government and reforming our nation's intelligence-gathering programs, the bipartisan Innovation Act, which combats the problem of abusive patient litigation, numerous bills aimed at reducing burdensome regulations that are stifling economic growth and legislation to reduce mandatory sanctions for attorneys who file frivioulous lawsuits,'' Goodlatte said in a press release.

The congressman said he is focused on a continued pursuit of a pro-growth agenda that would create jobs and make America more competitive.

Over the past year, Goodlatte has convened Judiciary Committee hearings on executive power use by President Obama. Numerous constitutional experts have testified about the overreach of executive power by the president.

On Wednesday, Goodlatte and Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, wrote the president and asked him to not execute an executive order on immigration.

"Something as important as changing our immigration laws cannot be forced by unilateral action by the president,'' the letter said. "That's not the way our system of government works."

The letter further states that unilateral action by Obama will "perpetuate and exacerbate'' a cycle of unlawful entry into the United States. The two congressmen ask Obama to work with Congress on legislation to "address our broken immigration system."

They also ask the president "secure the border, enforce our immigration laws in the interior of the United States and build a broad consensus for immigration reform." Otherwise, the lawmakers say "we will be forced to use the tools afforded to Congress by the Constitution to stop your administration from successfully carrying out your plan."

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Wall Street Journal: Congress Will Fight Obama's Power Grab
By Bob Goodlatte
November 19, 2014 | Hyperlink

President Obama seems poised to announce one of the biggest executive power grabs in American history. He is expected to declare unilaterally that millions of unlawful immigrants can stay in the U.S. without facing the consequences of violating immigration laws. Congress has not agreed on how to reform the immigration system, but the president has decided to ignore the Constitution and alter the law without new statutes. This is a slap in the face of the American people, who voted on Nov. 4 to change the way Washington operates.

The Constitution is clear: It is Congress’s duty to write the nation’s laws and, once they are enacted, it is the president’s responsibility to enforce them. Article II, Section 3, of the Constitution requires the president to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” This clause compels the president to enforce all constitutionally valid acts of Congress, regardless of his administration’s view of their wisdom. That is a duty, not an option.

Law-enforcement agencies have the power to exercise prosecutorial discretion—deciding whether to enforce the law against particular individuals—but this power must be used judiciously. As Doris Meissner, commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service during the Clinton administration, told her agency in a 2000 memo, such discretion is not “an invitation to violate or ignore the law.”

Mr. Obama’s threatened action amounts to ignoring the law, as an estimated four million to five million unlawful immigrants—close to half of the illegal population—stand to benefit from the decree. That does not constitute faithful execution of the law.

The president justifies his action by saying that he is simply prioritizing immigration enforcement. But there is a difference between setting priorities—say, focusing more resources on special cases—and setting enforcement-free zones for millions of unlawful immigrants. This proclamation will entice countless people around the world to come to the U.S. illegally, just like the government’s Deferred Action for the Childhood Arrivals program that President Obama signed two years ago encouraged tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors and families from Central America to make the dangerous trek to the U.S.

President Obama also claims that these actions are nothing new. Previous presidents from both parties have provided immigration relief to groups of aliens, sometimes abusing prosecutorial discretion and stretching presidential authority. However, far fewer people were affected in those cases. And the actions usually were a response to an emergency in a foreign country—thus they were in keeping with the executive branch’s broad constitutional authority to conduct foreign affairs.

Chinese nationals, for example, were protected from deportation after the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. Haitian orphans who were in the process of being adopted by U.S. citizens when the devastating earthquake of 2010 struck were granted humanitarian parole to come to the U.S. Circumstances matter, and without any crisis in a foreign country to justify his actions, President Obama has exceeded his constitutional powers.

The president’s vow to override U.S. immigration laws by executive fiat is not without cost. By acting lawlessly and assuming legislative power, the president is driving full speed toward a constitutional crisis, threatening to unravel the nation’s system of checks and balances.

Mr. Obama’s planned action also undermines the American people’s trust that the president is committed to enforcing the country’s immigration laws. Americans are deeply concerned about the country’s direction—their statement on Nov. 4 was a firm rejection of the Obama administration’s policies. Rather than listen and change course, the president is doubling down on his failed policies and sending an unmistakable message to the nation: He will do what he wants, when he wants, without regard for the Constitution or what the American people desire.

A unilateral presidential edict awarding amnesty to millions of unlawful immigrants will also severely damage chances of enacting legislation to reform the immigration system. Rather than work constructively with the new Congress in January, the president is poisoning his relationship with lawmakers by acting on his own.

Mr. Obama’s plan to violate the Constitution must be stopped. The Framers wisely gave Congress many tools to guard against the executive branch accumulating too much power. My colleagues in both the House and the Senate will take inventory of the tools afforded to Congress by the Constitution, such as the power of the purse and the authority to write legislation, to stop the president’s unconstitutional actions from being implemented.

The debate in Congress over the past two years has shown that there is a willingness and need to reform our nation’s immigration system. While opinions differ on exactly how to amend the laws, one thing is certain: The president has no authority to make this decision on his own.

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The Hill: Make Internet access tax ban permanent
By Bob Goodlatte
July 15, 2014 | Hyperlink

At the tender age of 16, a young man and his family emigrated from the Soviet Union with only $300 dollars to their name.

During their first few weeks in the United States, this young man’s family purchased a computer for him under the impression that “access to a personal computer would do something good for [him].”

During the next 10 years, this young man – Max Levchin – founded, developed and sold PayPal for $1.5 billion.

Levchin’s story exemplifies our new digital economy where computer and internet access serve as a gateway – if not a necessity – for the American Dream. Millions of Americans now rely on the internet to run their businesses, to educate themselves, to seek new opportunities, to research and write, and to communicate with family and friends.

The beauty of this new medium of opportunity is that it does not matter what you look like or where you come from to access the tools to succeed.

However, one topic of debate on Capitol Hill has been whether to let states increase barriers to entry by taxing access to the internet.

Over the past 14 years, Congress has extended ban after ban on states taxing internet access. The measures have been met with enormous bipartisan support – only five “no” votes were cast in the history of these renewals in the House and Senate.

But now some argue that the time is up for an internet tax break and that states need the money more than American consumers.

On the House Judiciary Committee where I serve as chairman, we have been examining the issue of internet access tax and recently approved a bill, the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (H.R. 3086), that would make the ban on internet access taxes permanent.

Time is short, the ban expires on November 1. Today the House is scheduled to vote on the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act to make the ban permanent.

If the ban on internet access taxes is not renewed, the tax burden on Americans will be substantial. It is estimated that internet access tax rates will be more than twice the average rate of all other goods and services. Additionally, low-income households will pay 10 times as much as high-income households as a share of income.

The last thing that we need is another bill on the doorsteps of the American people. A tax on internet access would burden the millions of Americans who rely on the internet to conduct business, communicate, educate, and live.

We should strive to increase access, to increase growth and to increase opportunity. Now is the time: a permanent ban on taxation of internet access is crucial for fostering the potential of the next Max Levchin and protecting the future of our digital economy. 

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News Virginian: Goodlatte to lead congressional delegation to U.S. border
By Bob Stuart
June 30, 2014 | Hyperlink

Sixth District Rep. Bob Goodlatte will receive a close up look later this week at the flow of illegal immigration at the southern border he and the House Judiciary Committee have been investigating.

The congressman was interviewed during a stop Monday at Blue Ridge Beverage in Waynesboro.

Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, will lead a congressional delegation Wednesday and Thursday to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas to witness the entry of illegal immigrants into the country.

Goodlatte, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, held a hearing on border conditions and the rapid flow of children and adults from Central America into the U.S. last week.

After receiving testimony from representatives of the Border Patrol Union and U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement, Goodlatte said the testimony “showed the magnitude of the problem.”

“We cannot have people illegally entering the country,’’ said Goodlatte, who said both children and adults are coming into the U.S. illegally and at rising rates from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Goodlatte said the ongoing problem is the failure of the Obama administration to adequately enforce immigration laws.

On Monday, the president issued a statement on border security and immigration reform.

He criticized the House for failing to hold a vote on immigration legislation passed a year ago by the Senate, and also asked congressional leaders to work with him to address the crisis at the border.

Obama also said he was directing the secretary of Homeland Security and Attorney General Eric Holder to immediately direct additional resources to the U.S. border. “Protecting public safety and deporting dangerous criminals has been and will remain the top priority,’’ the president said.

On a separate subject, the congressman said President Obama has been guilty of executive overreach. He said the president has exceeded his authority on immigration, the Environmental Protection Agency and other matters.

The congressman said the alternative is for Congress to look at ways to limit the president’s power. That includes the filing of lawsuits against the president and last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the president had exceeded his constitutional powers with 2012 appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.

Goodlatte spent about an hour Monday touring Blue Ridge Beverage, a local business that distributes beer, Red Bull and water to a 12-county area, said Tom Parker, the Blue Ridge general manager.

Parker said the company employs 88 at its South Oak Lane facility.

Goodlatte said he has “a longstanding tradition’’ of visiting businesses in his congressional district. He said he is eager to see how government regulations are impacting the businesses.

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Roanoke Times: Should the feds rank colleges, too?
By Roanoke Times Editorial Board

July 1, 2014 | Hyperlink

The Princeton Review.

U.S. News & World-Report.

The Fiske Guide to Colleges.

If you’re a high school student shopping for a college (or a tuition-paying parent, for that matter), there’s a sometimes bewildering array of ratings and rankings for colleges.

By class size.

By tuition.

By reputation as a party school.

Wait, that’s Playboy. Nix that one.

But there is the Forbes’ Top Colleges list.

The Wall Street Journal Recruiter Rankings.

The Washington Monthly Rankings.

Now, the U.S. Department of Education wants to add one more set of rankings – its own.

The department is in the process of putting together a Postsecondary Institution Ratings System in time for the start of the 2015-16 school year. The details of just how colleges would be ranked – and the devil is always in the details – haven’t been released. However, the original proposal from the Obama administration would tie a student’s financial aid to the school’s ratings.

Let’s repeat that just so everyone is clear: Financial aid might be tied to how the school is ranked.

But ranked how?

This is where we trot out the old phrase about “lies, damned lies and statistics.” (Attributed sometimes to Mark Twain, sometimes to 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli; feel free to turn in a term paper researching the source for extra credit.)

Earlier this year, The Atlantic magazine published a piece headlined: “These U.S. Colleges and Majors Are the Biggest Waste of Money.” Among those on the list: Bluefield College, a private, Baptist-affiliated school on the Virginia side of the line in Tazewell County.

The article, using data from payscale.com, purported to show that Bluefield graduates made so little money that its students would be better off not going to college at all.

Before the day was out, Bluefield (along with other colleges that achieved that dubious distinction) responded by pointing out that the payscale.com data was incomplete and the findings contradicted those issued by the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia. That body had found that Bluefield grads made more than the state average – and more than graduates from the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Radford University, James Madison University. The list went on and on.

Who should you believe?

We’d be churlish to point out that the Obama administration’s experience with creating websites hasn’t exactly earned it an “A” in computer science.

But the more serious point is this: With all the ranking systems that the free market has devised, do we really need one from the federal government? And while tying financial aid to an institution’s performance may sound like a good idea, is it really? Just what measure of performance is the right one? See that Twain/Disraeli quote above, if you need clarification. Or maybe the old Bowl Championship Series rankings for college football, if you want to start a real debate.

Now, two congressmen – one Democrat, one Republican – have introduced a resolution calling on the administration to abandon its attempt to rank colleges and tie financial aid to the results. The Democrat is Michael Capuano of Massachusetts; the Republican is our own Bob Goodlatte.

“It is not the place of the federal government, through a ratings system, to attempt to measure the value of an individual’s education,” Goodlatte says.

 

The rating we give that statement is A plus.

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The Hill: Obama Administration has failed the economy
By Bob Goodlatte 
June 26, 2014 | Hyperlink

The Department of Commerce yesterday announced its sharpest setback in the economy since the recession.

Not only is our economy shrinking, it is shrinking fast. The Commerce Department’s revised estimates show a 2.9% decline for the first three months of the year, the “fastest rate of decline since the first quarter of 2009” according to the breaking report in the Wall Street Journal.

Despite promises from the Obama Administration, 5 years after the Great Recession our economy has yet to grow strong enough to bounce back after setbacks.

The administration attributes this to “volatile GDP data” in their statement that exemplifies their signature style of politics and excuses. In the eyes of the administration, the winter weather was even to blame for the contracting economy.

Instead of solving the problem of a contracting economy that hit the lowest point since the Great Recession, the administration continues to push their failed policies in the faces of the American people: their answers are more spending that drives up our federal deficit and more regulation that weighs down job creators.

Clearly, the administration’s course of action has not sparked economic growth or even stability in our country.

While the administration has increased costs on Americans and fed us lines of hope and change, we can see the facts.

Every year, federal regulations impose a hefty, estimated $1.86 trillion burden on the economy yet the administration continues to flood American households and businesses with costly, new regulations.

In stark contrast to the administration’s approach, in the House Judiciary Committee where I serve as chairman, we have passed bill after bill to jumpstart the economy, provide jobs for Americans and protect job creators from extortion.

This legislation includes powerful regulatory reform bills to expedite approval for federal energy and construction projects to create jobs across the country, lower the costs of new regulations, prevent secret deals in litigation that require new regulations, and mandate the Administration to provide real-time transparency on plans to impose new regulatory costs.

It also includes patent reform legislation to defend America’s job creators and innovators against abusive patent trolls that extort their money and steal their inventions.

While these bills sit in the Senate waiting for action, the committee continues to work on solutions.

Last week, we approved a bill to establish an independent commission to assess and clear the clutter of outdated, unnecessarily burdensome federal regulations that too often keep growth and job creation down.

We also approved a bill to keep Internet access free of tax. Permanently.

Americans carrying the burden of this failing economy deserve better than to foot the growing bill that the administration piles on them. They deserve a real economic recovery, jobs and competition.

And the bills passed through the Judiciary Committee are an important step toward increasing fiscal responsibility in our country, challenging the current strategy of the Obama administration and laying the foundation for a robust economy.

WSLS: Poff Federal Building cost part of hearing in Washington
By Jenna Zibton
June 18, 2014 | Hyperlink

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WSLS) - Cost overruns from the Poff Federal Building renovations will be part of a discussion in Washington D.C. Thursday morning in a house subcommittee.

The hearing is part of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet. 

The building located in downtown Roanoke has been under construction for years after more than $51 million was set aside for energy improvements and renovations. It was supposed to save taxpayers millions because a new building wouldn't have to be built, but instead it's gone over budget costing more than $80 million. 

Congressman Bob Goodlatte has been outspoken about what he says is a problem around the country and will be part of the hearing. 

"A classic case of government boondoggle. This is a gross waste of the taxpayers money. It's been mishandled in every respect from following the law in terms of how you put out a bid for a project like this to providing for the needs for the tenants in that building," said Rep. Goodlatte.

The Honorable Glen Conrad, who works out of the building as the Western District of Virginia U.S. District Court Chief Judge will also testify.

"Security in the Poff Federal Building has not been enhanced. In one critical respect, our security is diminished as a result of the renovations," reads Judge Conrad's statement to the subcommittee that was released Wednesday. "For me, the most bothersome and disturbing reality is that five years from [the] announcement of the Poff Stimulus Project, and after expenditure of millions of dollars, the user functionality in the court portion of the building has not been enhanced whatsoever, in any way, shape or form." 

Also on the witness list for the hearing is a district judge from New Mexico, the architect and project manager for the Western District of Virginia U.S. District Court and the GSA deputy commissioner for public buildings service. 

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FoxNews.com: Why USA Freedom Act is Good for America
By Bob Goodlatte
May 21, 2014
Hyperlink

Our Founding Fathers understood there could be no national security without personal security. As such, they carefully crafted the Constitution and Bill of Rights in such a way as to accomplish these two different, yet complimentary, goals. 

Nearly 225 years later, some think these goals are in conflict with one another following last year’s unauthorized disclosure of the National Security Agency’s data collection programs operated under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. However, we don’t have to sacrifice one for the other as we seek to reform our intelligence-gathering programs. We, like the Founding Fathers, can protect our cherished individual liberties while simultaneously preserving our ability to protect against attacks on our nation and citizens.  

Today’s debate is similar to the debate surrounding the adoption of the Constitution. While we enjoy a Bill of Rights in our Constitution today, our framers publicly and privately debated for years whether or not the Constitution needed to include a list of rights. 

Some advocated for the maintenance of a strong central government in the wake of the weak Articles of Confederation, while others’ primary desire was to protect the individual freedoms of citizens. 

In the end, both parties were able to accommodate their goals by adding the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, which enumerates liberties to be protected and enjoyed by all while preserving the federal government’s fundamental power to protect our country and citizens.

As Congress seeks to reform our intelligence-gathering programs, both Americans’ civil liberties and our national security are at stake and both can be protected. 

For the past year, the House Judiciary Committee has studied this issue in detail and has worked across party lines, and with the Obama administration, to produce bipartisan legislation to ensure these programs protect our national security and individual freedom. 

This bill, the USA FREEDOM Act, was unanimously approved by both the House Judiciary Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and will be voted on by the House of Representatives this week.

To protect Americans’ freedoms, the USA FREEDOM Act ends all bulk collection of Americans’ records, such as telephone and electronic communications records. 

The USA FREEDOM Act makes clear that the government cannot indiscriminately acquire Americans’ records and creates a new process for the collection of transactional call detail records. Specifically, the bill requires that these transactional call detail records can only be collected on a case-by-case basis and only after the individual request is approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

At the same time,

CONGRESSMAN BOB GOODLATTE
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