Chairman Lamar Smith (TX-21) Discusses House Judiciary Committee Priorities
by TexasGOPVote on February 21, 2011 at 1:30 PM
Congressman Lamar Smith (TX-21), Chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, took some time out of his busy schedule last week to share his thoughts with the TexasGOPVote community. As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Smith discussed the Committee's priorities over the next few months.
Chairman Lamar Smith started off by explaining why the Judiciary Committee is so important:
"I'm sitting here in my office in the Rayburn Building in DC, and I'm looking on the wall to my left at an autograph that I have of James Madison. The reason I have that autograph is because James Madison is known as the Father of the Constitution, and I consider the Judiciary Committee to be the guardian of the Constitution. That's why I'm happy to have that reminder to my left, and happy to try to push the Judiciary Committee and remind members that we are the guardian of the Constitution, and nothing could be a greater responsibility."
Chairman Lamar Smith then went into the priorities of the Judiciary Committee:
1. National Security
Chairman Smith explained that there are two components of national security:
- Preventing terrorist attacks and treating terrorists like terrorists
- Securing the border
Chairman Smith explained the importance of keeping Guantanamo Bay open and operating in order to keep the terrorists there as opposed to transferring them to U.S. soil, where they might be granted the same rights as U.S. citizens or transferred back to their countries and released.
"We have already seen at least 25% of all inmates released from Gitmo have returned to their terrorist activities, so that's not particularly reassuring."
Chairman Smith also explained the importance of securing our borders in order to stop the flow of illegal drugs, human smuggling, and illegal immigrants.
"We do not have a secure border despite what the Secretary of Homeland Security implies. We still have at least one million people succeeding in coming into this country illegally every year, and that's a very conservative figure. I arrive at that figure because we are apprehending four to five hundred thousand every year trying to get in illegally, but the border security agents tell us that we're only apprehending one out of two to one out of four, so that means one to two million people are still succeeding in getting into our country illegally every year, and we don't know who they are, we don't know what they intend to do, and we don't know where they are, and as a result, that is a threat to our national security."
2. Protecting American companies' intellectual property
Chairman Smith explained that countries such as China and Russia are stealing American companies' intellectual property at a cost of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs.
"We need to make sure the technology sector has their intellectual property protected, and that means a better patent process where good patents are approved more quickly and frivolous patents are not approved. We also need to stop the amounts of frivolous lawsuits that are filed against our high tech companies, for example, which costs them an average of $5 million each to defend."
Strengthening the information technology sector will help create jobs for America.
3. Lawsuit Abuse Refom
Chairman Smith discussed a specific case in which the Judiciary Committee is working to counter lawsuit abuse reform: The HEALTH Act. The HEALTH Act would reform the medical liability system and reduce the cost of health care to patients.
"The Harvard School of Public Health came out with a study recently saying that 40% of all lawsuits filed against medical personnel, doctors, nurses, hospitals, are without merit, are totally frivolous, and the cost of those lawsuits, both in financial cost to the medical personnel and the hospitals and insurance companies, the costs to the innocent reputations, the cost of lost time, all drive up health care costs, in part because doctors have to prescribe a lot of what's called defensive medicine or unnecessary procedures to protect themselves from these kinds of frivolous lawsuits. All those costs are passed on to the consumer, the patient, and we're trying to therefore have a national medical liability reform law that passes."
Chairman Smith stated that President Obama at least gave lip service to medical liability reform in his State of the Union Address, it is hoped that he will lend his support in passing legislation to reduce frivolous medical lawsuits.
"The Congressional Budget Office says that if we pass the HEALTH Act that it would save at least $54 billion over the next ten years and it would reduce the cost of insurance premiums to medical personnel by 27-30%. The Congressional Budget Office also said that it will reduce the premiums that are now having to be paid by medical personnel by around 30%, and of course, those savings we'd expect to be passed on to the consumer, the patients, as well."
4. Decreasing the amount of child pornography on the Internet
Chairman Smith explained that decreasing the amount of child pornography is a personal priority of his. The UN released a report asserting that there are approximately 750,000 sexual predators using the Internet to try and make contact with children for the purpose of sexually exploiting them.
"The amount of child pornography on the Internet is one of the fastest growing crimes in America, if not the fastest growing crime in America. It has been going up more than 100% a year for the past 15 years, and the number of encounters, overtures toward children, and other unsolicited contacts have been going up over 200% a year for the last several years, and that needs to stop. So a priority of mine on the Judiciary Committee is coming up with a way to reduce the huge surge in the amount of online child pornography."
5. Enforcing immigration laws
Chairman Smith explained that making sure employers only hire legal workers goes along with our desire and intent to create jobs in America.
"Today we have a situation where there are 7 million illegal workers in the United States and yet we have 26 million Americans who are unemployed or underemployed. If we were to enforce or immigration laws and make sure employers only hired legal workers, then we would be able to free up many of those millions of jobs for the unemployed Americans."
Chairman Smith explained that one way to do this is through the use of E-Verify.
"E-Verify is a program that allows employers to, in just a few seconds literally, check to make sure the person they have hired has a proper social security number. 99.5% of the eligible workers are approved very quickly through the E-Verify system. It seems to be popular with businesses. We've now got 230,000 that voluntarily use E-Verify, 1,300 more are signing up every week, and that is a program, in my view, that needs to be expanded so that we can make sure that all jobs in America go to American workers and do not go to illegal workers."
While the Judiciary Committee is working hard to tackle many issues facing our nation, these are some of the priorities the committee will be working to make progress on in the next couple months.
Thank you to Chairman Lamar Smith for taking the time to discuss the Judiciary Committee priorities and current legislation with TexasGOPVote!