Washington, D.C. — Today House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) laid out his policy vision for the Committee in a speech at the Christian Science Monitor Breakfast. Below are his remarks as delivered:
Chairman Goodlatte: First, let me start by saying that I am proud of the numerous legislative accomplishments we had in the 113th Congress, including the House passage of the bipartisan USA Freedom Act, the bipartisan Innovation Act, numerous bills aimed at reducing burdensome regulations that are stifling economic growth and legislation to impose mandatory sanctions for attorneys who file frivolous lawsuits.
With the new Congress, the House Judiciary Committee will be looking to build upon our work from the 113th Congress. Under my leadership, the Committee will continue to advance an agenda that is focused on creating jobs and making America more competitive and free.
The Judiciary Committee plays a particularly critical role in advancing pro-growth policies that create jobs and restore economic prosperity for families and businesses across the nation, and in making sure the Administration is held accountable to the American people.
First, I’m committed to restoring accountability and providing relief from excessive regulation to our nation’s small businesses and job creators who need it most.
America’s small business owners are suffocating under mountains of bureaucratic red tape. And the uncertainty about the cost of these upcoming regulations discourages employers from hiring new employees and expanding their businesses. Excessive regulation means higher prices, lower wages, fewer jobs, less economic growth and a less competitive America.
Just yesterday the House passed the bipartisan Regulatory Accountability Act, which seeks to rein in excessive regulatory costs. The legislation, which I introduced with Representative Collin Peterson, requires the federal government to adopt the least costly method to effectively implement the law.
Washington’s endless regulatory roadblocks continually drain Americans’ hard-earned wages and stand in the way of opportunity and growth. Today, Americans face a burden of over $3 trillion from federal taxation and regulation. In fact, our federal regulatory burden is larger than the 2013 Gross Domestic Product of all but the top ten countries in the world and most importantly, that burden adds up to $15,000 per American household, nearly thirty percent of average household income in 2013.
Also in an effort to protect Americans from excessive regulation, the House Judiciary Committee will be looking at the issue of net neutrality. Last year, the Committee held a hearing on whether antitrust law or regulation is more effective in protecting consumers and innovation on the Internet. The conclusion of experts at the hearing was that the regulatory approach leaves consumers with fewer choices and higher prices, the antithesis of net neutrality.
The Internet doesn’t need an inflexible “one-size-fits-all” government mandate to ensure net neutrality – and consumers do not need an extra $84 burden added to their annual Internet bill as a result of new net neutrality regulations, a number projected by a recent study.
The key to an open and free Internet lies in strong enforcement of our nation’s antitrust laws. These time-trusted laws allow for maximum flexibility and consistently demonstrate their ability to prevent discriminatory and anti-competitive conduct in the marketplace.
Another issue that the digital age has ushered in is the array of state tax laws that are related to the Internet and remote sales. I believe there is a problem that needs to be solved with regard to the remote sales tax collection issue. We should create a level playing field so that online, bricks and mortar, and bricks and clicks businesses can compete under fair rules. I have already re-started work with all affected stakeholders this Congress and hope that we can achieve consensus on how to move forward quickly.
However, remote sales tax is not the only state tax issue we need to address. The Committee will also continue to seek a permanent ban on Internet access taxes, so that the myriad of taxes that appear on our phone bills will not be repeated on our Internet access bills. In addition, there are many other bills that help to create bright lines for when states may impose taxes on businesses, including the Business Activity Tax Simplification Act, Mobile Workforce Act, and others. The Committee intends to move forward on these important bills to provide greater simplicity, transparency, and clarity for businesses, states, and consumers alike.
Another ingredient to a more competitive America is an efficient and just legal system. As chairman, I’m committed to focus on legislation like the FACT Act, which encourages openness and transparency in the system, discourages fraud and frivolous claims, and ensures that funds meant to benefit legitimate victims are not used to pay fraudulent and abusive claims.
Additionally, the Judiciary Committee will continue to build upon the important work of our Over-Criminalization Task Force, which I created last Congress with the goal of examining the problems associated with a bloated, disorganized and often redundant collection of federal criminal offenses.
One of the recurring themes the task force discovered is that it is crucial that the Judiciary Committee have the opportunity to review all new federal criminal laws. I am happy to report that last week the House of Representatives adopted a rules package which clarifies the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction over criminal matters by adding one word, “criminalization,” to our existing jurisdiction over criminal law.
By making this change, the Judiciary Committee will have a new jurisdictional interest in those relatively rare instances that a bill criminalizes new conduct by amending a statute that is attached to a criminal penalty without amending the penalty itself. In this instance, the Judiciary Committee will look to work with the other committees on ensuring that the new conduct is worthy of criminalization and that the attached criminal penalties are appropriately drafted. I believe this small clarification to the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction will allow us to address many of the problems associated with the tangled web of federal criminal laws.
We’ll also focus on reforms to discourage frivolous patent litigation and keep U.S. patent laws up to date. The strength of our economy relies on our ability to protect new inventions and build on innovation in the 21st century. Last Congress the House passed with overwhelming support the bipartisan Innovation Act. This legislation, which also had the support of the White House, is necessary to protect American businesses – large and small – from abusive patent litigation. Despite the wide range of support from the Innovation Act, the Senate refused to act so I look forward to working with the new Senate to get patent reform enacted as quickly as possible.
Additionally, the House Judiciary Committee will continue the important work we began last Congress with our comprehensive review of U.S. copyright law.
The goal of the House Judiciary Committee’s comprehensive copyright review has been to determine whether the copyright laws are still working in the digital age to reward creativity and innovation. Part of a successful review of any statute is bringing diverse stakeholders together to have a conversation of various issues. So far we have held 18 hearings as part of the review and I believe these hearings have been successful and productive in that the various stakeholders and interested parties have come together to discuss the issues they face.
In the months ahead the Committee will hold hearings to examine the last remaining issues and then we intend to work together with all the stakeholders – from the technology community to the content community – to find consensus on the areas of the Copyright Act that need improvement.
Furthermore, technology will help us solve many of the pressing problems our nation currently faces. We need to make sure that the federal government’s efforts are focused on creating incentives that encourage innovation and eliminating policies that hinder it.
That’s why we’ll also look at modernizing the decades-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to reflect our current digital economy.
We must also create a stable fiscal outlook for consumers and businesses. We need to look at broad institutional reforms, like the Balanced Budget Amendment.
On the first day of the new Congress I re-introduced two Constitutional amendments to balance the budget.
Nearly 20 years ago, the U.S. Senate failed by one vote to pass a balanced budget constitutional amendment. If Congress had sent the amendment to the states for ratification in 1995, we would not be facing the fiscal crisis we are today and balancing the federal budget would be the norm rather than the exception. In order for Congress to consistently make the tough decisions necessary for fiscal responsibility, Congress must have the external pressure of a balanced budget requirement.
Every Congress since 2007, I have introduced amendments that require Congress to balance the federal budget. We must consider the impact that reckless spending has on our nation’s future and on future generations. We should not pass on to our children and grandchildren the bleak fiscal future that our unsustainable spending is creating.
A Constitutional amendment will force Congress to eliminate unnecessary and wasteful spending and make the decisions necessary to balance the budget and eliminate the federal deficit.
This year, Congress will also continue the debate on immigration reform. We all agree that our nation’s immigration system is in desperate need of repair and it is not working as efficiently and fairly as it should be.
Our first priority, however, is stopping President Obama’s unconstitutional actions on immigration. President Obama has disregarded the will of the American people and violated the Constitution by unilaterally changing our immigration laws. These actions not only threaten to unravel our government’s system of checks and balances, but also imperil individual liberty and I believe the President’s executive overreach on immigration must be stopped.
This morning the House of Representatives will consider several amendments that will effectively cut off all funding for these actions, whether it be appropriations funds, agency-collected fees, or anything else.
In terms of fixing our broken immigration system, I continue to advocate for a step-by-step approach, starting with enforcement first, to address many of the issues facing our nation’s immigration system. This includes ensuring that this and future presidents do not have the unilateral power to refuse to enforce our immigration laws and making common-sense changes to our legal immigration programs, including those programs that address high-skilled workers, so that our immigration system works in the best interest of our country and citizens.
The Judiciary Committee will also play a key role in safeguarding the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens. From the 1st Amendment’s protections for religious freedoms, freedom of speech and freedom of the press to the 4th Amendment’s safeguards against unreasonable searches and seizures to the 5th Amendment’s private property guarantees, these are not rights given by government, but rather God-given rights that government is bound to protect.
This obligation is forever enshrined in our Constitution and the Judiciary Committee will work to make sure that government continues to protect, not encroach upon, these freedoms.
As Congress seeks to reform our intelligence-gathering programs, we must ensure that both Americans’ civil liberties and our national security are protected.
Last Congress the House Judiciary Committee, which has primary jurisdiction over intelligence-gathering programs operated under FISA, conducted three hearings and worked with civil liberties advocates, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, House leaders, and the Obama Administration to reach agreement on the bipartisan USA Freedom Act.
This bipartisan bill, which passed the House by a wide margin last year, helps protect our cherished individual liberties as the federal government carries out its duty to keep our nation safe from foreign enemies. The USA Freedom Act safeguards Americans’ civil liberties by ending domestic bulk collection once and for all and increases the oversight and transparency of these intelligence-gathering programs so that we can begin to rebuild trust with the American people.
Our government, elected by the people, must provide for the common defense and simultaneously secure the blessings of liberty now and for the generations to come.
As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, my duty is to ensure that the Committee is focused on economic opportunity, prosperity, and freedom for all Americans. It is truly an honor to continue serving our nation in this capacity, and I look forward to continuing the good work that we started last Congress on these significant issues.