Wednesday, June 21, 2006

[DUCHESS NOTE: Updates at FOFF are a few days early this week, but the topic is an important one, since it concerns the Internet. Go to ...]

HR 5228, Defeated On The House Suspension Calendar, Would Have Allowed Executive Branch Far Reaching Powers Over Legislative Branch

Today, Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) took to the House floor to single-handily oppose and lead the defeat of HR 5228, a bill that would have breached Constitutional separation of powers, undermine the Speech and Debate clause, and allowed the United States Attorney General access to the schedules of Members of Congress. The bill, which needed a two-thirds vote for passage, failed 263-159. Under current law, all diplomats are exempted from a reporting requirement in the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires all other non-diplomatic representatives of foreign governments to report to the Department of Justice on their contacts with legislative branch officials. HR 5228 would have changed existing law and would have required diplomats from Cuba, Sudan, Syria and other nations to report all their meetings with Members of Congress to the Department of Justice.

“Therefore, the real effect of this bill was to open the schedules of Members of Congress to Justice Department scrutiny, even when no crimes are alleged or being investigated,” stated Kucinich. “It was an unnecessary and serious breach of the separation of powers and in direct violation of the Speech and Debate clause of the Constitution.” HR 5228 would have caused the Justice Department to monitor certain meetings of Members of Congress as a matter of routine, simply because they are meeting with accredited diplomats from Cuba, Sudan and Syria. The bill would have stripped diplomatic credentials of diplomats from those countries, if they fail to report on their meetings with members of Congress and their staffs.

HR 5228 would have most directly impacted the Cuban Interests Section, which has frequent meetings with Members of Congress, since there are more Cuba-related bills and amendments per year than there are for Sudan and Syria. “Today, the House rejected a power grab by the executive branch over the legislative branch,” continued Kucinich. “This is a victory for the Constitution and for Members of Congress who believe in engagement over isolation, and believe that diplomacy is an important tool to achieve peaceful resolutions to conflicts. With this vote Congress has stood up and asserted its role as a co-equal branch of government,” concluded Kucinich. “With this vote, the Constitution, and the long-standing principle of checks and balances, was the big winner.”


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