Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Floor Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for the Veto Override Vote on “S. 2040, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act”

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, jr.
The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States constituted the deadliest foreign attack on American soil in our Nation’s history.

Their impact has been immeasurable as evidenced by the fact that we are still grappling with their cultural and policy implications.

And, 15 years later, their powerful emotional effect on Americans remains as strong as ever.

Those who lost loved ones or were injured as a result of this horrific attack deserve our deepest sympathy and our help.

And, it is in this vein that we consider whether to override the President’s veto of S. 2040, the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act,” which, among other things, amends the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 to create a new exception to the Act’s general grant of foreign sovereign immunity. 

The bill’s supporters present compelling and sympathetic arguments in favor of insuring that the 9/11 families have access to a well-deserved “day in court.”

In his veto message, however, the President raised a number of serious substantive concerns about the potential unintended consequences of this legislation.

First, the President stated that S. 2040 could undermine the effectiveness of our Nation’s national security and counter-terrorism efforts. 

For instance, other nations may become more reluctant to share sensitive intelligence in light of the greater risk that such information may be revealed in litigation.

Moreover, the President raised the concern that this legislation would effectively allow non-expert private litigants and courts, rather than national security and foreign policy experts, to determine key foreign and national security policy questions like which states are sponsors of terrorism.

Second, the President asserted that enactment of S. 2040 may lead to retaliation by other countries against the United States given the breadth of our interests and the expansive reach of our global activities.

While it seems likely at this juncture that S. 2040 will be enacted over the President’s veto, I remain hopeful that we can continue to work toward the enactment of subsequent legislation to address the President’s concerns.

I understand the moral imperative of enacting legislation in this matter, but I am sensitive to the seriousness of the concerns that the President raised.

I had expressed the hope during the Floor debate on this bill that Congress and the President could work together to find a better balance that would still enable 9/11 victims to seek justice while tempering the President’s concerns.

There is no doubt as to the passion that the bill’s supporters bring to advocating for the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, a passion that I share.

As legislators, however, we must be driven not only by understandable emotions, but by thoughtful consideration of the long-term interests of our country.  For this reason, the expected outcome of today’s vote should not be the end of this matter.

For the forgoing reasons, and those stated by the President, national security experts, international law scholars, and others, however, I must vote to sustain the President’s veto.

I reserve the balance of my time.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation”

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Director Comey, for your appearance here today.

The FBI’s mission is a complex undertaking: to protect the United States from terrorism, to enforce our criminal laws, and to lead the nation’s law enforcement community.

That mission ought to mirror our own priorities in this Committee. 

In the past few days, for example, we have witnessed near-fatal terrorist attacks in Minnesota, New York, and New Jersey.

These attacks underscore the growing fear that individuals can be moved to violence at home by the propaganda of ISIS and other terrorist groups abroad—even though they have no direct connection to those organizations.

To me, this threat is dire.  We should be doing all we can within our communities—and within our constitutional framework—to mitigate the danger.

But will our Majority use their time today to discuss these attacks?  I suspect it will not be their focus in this campaign season.

In Charlotte, in Tulsa, in Dallas—right here in Washington, DC—and in other cities across this country, our citizens demand answers to questions about race and policing, and the use of lethal force by law enforcement. 

Our police are under siege, often under resourced, and in some cases hard pressed to build trust with the communities they serve.

Director Comey, your continued work to foster lines of communication between police officers and the general public is commendable—and necessary if we are to keep our citizens safe from harm.

But will my colleagues discuss this pressing issue with the Director of the FBI, whose leadership in the law enforcement community is paramount?  Again, I fear their focus will be elsewhere.

The FBI is the lead agency in the investigation of cyber-based terrorism, computer intrusions, online sexual exploitation, and major cyber fraud.  We have known for some years about the persistent cyber threat to our critical infrastructure.

Now, we hear reports of a new cyber threat—to the very basis of our democratic process.

Twice this summer, Director Comey, I wrote to you with my fellow ranking members to ask you to look into reports that Russian state actors are working to undermine our election process.

Without objection, I ask that both of those letters be placed into the record.

It is now the clear consensus of the Intelligence Community that the Russian government was behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee—and not, as some have suggested, “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

On Friday, we learned from one report that: “U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether an American businessman identified by Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisors has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials—including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president.”
The report cites to an unnamed “senior U.S. law enforcement official,” which I presume means someone in your orbit, Director Comey.

Without objection, I ask that this article be placed into the record as well.

Let me be clear: if true, this allegation represents a danger to our national security and a clear violation of federal law—which expressly prohibits this type of back-channel negotiation.

I am not alone in describing the nature of this threat.  Speaker Ryan himself has said that “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug.  Putin should say out of this election.”

But will our Majority press you on this problem today, Director Comey?  I suspect not.

Instead, I believe that the focus of this hearing will be more of the same: an attack on you, and your team at the Department of Justice, for declining to recommend criminal charges against Secretary Hillary Clinton.

In recent weeks, this line of attack has been remarkable only for its lack of substance.

Your critics dwell in character assassination and procedural minutia—like the proper scope of immunity agreements, and your decision to protect the identities of individuals wholly unrelated to the investigation.

They want to investigate the investigation, Director Comey.  What an unfortunate waste of this Committee’s time.

With so many actual problems confronting this nation, and so many of those challenges within your jurisdiction and ours, you would think my colleagues would set their priorities differently.

I hope that they do, as they listen to our conversation today.  I thank the Chairman, and I yield back.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for the Hearing on “New Orleans: How the Crescent City Became a Sanctuary City” Before the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
I want to preface my remarks regarding today’s hearing, which deals with community policing policies, by observing that our Nation’s conscience continues to be rocked by a series of tragic events involving law enforcement and the loss of too many black lives.

In our court rooms, in our streets and on our televisions, we confront a never ending body count.  Earlier this summer, my Congressional colleagues and I staged an unprecedented sit-in – just to try to get a vote on common sense gun legislation. 

In this Committee, Chairman Goodlatte and I formed a bipartisan Policing Strategies Working group to begin examining how we can best ensure that Congress takes responsibility for the conversation about race and policing in America.  I believe this working group is one of the finest examples of how we can come together at a time when the nation needs leadership to reduce the levels of violence in our communities.

And, just this past week, I joined my Congressional Black Caucus colleagues in protest of yet another series of senseless killings of black men and black children by police in Cleveland, Tulsa, and Charlotte.

When you add to this volatile mix the attacks on police officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas, the nation risks being forced into a battle of whose lives matter most.

We mourn the loss of all of these lives and want to see an end to this violence across the United States, including in the iconic American City of New Orleans.

To achieve this, first, we need to ensure police accountability, prevent violent attacks on law enforcement, and improve the relationship between police officers and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve. 

Community trust policies are integral to smart law enforcement for diverse communities, including those with immigration populations like New Orleans and my district in Michigan.

Second, studies show that crime rates actually decrease after localities adopt community trust policies.  Further, these studies find that strong-arm policies – such as Secure Communities – fail to lower crime rates.

Instead, they can make communities less safe because residents become more fearful and therefore less likely to report criminal activity or cooperate with investigations.

We share the common goal of community safety.  To suggest that local leaders and law enforcement officials are purposefully pursuing policies that make their communities less safe is simply false and offensive. 

Finally, if we are looking for real solutions, we should be undertaking comprehensive immigration reform.

Unfortunately, this hearing, which pejoratively refers to New Orleans’ community trust policy as a “sanctuary city” policy, is not about comprehensive immigration reform; it is about anti-immigrant politics and fear mongering.

An immigration reform bill – such as the measure that passed the Senate in 2013 or the legislation that had 201 House cosponsors in the last Congress – would allow law-abiding immigrants to come out of the shadows and get right with the law.  And, it would enable Immigration and Customs Enforcement to focus its resources on deporting the worst criminal elements. 

That kind of solution would help ensure that the City of New Orleans and all communities, citizens and immigrants alike, as well as the brave men and women serving in law enforcement, are protected from harm.

In closing, I thank the Chairman and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member for the Hearing on Oversight of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Before the Committee on the Judiciary

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
I want to begin my remarks by thanking Director Sarah Saldaña for her service and appearing before our Committee today.  As head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Director Saldaña has one of the toughest jobs in government.  With limited resources, she must ensure that our immigration statutes are enforced as well as ensure that this is done in fair, just, and balanced way. 

For that reason,  the Department of Homeland Security’s enforcement priorities recognize that millions of unauthorized immigrants have been living and working in the United States for 5 or 10 years or longer. 

These men and women are parents of U.S. citizen children; pray at our churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship; and make significant contributions to our economy.  Their removal is not and should not be an enforcement priority.
We are here today to, first, examine how our immigration laws are enforced and how this enforcement affects our communities.  As we conduct this examination, however, we must keep in mind that many of the challenges faced by ICE and immigrant communities are a result of Congress’s failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Yet, we are now in the waning days of the current Congress, which will soon adjourn without having addressed this failure even though every day families continue to be separated and hard-working members of our society are forced to live in the shadows. 
Despite all of these challenges, the Majority continues to focus exclusively on immigration enforcement that would criminalize entire communities.  The Republican presidential nominee advocates policies, based on the abhorrent 1950s program, “Operation Wetback.”  If enacted and carried out, the ensuing chaos would be a tragedy rivaling the darkest episodes in America’s history. 

Comprehensive immigration reform is the only real option to repair our broken immigration system.

Another issue we should consider at this hearing is the fact that there is a significant increase in the time non-criminal asylum seekers are being detained. 
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees states that the detention of an asylum seeker is an exceptional circumstance and should only be used for a limited period of time.  I agree. 
And, I encourage ICE to use its parole authority to release asylum seekers who have passed credible fear screenings, or in the alternative to consider non-custodial forms of alternatives to detention.
I am pleased to see that the Department of Homeland Security will be conducting a review of private prison policies.  I have long been deeply concerned about the use of private prison companies, particularly in light of reports of serious medical neglect, physical abuse, preventable deaths and other forms of mistreatment.  The Department of Justice recently decided to end its relationship with private prison companies, in part, because of abusive treatment of inmates.   I encourage ICE to follow suit and end its reliance on private prisons.
Finally, just yesterday DHS announced a change in policy for Haitian nationals arriving at our ports of entry.  I know this is a complex area of the law with no easy answers.  But, deporting Haitians back to a country still reeling from the devastating earthquake and a cholera epidemic caused by the U.N. is concerning and warrants close oversight.

I thank the Chairman and yield back the balance of my time.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

CONYERS Joins CBC for Press Conference At DOJ Joins Regarding Killins Of Regarding Killings Of Black Men The Hands Of Law Enforcement

Washington, DC – House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) delivered remarks today at a press conference with members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) regarding the deaths of unarmed African American men at the hands of law enforcement.  Congressman Conyers also joined members of the CBC in sending a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch expressing deep concerns. 

Below are Congressman Conyers’ remarks as prepared for delivery

The time is long past for our nation to confront the pathology of its gun culture.  In our court rooms, in our streets and on our televisions, we confront a never ending body count.  This summer, we staged a sit-in to get a vote on common sense gun legislation.  We have yet to get that vote.  Make no mistake, our policy decisions have deadly consequences.

Last week brought us news of the tragic killing of 13 year-old Tyre King in Columbus, Ohio.  This young man lost his life in fashion strangely similar to that of 12 year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland.  This week it’s Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina.  That’s more than 160 African-American men who have lost their lives in police shootings. 

For many in our communities, the deaths of these children, young men, and fathers represent a continuing and dangerous cycle of disproportionate use of force against men of color.  Video of apparently unarmed men being killed by those sworn to serve and protect has provoked the outrage seen in Charlotte and Milwaukee and inspires protest in other cities across the nation. 

When you add to this volatile mix the attacks on police officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas, the nation risks being forced into a battle of whose lives matter most.  The simple fact is that we must all stand against lawlessness.  We must find concrete solutions to stop this pattern. We need to ease racial tension in America by rebuilding our communities in a balanced way where everyone receives equal protection, job opportunities, and a fair shot at the American Dream.

The sad truth about these kinds of incidents is that their root causes are tied together with societal racism that brand black citizens as predators and police practices that treat them as potential perpetrators, breeding distrust between law-enforcement  and the communities that they are bound to protect. 
Responding to this destructive cycle requires a broad-based approach.  As we stand at the doors of the Department of Justice, I must commend Attorney General Loretta Lynch and her team from the Civil Rights Division for being on the job, where we need them.  Using its Pattern & Practice enforcement authority under 42 U.S.C. 14141, the Department has investigated and sued police departments to address dangerous and discriminatory practices that result in excessive force or racial profiling.

This statute has been used successfully across the nation – like Ferguson and Baltimore -- to reduce the number of police-involved shootings in targeted cities, and is illustrative of the positive effect of legislative reform efforts.
Last year, in the midst of a record wave of officer-involved killings, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on 21st Century Policing Strategies to begin addressing the issue of law enforcement accountability at the Federal level.  Since that time, we have also formed a bipartisan Working Group to develop a plan to get police reform legislation through Congress.  That group will meet for the third time this afternoon. 
As the death toll continues to climb – now standing at more than 518 by some accounts – we must legislate in accordance with evidence-based practices.  The recent tragic shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are a lesson in why it is critical to pass federal legislation.  Both fatalities could have been avoided with better training of those officers, particularly in detentions and use of force, as addressed by accreditation standards and best practice provisions currently in negotiation before the Judiciary Committee.
We must continue the discussion on criminal justice reform and develop legitimate plans to make local law enforcement agencies more accountable to their communities. As the repetition of incidents spreads across our cities, it’s clear that there is no easy fix to the problem of deadly force directed against African-American men.  Until we develop a concrete plan to address the root causes, we can only wait to see tragic events repeated across other communities.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for the Hearing on “Treating the Opioid Epidemic: The State of Competition in the Markets for Addiction Medicine” Before the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jt.
Sudden and sharp increases in the cost of life-saving prescription medications have caused much public outcry, most recently regarding the substantial spike in the price of EpiPen, which is used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions. 

Although today’s hearing focuses on competition in the markets for a particular set of life-saving drugs -- namely, those that treat opioid addiction -- I hope that there are some broader lessons that we can draw from our discussion today. 

To that end, I would like our witnesses to address the following issues. 

To begin with, the witnesses should discuss the real-life consequences of the opioid addiction epidemic and the impact of rising prices for medications that treat opioid addiction.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 28,000 deaths in 2014 resulting from opioid overdoses.   In fact, 6 out of 10 drug overdose deaths that year resulted from opioid overdoses.

Medications like Naloxone revive an opioid overdose victim in the critical moments after he or she has stopped breathing as a result of an overdose.

Yet the price of this drug, in both its generic and branded forms, has skyrocketed in recent years, according to public health and police officials. 

Prices for the drug have increased by 50% or more, according to some reports.  As a result, the ability of emergency responders and individuals to purchase this critical life-saving medication is being jeopardizes.

Other generic and branded medicines that are designed to gradually wean addicts from their opioid use have also seen similar price increases.

As the statistics demonstrate, addressing the consequences of these price increases is no mere academic matter.  It is beyond dispute that such price increases have had a devastating impact on patients, their families, insurers, first responders, and health care providers.

In addition, I would like the witnesses to consider whether current law strikes a proper balance between incentivizing investment in new pharmaceutical products and ensuring vigorous competition.

Under both our patent and regulatory systems, manufacturers of brand-name drugs are entitled to temporary exclusivity periods for their products during which other firms are prevented from offering competing products.

These exclusivity periods are designed to provide an economic incentive for manufacturers to invest in developing new products, but the result is that prices for brand-name drugs remain high.

After the exclusivity periods end, competition in the form of the introduction of generic versions of the brand-name drug, is supposed to lead to decreases in drug prices.

Indeed, the availability of generics is the primary means of ensuring competition and lower prices in pharmaceutical markets.

Nevertheless, there is a concern that some brand-name manufacturers have manipulated the current patent and regulatory regimes to extend what are supposed to be their time-limited monopolies.

We should explore whether there should be a better balance.

Finally, the witnesses should address the factors responsible for the skyrocketing cost of generic opioid addiction drugs and the actions that Congress should take in response.

Prices for almost all opioid addiction medicines have risen, not just those for brand-name products.

This situation undermines the competition-based rationale for encouraging generics to enter the market in the first place.

We in Congress need to focus on constructive ways to respond to this problem.

So, I accordingly look forward to hearing any thoughtful suggestions from our witnesses today and I thank them for their participation.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

CONYERS & GOODLATTE Urge Americans to Work Together Following Shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte

Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), leaders of the bipartisan Policing Strategies Working Group, today issued the following joint statement on the police-involved shootings in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina and subsequent protests:

“The heartbreaking images from Tulsa and Charlotte remind us once again that our nation has much work to do on the issues of the use of force by police and the relationship between law enforcement and the community. There must be an end to these senseless acts of violence. While authorities investigate the two police-involved shootings, we call for peace and urge every American to work together to address the issues fueling tensions within their communities. 

“As leaders of the bipartisan Policing Strategies Working Group, we will continue to work towards solutions at the federal level on this matter of national importance.”

Background: In July 2016, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers (D-Mich.) announced a bipartisan working group to examine the use of excessive force by police, aggression towards law enforcement, and public safety concerns related to these issues. Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers are leading the working group.  Members of the working group are: Representatives Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), Will Hurd (R-Texas), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Cedric Richmond (D-La.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.).

In July, the working group held a meeting with a pastor of an African American church and a scholar who specializes in police and community relations. In August, the working group traveled to Detroit, Michigan to meet with local community leaders and law enforcement. Yesterday, the Policing Strategies Working Group held a private roundtable with law enforcement.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Demand Assistance for Flint Recovery in GOP Funding Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – CBC Chairman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC), Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), and Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) issued the following response to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) regarding the Republican spending bill:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“Flint’s citizens have suffered unacceptable damage and continue to suffer because Republicans are more interested in providing lip service than they are resources,” said Congressman Conyers. “Water is a basic human right and it’s shameful that many Flint residents are stuck with using water bottles to bathe, cook, drink and care for themselves and their families; some not having access to any clean water at all because they are homebound or cannot afford transportation. With funding for Flint omitted from the continuing resolution, it’s clear: minority and low-income communities are not even the slightest priority for our Republican-led Congress. We must ensure Flint’s water is made fully safe, its children and families made whole, and justice is served to those who stripped Flint’s citizens of the right to protect themselves.”

“The Congressional Black Caucus was early to call for immediate funding to assist in the recovery of the Flint, Michigan water crisis, and we are deeply concerned that such assistance is not included in the Republican’s bill to fund the government,” said CBC Chairman Butterfield. “Clean drinking water is a basic human right. Yet, since April 2014, tens of thousands of American children and families in Flint have been drinking and bathing in poisonous water –thousands of families have been harmed—and it is simply outrageous to think that Republicans have moved in a direction to not find a remedy for those who are most affected. Members of the CBC have been outspoken regarding Flint, we have traveled to the city where we met with families to hear their concerns, and we stand united in this effort to call upon our Republican colleagues to help these families recover. Flint still lacks safe water, and as elected officials, we all have a responsibility to ensure the safety of our constituents.”

“The people of Flint, Michigan have suffered enough,” said Congresswoman Lawrence. “A continuing resolution (CR) that fails to address the man-made crisis in Flint demonstrates our lack of commitment to helping the 100,000 citizens that have been poisoned by lead in their drinking water supply. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do the right thing and include funding for the residents of Flint.”

Today, the CBC delivered this letter to House Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell further addressing concerns for the lack of funding for the City of Flint.
Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Friday, September 23, 2016

A Dangerous Rush to Impeach John Koskinen

First, the House must prove that the IRS commissioner acted in deliberate bad faith.

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
I have served on the House Judiciary Committee long enough now to see impeachment done right and to see impeachment done wrong. I have participated in six of the 19 impeachments approved by the House since its inception. I voted in favor of five of them. In the early 1970s I helped to draft articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon. I joined with 20 Democrats and six Republicans to send three of those articles to the House floor.

But I have never seen anything quite like the obsession of a few House members determined to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen—without much evidence to back their claims, without an independent investigation by the House Judiciary Committee, and without even basic due process for the accused.

To be successful, the impeachment process must transcend party lines. Part of this is by design. Article I of the Constitution requires two-thirds of the Senate to convict on each article of impeachment—a threshold that has always required some degree of consensus.
Consensus matters in the House as well. We have built decades of precedent around the notion of formal, rigorous due process in impeachment proceedings. According to House rules, impeachment does not begin until the House approves a resolution that authorizes the Judiciary Committee to investigate whether impeachment is warranted.

The Judiciary Committee must carefully and independently review the evidence—even if it has already been analyzed by our colleagues on other committees. And we can only address allegations that are supported by the record and proven, not inferred.
Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) summarized the importance of this practice in 2010, when the committee’s Task Force on Judicial Impeachment unanimously recommended four articles of impeachment against a federal judge. Mr. Goodlatte said: “This recommendation was the culmination of an exhaustive investigation by the task force, which included reviewing the records of past proceedings, rooting out new evidence that was never considered in previous investigations, conducting numerous interviews and depositions with firsthand witnesses, and conducting hearings to take the testimony of firsthand witnesses and federal scholars.”

This process is hard work. It takes time. But it is designed to separate truly substantive charges from merely expedient ones. And when the House Judiciary Committee follows its own precedent, we generally arrive at the right conclusion. In almost every modern case, a bipartisan consensus on impeachment in the House leads to a swift and successful impeachment in the Senate.

In the past few days, the actions of a small group of conservative House members threaten to break from this precedent and to lead us down a dangerous path. Earlier this year, they delivered an ultimatum to Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.): Hold impeachment hearings in the House Judiciary Committee, or face a vote on this matter on the House floor. Speaker Ryan and Chairman Goodlatte opted for the hearings.

In May and June, the Committee held Parts I and II of a hearing to “Examine the Allegations of Misconduct against Commissioner John Koskinen.” As the carefully worded title would suggest, these were not formal impeachment hearings.

Last week this group struck again and attempted to force a vote on impeachment on the House floor. In the 11th hour, when it appeared they would fall short of the necessary votes, they withdrew the measure—and a third hearing was held Wednesday. This hearing was titled “Impeachment Articles Referred on John Koskinen, Part III.” Despite the name change, this hearing also was not an actual impeachment hearing. It was one more exploratory hearing in the series, with none of the hallmarks of real impeachment.

On the merits, Mr. Koskinen’s critics have simply failed to make their case. They have been unable to produce evidence that the commissioner acted in bad faith at any point in his tenure. The Senate Finance Committee, the Justice Department and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration have all concluded that there is “no evidence” of intentional misconduct of any kind.
But even if there were some evidence of Mr. Koskinen’s wrongdoing, the push to impeach him without due process in the House Judiciary Committee is dangerously misguided. Never, in the history of this body, have we impeached a government official without first proving he has acted in deliberate bad faith.

Never, in modern practice, have we declined to provide the accused with the most basic due process: the right to counsel, the right to present evidence, and the right to question the evidence against him.
In this case, Mr. Koskinen has actually been denied access to the transcripts of interviews conducted by the House Committee on Government and Oversight Reform—interviews that we are told were key in forming the charges against him.

If the commissioner’s critics have their way, I fear we will have a new rule going forward: The House may impeach any government official, for any reason, without supplying evidence of deliberate wrongdoing, without an independent investigation, and without regard to basic fairness toward the accused.
Forcing a vote on impeachment in this manner will certainly not result in the removal of Commissioner Koskinen. Even if his critics succeed in the House, Senators of both parties have already stated their intent to bury the matter. So for all their efforts they will have profited nothing. And in the process they will have turned impeachment from a constitutional check of last resort into a tool of political convenience.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for Hearing on “The Ultimate Civil Right: Examining the Hyde Amendment and the Born Alive Infants Protection Act” Before the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court recognized a woman’s constitutional right to make what is perhaps the most profoundly personal of healthcare decisions –when to start a family – free from undue government interference.

Unfortunately, since 1976, Congress has sought to undermine this important constitutional right by attaching the so-called “Hyde Amendment” to annual appropriations measures funding the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Hyde Amendment – named for its original sponsor, former Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde – prohibits the use of federal Medicaid funds to pay for an abortion except to protect the mother’s life or in cases of rape or incest.

There are many reasons why this restriction should be rescinded. 

To begin with, the Hyde Amendment is a blatant example of politicians inappropriately interfering in women’s health care decisions.

For more than 40 years, Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land.  Yet, it is clear that the Hyde Amendment’s purpose is to undermine the Roe’s constitutional guarantee of a right to choose to terminate a pregnancy by limiting low-income women’s access to safe, legal medical care.  
Politicians, most of whom are not doctors, have no business interfering in a woman’s constitutionally protected private healthcare decisions in order to impose their own moral views about women’s rights and healthcare. 

In addition, the Hyde Amendment has a disproportionately detrimental impact on the health of low-income women and the wellbeing of their families.

According to research by the Guttmacher Institute, many low-income women lacking medical coverage are forced to delay paying utility bills, rent, or grocery bills for themselves or their children; to seek out financial assistance from relatives or friends; or to sell personal belongings in order to pay for an abortion.
Moreover, women who cannot afford an abortion procedure may, in desperation, resort to self-inducing an abortion or turn to unsafe, untrained, or unlicensed practitioners – heightening the risk of injury or death from what is supposed to be a safe, legal medical procedure. 
Finally, the Hyde Amendment disproportionately affects women of color

Medicaid provides medical coverage to 20% of women of reproductive age. 

But, as a result of social and economic inequality tied to the persistence of racism in our society, 30% of African American women and 24% of Hispanic women of reproductive age are enrolled in Medicaid, compared to just 14% of white women of reproductive age.
Clearly, the consequences of the Hyde Amendment disproportionately fall on women of color.

While 15 states permit the use of their own funds to provide abortion coverage for Medicaid enrollees, 60% of women of reproductive age enrolled in Medicare live in states that only cover abortion in limited circumstances.

Rather than undermine the constitutional rights of low-income women and women of color, Congress should look to these states as an example and act to ensure that women -- regardless of their financial situation -- have access to quality, comprehensive reproductive health services.    

I thank the witnesses for participating in this hearing and I look forward to hearing their testimony. 

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©