The likely next chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is spreading word of what his agenda would be if he gets the gavel, and near the top of the list is to stop the proposed closing of the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Closing the prison has been a goal of President Obama since his presidential campaign, and he signed executive orders after he took office designed to shut down the prison within a year. That hasn’t happened, largely because of opposition on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, says that opposition will continue.
“We should not close the terrorist detention center at Guantánamo Bay,” Smith (pictured at right) said in a written statement outlining his priorities. Citing statistics from the Defense Department, he added that 20% of “released Gitmo terrorists have returned to planning attacks against Americans.”
He reiterated his opposition to trying foreign terrorist suspects in U.S. civilian courts. “We should treat terrorists as enemy combatants, not U.S. citizens. Giving foreign terrorists constitutional rights has no legal precedent and makes it harder for prosecutors to obtain convictions,” he said.
House Republicans will meet before the end of the year to finalize committee memberships and chairmanships, but Smith is widely expected to succeed Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) as Judiciary chairman. A spokesman for Conyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment this morning. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) was the most recent Republican chairman, in 2005-06.
Immigration is at the top of Smith’s agenda, too. He supports measures to discourage illegal immigration and to prevent companies from hiring illegal immigrants. “Citizen and legal immigrant workers should not have to compete with illegal immigrants for scarce jobs,” he said in the statement.
Rounding out his priorities: an overhaul of patent law, which has stalled for years; limits on malpractice liability for doctors and other health care providers; and proposals to reduce child pornography and child sexual exploitation, especially online.
National Law Journal photo by Diego M. Radzinschi.