Rep. Graves Position on the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)
May 18, 2012 -
As you may know, H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act, was introduced by Representative Buck McKeon on March 29, 2012. This bill would authorize appropriations for the U.S. Department of Defense through FY 2013. H.R. 4310 was referred to the Committee on Armed Services, of which I am not a Member, and on May 8, 2012, the Committee held a markup of NDAA for FY 2013, which you can read about on the Committee’s website www.armedservices.house.gov. On May 11, 2012, the Committee voted on to send H.R. 4310 to the full U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.
You may also know that last year, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate passed two different versions of the NDAA for FY 2012. The Senate version of NDAA for FY 2012, S. 1867, included language that would enable the President to indefinitely detain enemy combatants without trial. This provision sparked numerous debates as to whether or not American citizens could be classified as an enemy combatant and be detained without trial. Shortly thereafter, both Chambers worked together to resolve differences between the two versions before merging them into a single, final version of the NDAA for FY 2012. On December 13, 2011, the merged version of the NDAA for FY 2012 was released as H.R. 1540, and it still included the detainee authorization. The final version of H.R. 1540 ultimately passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, without my support, on December 14, 2011 by a vote of 283 – 136, passed the next day in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 86 – 13, and was signed into law by President Obama on December 31, 2012.
I strongly support rights granted by the U.S. Constitution it is imperative that they are upheld at all times. The Sixth Amendment clearly states that “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury,” and I believe the Sixth Amendment makes the detainee authorization in the final NDAA for FY 2012 unconstitutional. While many argued that this authority would not extend to American citizens, I do not believe that the exact wording of this bill explicitly stated that this authority would only pertain to non-Americans, which is why I voted against the final version of H.R. 1540.
To address this pressing issue, I proudly supported an amendment offered by Representative Louie Gohmert to H.R. 4310, the NDAA for FY 2013. This amendment would prohibit the federal government from detaining an American citizen or lawful resident without due process and would prohibit the federal government from denying Americans of any of their Constitutional rights, under the authority granted by the detainee provisions in the NDAA for FY 2012. Thankfully, this amendment was adopted to the final version of H.R. 4310 in the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 243 – 173 on May 18, 2012.
You may also know that Representative Adam Smith and Representative Justin Amash also proposed an amendment to H.R. 4310, known as the Smith-Amash amendment. This amendment would extend Constitutional rights to all individuals apprehended in the United States suspected of terror-related activities.
Like the amendment I supported that was offered by Representative Gohmert, the Smith-Amash amendment aims to clarify the detainee provisions included in the NDAA for FY 2012. That being said, I also have concerns with Representative Smith and Representative Amash’s amendment to H.R. 4310. Specifically, this amendment would extend Constitutional rights and the right to judicial review to anyone apprehended in the United States, including foreign terrorists who are not U.S. citizens that are acting on behalf of groups like al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah. The Smith-Amash amendment would alter our current procedures from trying suspected terrorists in military court to having them tried in civil court, regardless of the fact that they are not American citizens or legal residents. I believe it is wrong to grant terrorist masterminds, such as Osama bin Laden, Constitutional rights and I believe that they should continue to be tried in a military court. That is why I voted against this amendment in the U.S. House of Representatives, where it failed to be adopted to the final version of H.R. 4310 on May 18, 2012 by a vote of 182 – 238.
Fortunately, Representative Gohmert’s amendment revised the controversial detainee provisions from the NDAA for FY 2012 to protect American citizens’ Constitutional rights and ensure they are not indefinitely detained. Since Representative Gohmert’s amendment was adopted, I voted for the final passage of H.R. 4310, which passed in the U.S. House of Representatives later that day by a vote of 299 – 120 and now awaits action in the U.S. Senate.
When I was elected to Congress, I made an oath to abide by the U.S. Constitution, and I do not take that promise lightly. I believe it is better to err on the side of caution, than to hastily vote on legislation that could undermine the very foundation on which our great country was founded. If the federal government fails to protect the Constitutional rights of even one American, then we begin to pave a treacherous path that endangers the very freedoms and liberties that define our nation. Please be assured, I will continue to hold true to my promise to protect our Constitutional rights as long as I have the pleasure of serving you in Congress.