[Congressional Record Volume 142, Number 117 (Friday, August 2, 1996)]
[Senate]
[Pages S9458-S9460]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




               LAUTENBERG AMENDMENT TO THE STALKING BILL

  Mr. LAUTENBERG. Mr. President, I regret that I was not here at the 
time this debate began because we are now engaged in a discussion about 
what it is that is holding up the progress of the U.S. Senate on behalf 
of the American people. We have a most extraordinary situation here in 
the Senate. I think it is important the public understand what has 
happened.

  The public is being victimized by procedural gridlock that is going 
to cost thousands of people across this country an opportunity to have 
their cases heard, to see justice dispensed, and fairness dealt with.
  Last night, the U.S. Senate was thrown into gridlock once again, 
although an agreement had been reached between the respective leaders 
to move forward with several important judicial nominations. That 
agreement was undermined at the last minute when one Member of this 
body objected unexpectedly, and much contrary to the rules and protocol 
here--courtesy, if you will--when the minority leader, the Democratic 
leader, asked the Senator what was her objection, she turned on her 
heel and walked out. I have never seen that in the 14 years I have been 
in the U.S. Senate. Usually, there is a courtesy that says, ``Well, I 
object for the following reasons,'' and that makes sense. That is the 
way this body operates.
  Now the basis of the objection has become clear. It is truly 
remarkable. The Senate is being held hostage and so is the American 
public for one reason, and one reason only: So that we do not take away 
guns from wife beaters and child abusers. We want to make sure they can 
get their gun if they want it. That is why some 2,000-plus women a year 
get killed by men who have already beat them up, have been hauled into 
court, and in many cases convicted of misdemeanors, and then they want 
their gun back. Around here, we want to make sure those nice boys can 
get their guns.
  Mr. President, the situation is too absurd. It would almost be a 
comedy, but it is too serious, a matter of life and death for thousands 
of women and children whose futures are being threatened by a narrow 
faction of extremists.
  I want to take a moment to explain. Mr. President, for months I have 
been trying to get an amendment included in the bill that deals with 
the problem of stalking. Stalking is a terrible thing for anyone to 
have to endure. We see it in New Jersey. We see it across the country. 
I am sure all 50 States have the problem. I support the bill. In fact, 
I am cosponsor of the legislation.
  I wanted to make it even more effective. That is the right that we 
have here. When you have an opportunity to add a piece of legislation 
you think has merit, you put it on a piece of legislation that has 
already been introduced. I have been working to include an amendment 
that would prohibit anyone convicted of domestic violence from 
possessing a firearm. It is pretty simple. My amendment stands for the 
simple proposition that if you beat your wife, if you beat your kid, 
you should not have a gun. It says ``beat your wife, lose your gun; 
abuse your child, lose your gun.'' It is pretty simple. It is little 
more than common sense.
  Mr. President, for months I tried to include my proposal as part of 
the

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stalking bill. Finally, on July 25, after agreeing to several changes 
at the request of my Republican colleagues, my legislation passed the 
Senate by a voice vote. The compromise, Mr. President, that was worked 
out was supported by even the most ardent progun Members of this body. 
Even those Members were not willing to go on record and stand up here 
and vote to say that someone accused of wife abuse, child abuse should 
have to have a gun.
  They did not want to vote on it, because it would have been a 
shameful experience. Maybe they would have pleased some, but they would 
not have pleased all. So our sense was that with the changes that were 
made at their request, the stalking bill, which was here with my 
amendment attached, should be able to move quickly and easily through 
the House.

  It was my understanding that the majority party here was going to 
help work it through the House. Well, Mr. President, it looks like the 
extremists are back. Although the House passed a large number of 
noncontroversial bills earlier this week, this legislation was not 
among them. Now we hear that there is a move afoot among Republican 
leaders in the House to eliminate my proposal, the proposal that wife 
beaters should not get guns.
  I think, Mr. President, the American people would share my outrage at 
this. Every year thousands of women and children die at the hands of a 
family member, and 65 percent of the time those murderers use that gun. 
There is no reason why wife beaters and child abusers should have guns, 
and only the most progun extremists could possibly disagree with that. 
Unfortunately, these same extremists seem to have veto rights in the 
House of Representatives.
  Mr. President, I made it clear that if the stalking bill comes back 
from the House with my proposal gutted I will not just sit back and 
take it. The lives of thousands of women and children are at stake. We 
are not just talking about the use of a gun in a murder; we are talking 
about a gun that is used in intimidation, to threaten and to strike 
fear and harass. Imagine what a child must think when he sees a man 
holding a gun, threatening a woman, even if he does not pull the 
trigger. What kind of a society are we that says by law we should not 
remove the gun from the hands of that individual? I will fight for this 
every step of the way.
  Now we have the progun extremists dictating how this body is going to 
function. It is across the Capitol, but we are willing to do it here. 
Things like judicial appointments, so that justice can be administered, 
so that we can move the process that this country has in its very 
foundation, a country of laws.
  ``No, no,'' the Senator from Texas says. ``No, no, you are not 
getting those judges. I don't care how good they are.'' What she is 
saying is, ``Unless you take off the denial of a convicted wife abuser 
to own a gun, I am not letting judges go through.'' What a contrast. It 
is perfect. Want to control the law, not let the judges go through, not 
let other important legislation go through? Tie the place up in a knot.
  Well, maybe that is where we are going to be, but I hope the American 
public hears it. I hope they understand what is being said here, that 
you can have a gun even though you may have beaten your wife. It 
reminds me of the story I repeated on this floor now a few times about 
the judge in Baltimore County, not far from here, who, faced with a 
sentencing of a man who murdered his wife, sentenced him to 18 months, 
time to be done on weekends, because he said he ``didn't like giving a 
noncriminal a criminal sentence.'' In other words, murdering a wife is 
not the same as murdering a stranger.
  Those who want to shut this place down are ignoring what the 
consequences are of this, not to let us consider noncontroversial 
judicial appointments. So eager that we protect the rights of child 
abusers that they will not let us consider a bill to fund veterans 
health care, environmental protection; so eager not to deprive a wife 
beater of a gun that they are willing to grind the Senate to a halt on 
all appropriations bills.
  Mr. President, this is extremism run amok. It is outrageous, almost 
unbelievable. So I hope the people and the press will tell the American 
people what is going on here. It is quite an amazing story, stranger 
than fiction. It is unbelievable, in my view. It says a lot about this 
Congress and the power of the National Rifle Association. It says a lot 
about our values, priorities, and about our commitments to people 
victimized by domestic violence.
  Mr. President, I am hoping that we can overcome the extremism on this 
issue, because special interests may have a lot of power in Washington. 
Extremism may have a lot of power in Washington, but, at the end of the 
day, the real power in this country rests--and so it should--with the 
American people. I am convinced that the overwhelming majority of 
Americans would agree with these basic principles: Wife beaters should 
not have guns. Child abusers should not have guns.

  It is time for Congress to put these principles into law.
  Mr. President, I just want to refer to the Record of July 25, 1996, 
when the Senator from Texas [Mrs. Hutchison], said:

       Senator Lautenberg is to be commended for working with us 
     to make his amendment a good amendment, and it is a good 
     amendment, and I applaud him for it. I think it adds to the 
     bill. He was willing to work with us, and I think we now have 
     a very strong bill. Because of Senator Lautenberg's 
     amendment, we are also going to be able to keep people who 
     batter their wives or people with whom they live from having 
     handguns. So I think it is going to be a great bill that will 
     give the women and children of this country some protection 
     that they do not now have, and I am very pleased to be 
     supportive of the compromise.

  Several Senators addressed the Chair.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Texas is recognized.
  Mrs. HUTCHISON. Mr. President, I am pleased that Senator Lautenberg 
has come to the floor, because I think that he is partially correct in 
his scenario of July 25, and that is that he and I and the leader of 
the Democratic side and the leader of the Republican side came together 
and made an agreement, and it was an agreement that I was concerned 
about but, nevertheless, was willing to work with all of my colleagues 
to make happen. That was the following: I do agree with his amendment. 
I think it is a good amendment. That was never the question. The 
question is, do we hold up a good bill that protects the stalking 
victims of this country with an amendment that might bog the bill down 
because it has to go back to the House?
  Now, I supported his amendment, but I asked, ``Could we put it on 
another bill? Could we make the agreement that Senator Lautenberg would 
get his vote on another bill?'' The distinguished leader of the 
Democratic Party said, ``Well, they can take it up on a suspension in 
the House. It really won't delay the bill if they will do that.'' And I 
said, ``What if it runs into opposition in the House?'' at which time 
the Senator from New Jersey and the Senator from South Dakota agreed 
that they would let the Senate pass a clean bill that could go directly 
to the President, pass the same bill clean so it could go directly to 
the President, to get relief for the stalking victims, with the 
agreement of the distinguished majority leader that Senator Lautenberg 
would be able to go to another forum, another bill for his amendment.
  So when we talk about the extremists that are for wife beaters having 
guns, that is really not the issue. The issue is, are we going to have 
the stalking bill, which is a good bill, which passed unanimously in 
the House of Representatives, if we can't get Mr. Lautenberg's 
amendment on the bill? That is the question.
  Now, the Senator from New Jersey and the Senator from South Dakota 
gave their word that if it ran into trouble in the House, they would 
help pass a clean bill so that we could do that much and give the 
Senator from New Jersey another opportunity on another bill for his 
amendment. So that is the issue here. Now it has run into trouble in 
the House.

  The distinguished Senator from Kentucky says, ``It has only been 
passed for a week.'' We got the bill Memorial Day. I had hoped that we 
could have it passed before Memorial Day. It has been 2 months since 
the bill came from the House, and we have had this opportunity.
  I am certainly in sympathy with the Senator from New Jersey in 
wanting to have his amendment. But he did make

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an agreement that he would not hold up one good bill for his amendment 
having to go just on that bill. We have other options. There will be 
other bills. The majority leader, whose word is good, will find another 
opportunity for the Senator from New Jersey. But we must know that we 
are going to have the stalking bill at some reasonable time. I would 
like to see it before the recess so that we can put this law into 
place. It has been pending since Memorial Day. So I would like to ask 
if we could work on having this bill out and work with the Senator from 
New Jersey for his amendment to go on another bill. It is really quite 
simple. If everyone is in agreement that the underlying stalking bill 
is good, then I think we should move forward on that.
  Mr. BOND addressed the Chair.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Missouri is recognized.

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