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Sen. Patrick Leahy (L’64) Shares Committee Agenda for 113th Congress

January 16, 2013 — At the school where he learned about “the majesty of our legal traditions,” U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., (L’64) outlined the Senate Judiciary Committee’s agenda for the 113th Congress.

Speaking from Georgetown Law’s Hart Auditorium on January 16, Leahy — the committee chairman and the president pro tempore of the Senate — announced that in two weeks (January 30) the committee will hold its first hearings on gun violence issues since the Newtown, Conn., shootings.

Leahy, himself a gun owner, called for a strengthening of federal laws to combat gun trafficking and ensuring “real background checks” of gun purchasers. “As President Obama has made clear, no single step can end this kind of violence,” he said. “But the fact that we cannot do everything to help should not paralyze us from doing anything that can help.”

Most of the committee’s time, Leahy predicted, will be spent working to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Public hearings on the issue will begin in the committee in February.

“Immigration throughout our history has been an ongoing source of the renewal of our spirit and our creativity, our vitality….” said Leahy. “We have to find a way through the partisan gridlock to enact meaningful change in our immigration laws[.]”

The Senate committee — which includes Georgetown Law alumni Richard Durbin, D-Ill., (F’66, L’69) and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, (L’78) — will also work on, among other things, forensic reform; addressing high imprisonment rates; protecting trafficking victims; and safeguarding civil liberties and privacy. The senator also called for an end to the extraordinarily high number of judicial vacancies in this country, saying they “threaten our justice system.”

“There’s no one who we are prouder of than today’s speaker,” Georgetown Law Dean William M. Treanor said.

For his part, Leahy said that Georgetown was the place where he learned “to appreciate different sides of complicated issues and then search for solutions.”

Responding to student questions, Leahy opined that America has “to get out of the judicial monastery” when choosing Supreme Court justices and to reexamine our focus on the war on drugs. On a question about gun control, Leahy noted that “about the only gun law we have in Vermont” relates to semi-automatic weapons during deer season. 

“Are we really as a nation saying we’re going to be more protective of the deer than we are of our children?” he said. “I think not.”

To view a C-SPAN webcast, click here.

To view Sen. Leahy's remarks as prepared for delivery, click here.

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