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U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) had a busy first week back in Washington D.C., putting forth a number of wide-ranging bills with her colleagues that address everything from same-sex marriage to how the country conducts itself in overseas conflicts.
Feinstein and Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced the Due Process Guarantee Act, a bill to protect Americans from being detained indefinitely, without charge or trial. The legislation aims to end ongoing legal ambiguities by affirming and strengthening the principles behind the Non-Detention Act of 1971, the authors said.
“Detaining U.S. citizens and green card holders indefinitely without charge or trial violates our fundamental values as a nation and represents a repetition of the horrific mistake made with the internment of Japanese-Americans,” Feinstein said. “While some argue we need such detentions to stop violent extremists, I wholeheartedly disagree. Our criminal justice system has proven time and time again that it can successfully convict terrorism suspects within the bounds of law.”
The bill also expands the Non-Detention Act of 1971 to include green card holders in addition to citizens.
Feinstein and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) led a group of lawmakers in introducing the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2015.
The bill would restrict the use of cluster munitions, which are bombs, rockets or artillery shells that contain hundreds of smaller submunitions, which, when deployed, can leave behind unexploded ordnance. This unexploded ordnance can get buried in land, hidden from view or exist in plain sight and be mistaken as toys or even air-dropped assistance, officials said.
Feinstein also introduced the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The bill would ensure that all legally-married, same-sex couples are treated equally under federal law by clarifying current statues — a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives was concurrently introduced.
“Congress must repeal DOMA and ensure that all married, same-sex couples are treated equally under federal law, and that’s what this bill will do,” Feinstein said. “Only when this bill is passed will we be able to guarantee the federal rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage for all loving couples. I call on my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this bill.”
In June 2014, one year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Windsor v. United States, the justice department issued a report concluding that without legislation, married same-sex couples will continue to be denied critical federal benefits. Feinstein said the justice department report stated that enactment of a bill like the Respect for Marriage Act would rectify the problems ensure that federal benefits are awarded equally.
Feinstein and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced the Protecting Our Kids from Dangerous Synthetic Drugs Act, which would provide law enforcement with needed tools to prosecute producers and distributors of synthetic drugs, they said.
From January 2014 to November 2014, poison centers nationwide responded to approximately 3,900 calls related to synthetic drugs, which are unregulated substances designed to mimic the effects of controlled substances including cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, LSD and PCP. An estimated 250 synthetics, including K2, molly and spice, are available today, officials said, adding that synthetic drugs are packaged to appeal to young people and are widely available at gas stations, head shops and online.
In 2012, Congress outlawed several synthetic drugs in the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act, but manufacturers and distributors slightly altered their chemical structure to circumvent the law, legislators said.
The new bill addresses this problem by allowing the federal government to quickly update its list of banned synthetic drugs.
Lastly, Feinstein and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), co-chairs of the U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, introduced legislation to help combat transnational drug trafficking.
The Transnational Drug Trafficking Act, which passed the Senate unanimously in the 112th and 113th Congresses, would provide the U.S. Department of Justice with new tools to prosecute drug traffickers from foreign countries, Feinstein said. Specifically, it would help the department build extradition cases on drug kingpins from the Andean region, which includes Colombia and Peru. Kingpins from these countries often use Mexican drug trafficking organizations as intermediaries to ship illegal narcotics to the United States.
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