On Saturday, 27 September, the full House of Representatives took up the Equal Justice for Our Military Act, H.R. 3174. By a two-thirds majority voice vote, the House suspended the rules to take up the legislation directly on the floor and to pass it. There was a short debate during which the bill’s sponsor — Rep. Susan Davis — spoke in favor of it and Rep. Lamar Smith, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, argued against it. Rep. Smith opposed the bill going directly to a vote on the House floor without a hearing or committee report and noted that in a letter dated 6 February 2006, then-DOD General Counsel William J. Haynes II opposed the legislation. Norbert Basil MacLean III, who is the principal moving force behind the legislation, retorted that Rep. Smith had an opportunity to hold such hearings himself but didn’t: “In the last Congress, Rep. Smith as chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts, Internet & Intellectual Property of the Judiciary Committee outright refused to permit hearings on this subject. The previous Equal Justice for Our Military Act, HR 1364 (109th Congress) sat in his committee for 1 year and 9 months with absolutely no action.”
On the Senate side, the Senate Judiciary Committee favorably reported a bill that is identical in all but name, S. 2052. But it remains to be seen when and if the full Senate will consider the legislation.