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Wearing unearned combat decorations unlawful

On Oct. 29, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled that no one has the right to wear military combat decorations that were not earned. This falls under the definition of "conduct" and is therefore not protected as "free speech" under the First Amendment to the Constitution. Lying about receiving a military medal is still constitutionally protected.

The defendant, Elven Swisher, served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1954-1957. In 2001, he applied to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for service-connected disability compensation benefits, claiming he had been wounded in a secret mission to North Korea in 1955, two years after the Korean War ended. VA granted the request in 2004 after Swisher submitted what appeared to be a military document saying he had received a Silver Star and other medals for his actions.

VA learned in 2006 that Swisher’s document was forged and ordered him to repay the benefits. He was later convicted and sentenced to a year in prison on charges that included stealing government funds and wearing unauthorized medals at a veterans event.

Congress has rewritten the Stolen Valor law to prohibit lying about military honors for financial gain, while repealing the ban on wearing medals one has not earned. But the repeal did not help Swisher, whose conviction under the former law was upheld.

According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the law under which Swisher was convicted "regulated harmful conduct" and "was unrelated to the suppression of a particular viewpoint."

Keystone XL Pipeline bill update

H.R. 5682, the Approve Keystone XL Pipeline bill, which authorized the construction and operation of the Keystone XL pipeline, passed the House on Nov. 14. The Senate companion measure, S. 2280, which was sponsored by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., failed to gain the necessary 60 votes to pass the Senate on Nov. 18. This Senate action effectively ends work on this bill for the remainder of the 113th Congress.

However, authority to build the northern half of the pipeline, including cross-border facilities, still awaits approval by the State Department and a Nebraska state court decision regarding the routing of the pipeline in that state.

After the Senate vote, House and Senate Republican leaders indicated they plan to introduce new legislation in the 114th Congress approving the pipeline.

House Committee chairman for 114th Congress

The House Republican Steering Committee made recommendations for committee chairmanships in the House of Representatives. See who the recommendations were:

Ed Royce (Calif.) for Foreign Affairs
Mike McCaul (Texas) for Homeland Security
Bob Goodlatte (Va.) for Judiciary
John Kline (Minn.) for Education and the Workforce
Jeb Hensarling (Texas) for Financial Services
Fred Upton (Mich.) for Energy & Commerce
Jeff Miller (Fla.) for Veterans’ Affairs
Bill Shuster (Pa.) for Transportation and Infrastructure
Lamar Smith (Texas) for Science, Space, and Technology
Mac Thornberry (Texas) for Armed Services
Rob Bishop (Utah) for Natural Resources
Steve Chabot (Ohio) for Small Business
Mike Conaway (Texas) for Agriculture
Paul Ryan for Ways and Means

Tom Price (Ga.) for Budget
Jason Chaffetz (Utah) for the Oversight and Government Reform Committee