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October 21, 2014

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Heck’s Stolen Valor Act wins swift passage in Congress

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Leila Navidi

U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev. gives a victory speech during a GOP election night watch party at the Venetian in Las Vegas on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

Rarely these days do bills in Congress experience a 48-hour turnaround, but that’s about all it took for Nevada Rep. Joe Heck’s Stolen Valor Act to be approved by the House of Representatives, the Senate and be sent to President Barack Obama’s desk to be signed into law.

The Senate approved the bill — which would make it a federal misdemeanor to lie about receipt of military medals, honors or other decoration in order to profit from the lie — by unanimous consent Wednesday.

The bill had passed the House by a vote of 390-3 on Monday.

It is the second version of the bill to be introduced in the House with companion legislation in the Senate to make this change to the law — last year, Heck’s Stolen Valor passed the House but was not considered in the full Senate.

Heck introduced the bill a few months after the Supreme Court ruled last summer that the existing U.S. law criminalizing misrepresentations of military service impinged on the constitutional right to free speech. That law simply criminalized lying about decorated military service; Heck’s bill, by tying those lies to the purpose of profiteering, avoids the run-in with the First Amendment.

“Tonight marks the end of what has been a very long, challenging and rewarding process,” said Heck, who credits a veterans advisory group in Southern Nevada for giving him the idea. “It is a fitting tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country that both chambers have passed this bill before Memorial Day.”

Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, who sponsored the companion legislation in the Senate, also applauded the swift and timely passage of the bill in a statement.

“Our nation can never fully express our gratitude for all that our men and women in uniform have experienced on our behalf. Their acts of valor helped ensure the safety and security of our nation, and the honor of their awards should never be compromised.”

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