Sen. Leahy calls fraud, patent reform priorities for Judiciary Committee

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said Tuesday morning that fraud against taxpayers and patent reform will be among his top priorities in the committee this year. In remarks today in Washington, Leahy said he would hold a hearing on Jan. 26 to discuss fraud, and said the hearing would specifically address efforts by the Department of Justice to recover billions of dollars in tax revenue. One goal of the hearing, he said, is to ensure there are enough resources to maintain these recovery efforts.

Patent reform is another top issue, and Leahy said new House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) agrees that patent reform is needed. Leahy said he would reintroduce a Patent Reform Act this year, and that work done on this issue in the past several years would likely inform the contents of a bill this year.

Ending the health insurance industry's exemption from antitrust law is another issue Leahy said he wants to tackle this year. The Vermont Democrat said there is "no place" in U.S. law for this exemption. He also said he wants to improve the U.S. visa system for seasonal agricultural workers (the so-called H-2A program) and the EB-5 visa program, which allows investors to travel to the U.S. and invest in U.S. companies.

Elsewhere, Leahy said he wants to update electronic privacy laws to ensure enforcement and privacy concerns are balanced in light of new technological developments, and pass legislation requiring a study on the effectiveness of the Freedom of Information Act. He also reiterated his call for bipartisan efforts to ensure the government fills the many outstanding judicial vacancies that he said are slowing down the judicial process.

Updated at 3:20 p.m.