(WASHINGTON) — A new version of a bill that targets fake war heroes easily passed the House of Representatives late Monday with a 390-3 vote.
The bill, H.R. 258 also known as the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, is the latest attempt by Congress to push through legislation that would punish people who falsely claim to have won military awards, such as the Congressional Medal of Honor, and profit from those lies.
“The awards, and the men and women who have earned them, in some cases posthumously, are worthy of the utmost respect and sanctity,” said Rep. Bill Heck (R-Nev.), who introduced the bill in January. “Benefiting from lying about receiving one of these awards is an affront to all who have worn the uniform and especially to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.”
The original iteration of the bill, the Stolen Valor Act of 2006, had been in effect for six years before the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional. At the time, the law was written to say it was a crime simply to lie about military service and awards — a broad characterization the Supreme Court said violated a person’s First Amendment right to free speech.
A new version of the bill, introduced by Heck in late 2012, narrowed the act to say the liar must be attempting to somehow materially profit from the lies, making the would-be crime more akin to fraud. Heck reintroduced tweaked legislation in January.
It’s companion bill in the Senate, S. 210, was introduced by Sen. Dean Heller (R.-Nev.) in February with 21 bipartisan co-sponsors. That bill has been referred to committee and has not yet seen a vote on the floor.
The new Stolen Valor Act’s sweep through the House comes just a week before the nation’s Memorial Day celebrations, a time when one watchdog said fake military heroes come “out of the woodwork.”
“This is like Christmas for a phony,” former U.S. Navy SEAL Don Shipley told ABC News last Memorial Day.
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