House Republicans Attack Constitution


I’ve been saying for a long time that the radcon Publicans don’t recognize any limitatiions to their power or any line that should not be crossed if it brings political advantage, however mementary, but harms the good of the country. Jay Bookman of the AJC thinks the House Pubs are preparing to prove that thesis. In a vote last week, they undermined the Constitution by baldly taking unto themselves the power to render it null and void.

Every politician has — or should have — a line that he or she will not cross just to gain political advantage. Even for the most ambitious and ruthless, there should be some things that are off-limits, some steps that aren’t worth taking because the potential damage to the nation outweighs any political gain.But like many Americans, I have a sneaking suspicion that the line has shifted considerably. In fact, after last week’s events in the U.S. House of Representatives, you have to wonder if it still exists at all for some people.

Frustrated by the Senate’s failure to produce even a majority of votes in favor of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, House leaders decided to take a more controversial approach. Citing an obscure and largely untested provision of the U.S. Constitution, the House voted 233-194 to bar the Supreme Court from considering the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law dealing with gay marriage.

That is a power grab of breathtaking consequence. If Congress has the authority to tell the Supreme Court that certain issues are off-limits, it would give legislators a free hand to do whatever they wished, without worrying about whether it violated the Constitution. The whole idea of a separation of powers could be rendered null and void…

In yet another of the ironies/hypocracies that stud the Bush years like the rusted hulks of AMC Pacers, it is the very people who have been screaming for years that Congress has taken too much power to itself who are the ones to assume the ultimate power: the power to disembowel the Constitution whenever they feel like it, cut the courts out of the equation by forbidding them to rule on anything it’s done, and become the last, the only arbiters of their own actions.

Theoretically, [the provision in question] allows Congress to pass a law — say, making it a felony to criticize members of Congress — and then forbid the courts to review such a law. It could pass a law making Christianity the national religion, and bar the courts from hearing a challenge. It could allow government to tap our phones without a warrant, or toss dissidents into prison without trial, and refuse to allow the courts to intervene.That’s why the provision has remained obscure and largely untested. Previous generations of politicians, even in the heat of intense battle, have understood and respected the potential damage it could do. They saw it as a Pandora’s box that once opened could threaten not just our constitutional liberties but the whole concept of a balance of powers among the judicial, legislative and executive branches.

With the radcons, though, that’s the whole point. They’re not interested in ‘constitutional liberties’ or maintaining ‘the balance of power’, they’re only interested in forcing the whole country to act the way they want it to act and believe what they want it to believe, and they will usurp any power that will allow them to do that. The vote this week proves that.

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