A Constitution of Convenience

A federal appeals court ruled that the “individual mandate” imposed by the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” to be unconstitutional. Federal District Court Judge Henry Hudson has sided with the Commonwealth of Virginia, ruling that part of the federal health care reform law violates the U.S. Constitution. Now, we wait to see if the Supreme Court will hear this case or one of the other cases yet to be heard by a lower federal court. The Supreme Court may decide to combine the cases once they reach that level.

Am I the only person that finds it a bit odd that courts (and the federal government in general) are picking and choosing which parts of the constitution to follow? I do not say this as an “advocate” for the Constitution – as I would prefer the Article of Confederation been retained – but as an advocate for limited government (though I prefer self-government). The Constitution was ratified with the intent of delegating specific authorities to the newly created federal government. Almost immediately the Congress & Executive branches found way around the limits of power. In the last 50 years or so, it seems the Constitution is rarely consulted by the federal government.

The TSA, FBI, CIA, DEA and many other alphabet agencies consistently violate the Fourth Amendment, yet we are told to “put up with it” and anyone who dares question the policy is to be reported. This sounds too much like something out of 1984 where you can be arrested for “thought crimes.” Though one difference between real life and 1984; in 1984 “proles and animals are free.”

The Congress routinely violates the Constitution, most recently with S.510, which includes a tax provision and should have originated in the House of Representatives and not the Senate. However, Jim Babka of Downsize DC explains,

S.510 “did NOT die as it should have because House leaders used what I’ll call a ‘Dead Shell Bill’ to trick their way past their Constitutional and procedural problems.

In other words, the House leadership took a bill that hadn’t reached final passage, but that had already jumped through a bunch of procedural hoops, deleted all its contents, and then poured new, unrelated content into it. In this particular case the ‘Dead Shell Bill’ was something called the ‘Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.’ Back in November of 2009 this defense bill was amended by the Senate and then sent back to the House. The Senate even appointed conferees to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions, but the House NEVER responded to the Senate’s action. So the bill was just laying around dead, until House leaders picked it up and emptied it of its contents. They did this because new bills must go through a committee, while a ‘Dead Shell Bill’ has the virtue of already having passed out of committee.

The House leadership created a Special Rule to pass the ‘Dead Shell Bill’ immediately, instead of starting over with a normal, parliamentary review procedure. The Special Rule is H. Res. 1755. House leaders hurriedly passed this Special Rule by a single vote.

Now, with the new Special Rule in hand Congressional leaders:

    * Took the ‘food safety’ bill that we’ve been fighting against and combined it with other unrelated, but sure-to-pass issues. * They then poured all of this new content into the Dead Shell Bill — the one that had once been a military appropriations bill. * They also slapped a new title on the Dead Shell Bill, one so broad that it described none of the current contents.

Next came passage under the Special Rule. Here’s how that worked:

    1. HR 3082 would be considered ‘in order’ immediately. That means it wasn’t going to be assigned to a committee. It also meant that NO normal procedural measures would occur. 2. Reading was waived, of course. 3. No ‘points of order’ would be permitted. 4. Only 40 minutes was provided for debate. 5. Amendments to the bill were not in order. The debate was strictly on final passage.

This Special Rule procedure moved race-car fast. There was no time for public comment. The Democrats had already heard enough from the likes of you, thank you very much.

    * On Thursday afternoon, the Special Rule was introduced and considered read. 50 minutes later, it was passed. * Then Congress passed the ‘Dead Shell Bill’ by six votes, just 2 hours and 22 minutes after installing the Special Rule.”

With such government trickery to find ways around the Constitution. I find myself agreeing more and more with Lysander Spooner, who said the Constitution “has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.“