House Republicans Demonstrate Contempt for Constitution

This headline in the LA Times is wrong: House Republicans pass Government Shutdown Prevention Act.

It should say House Republicans pass unconstitutional budget bill.

The first problem is visible right near the top of the story — although the reporter seems not aware of it.

A portion of the bill sought to ensure that lawmakers and the president have their paychecks cutoff, just like other federal employees, if the two sides failed to reach a budget deal before an April 8 deadline. The provision was similar to one that already passed the Senate.

The rest of the bill was less conventional.

WRONG. It seems our reporter — and the House GOP — has never read the US Constitution. Article I, sect 1, para. 7 states:

The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.

So the statute is unconstitutional right there. But it gets worse.

Another section tried to revive a House spending plan that was killed by the Senate last month. Under the resolution passed Friday, the dead bill would come back to life and become law, without the president’s signature, if the Senate does not pass a bill funding the government for the rest of the 2011. The Senate would need to act by Wednesday.

Hello? Bicameralism? Presentment? Chadha anyone?

Every Republican in the House voted for this monstrosity.

Every Republican in the House violated his or her “Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution”. As required by Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution. It goes:

“I, (name of Member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.

Voting for something that is clearly unconstitutional is a violation of this promise. I don’t see what else it can be.

But no one cares. We are now so debased as a Republic that no one bats an eye. What’s left, a Tea Party Senate candidate named Incitatus? (Look it up.)

At least some people knew enough to react with ridicule:

Democrats used the bill as an invitation to mock Republicans’ creative legislative process. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) brought to the House floor a copy of “House Mouse, Senate Mouse,” a children’s book on how a bill becomes a law that is sold in the House gift shop.

Outrage would be better.

(It doesn’t help that the President committed acts of war on Libya without Congressional permission. While the act was legal under international law as it was authorized by the Security Council, the military action’s conformity to US domestic law rests entirely on the War Powers Act, and only shakily on that. The next Gibbon will have a field day with all this.)

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14 Responses to House Republicans Demonstrate Contempt for Constitution

  1. Whatsup says:

    Mr. Froomkin, I vow that you will take the 1995 shutdown into consideration, take the people/s strong message sent to government and who knows, Mr. Froomkin you may become a Republican someday……, do like your approach and analysis. Will post more on your take on the government shutdown, but respect your approach.

  2. Vic says:

    You’re wasting your own breath and frustrating yourself unnecessarily if you think that more than a tiny number (if even that) of our elected Washington politicians give a damn about the details of the Constitution when weighed against the need to get re-elected.

    Nothing that happens in DC will make any sense until you learn to view it through the prism of re-election. Once you do that EVERYTHING suddenly makes sense. It’s not supposed to work that way, but it does. You might as well accept that. This is a place that even corrupted Paul Wellstone – do you think that anybody who has made a career out of being a politician won’t be sucked in even easier?

    And don’t get so hung up over there being two parties. They really don’t differ a whole lot in principle and don’t have the purpose you think they do. What they provide is the far more important “Us and Them” structure necessary to get re-elected. By you (and others) thinking it matters in any objective sense – as if anyone in either party is there because they have rationally considered the options and chosen a side – is just naive and plays right into their little theater. (the recent Schumer video was yet another insight into this fake process)

    Unfortunately, this will likely never get fixed in our lifetime, and will only get worse as fewer and fewer kids are properly educated and as they care less and less about anything outside of themselves.

  3. Vic says:

    Aside from that, you might also consider that you are just wrong, because you are taking your lead from others who are just wrong, and you didn’t do your own homework on this.

    A Bill normally contains final language (“hereby enacted into law”) because once passed by both houses and signed by the president, it IS law. Having that language in the Bill is just how things work and has no effect without the other steps.

    Also, a Bill may incorporate another Bill by reference. There is nothing wrong with that either.

    there is nothing in the Bill that states that the normal process is not in effect. If anyone is being a yahoo here it’s the Dems that are ridiculing the Reps for doing this. But then (see my earlier comment) they are only doing it because they know that even law professors won’t do their homework.

    As for the rest, I’ll let you think about it for a while. I doubt we’ll see more than digging in from you though, but a guy can dream.

  4. Vic says:

    I guess you are just not following the logic here. It doesn’t need to be explained unless it is enacted – which it won’t be. A Bill is neither Constitutional nor Unconstitutional.

    We likely agree about whether lawmakers should be spending time on effectively symbolic stuff like this, but it NOT and never has been a question of unconstitutionality, nor is it a question of process.

    If I were you, I’d worry about actual Constitutional issues that are in play: Finally you mentioned the President declaring war based on the U.N.’s say-so. Also the Obama Care mandate which has been declared unconstitutional by a Fed judge in FL. These are REAL issue that will eventually need to be addressed by Congress and the Supreme Court, respectively. All this Bill stuff is is some lightweight bloggers getting all caught up about stuff they clearly know little about. You should know better than to rely on their say-so for your outrage.

    • I believe that a Senator and a Representative have a duty to vote against clearly unconstitutional legislation. Voting to pass it does not, in and of itself, make law, as you say, but that’s not the point; because after the vote passing the bill, and barring a veto or a conference, they are functus officio on the road to a statute.

      Therefore it makes no sense to me to say that whether or not they have violated their oath by voting for a patently unconstitutional bill depends entirely on whether other people (the other chamber, the President) go along with it. In fact, I see that as literally non-sense.

  5. Vic says:

    Are you expressing shock that there is gambling in Casablanca? Really? Unconstitutional statutes get passed all the time. One could make the argument that it’s even good that they do since our Supreme Court then gets a chance to define things a bit further (since they don’t do advisory opinions). The law in Chadha you referenced is a good example. Did Congress REALLY think this was OK, or were they just seeing how far they could push things?

    Look, I agree that this whole exercise is largely a waste, but it happens because (see my first reply) the daily purpose of every member of Congress is NOT the People’s business, but making the other side look foolish so they can get reelected. Let’s reverse things, do you REALLY think that the Dems in Congress that were making fun of the Reps on this current Bill, did not themselves know that it would not be enacted without bicameralism and presentment? Of course they knew! So they had nothing to make any stink about, just like you don’t, but they did it anyway. Why? because it’s politics.

    You need to stop looking at everything through the prism that your Congressional Overlords place in front of you. They have you right where they want you, and a story that would have been a good chance for a LAW PROFESSOR to explain on a deeper level was wasted. Stop listening to them and think for yourself.

  6. Vic says:

    I agree. But Congress has yet to prove that they deserve so much leeway. Generally, it’s just pointless political grandstanding. The BIll of your note is just the latest example of a constant flow of such nonsense. We could go on and on as to the cause, but it’s hard not to believe it’s true. “Bigotry?” Not really.

    If the Tea Partiers brought ANYTHING to the table, it was the idea that Congress had lost its way and needed to get back to the basic task of doing its job. You might disagree with their biases, but they had the right idea in theory I think. Right now, Congress is simply disfunctional – and the 2012 season has barely begun.

  7. Vic says:

    I don’t know if you’ll see this, Froomkin, since this blog post has rolled off your front page, but you might note that some time ago, the Senate passed a similar no pay Bill for the President and Congress – sponsered by Dems. Check out Boxer’s website:

    It might be nice if you’d stop presuming that anything bad must be solely a Republican plot. Maybe you need to start counting to 50 before you post your rants, to give yourself a chance to actually look things up, instead of constantly repeating what other people tell you is true. Once again, you look politically amateurish.

    • I think it’s just as horrible and unconstitutional whoever does it. And where did you get the idea that I’m happy with the Democrats in Congress these days? Not from reading here, I’d bet.

      Yes, pound for pound they are less horrible than the GOP, except for those who might as well be Republicans. But profiles in courage? Darn few.

      Why didn’t I condemn the old bill? Never heard of it before, or I might well have.

  8. Vic says:

    Fair enough, but it’s just part of your pattern: You make some claim, blaming some outrageous thing solely on Republicans or some other evil conservative, call them Hitler, or stupid, or some other extra shot of repulsiveness, maybe give a demeaning nick-name, show how it is obvious that they are particularly evil, and then it too often winds up all being a half-cocked charge which is either partially or completely wrong, because you didn’t bother to look into it any further than the say-so of whatever other blogger notified you. A simple Google serach, combined with the legal training that you should be fresher than I on and this entire post is either much ado about nothing, or can be equally metted out against everyone. And you will likely never make an actual correction, with what you NOW know, as a new post on your front page. So in the end, all you are doing is feeding the frenzy of misinformation to the misinformed, just like any other tabloid blogger.

    I’ve said before, what you do with your blog is entirely your business, but I think if you are going to make a big deal out of being a law professor, and make a show of examining real issues fairly (like your current local election stuff) then you should be above making baseless charges that you haven’t bothered to research even a little. I don’t care if you are a liberal, or have that bias, but stop accusing every conservative of being Hitler, while giving the free pass of ignorance to equivalent actions by others. I don’t even think you need pretend to be fair here – but when the Repubs do something unconstitutional for whatever reason, I think it’s sensible to admit that the Dems did it to if they did. And maybe if you’re not going to bother keeping informed on something, don’t make big deal comments about it! You should at least make corrections in the cases where you have been so completely uninformed.

    BTW, if you want an item to be outraged about, you might look into SCOTUS’s opinion released earlier in the week on Connick v. Thompson.

  9. Vic says:

    BTW< I mean all of the above with respect and entirely as constructive criticism. I know I don't always necessarily come off that way, but I do. Such is the nature of text.

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