Saturday, March 13, 2010

Constitutional chaos - Some Constitutional attorneys discuss the "Slaughter rule" over at Director Blue (h/t P&P).

As for me, I can't stop thinking about Sir Thomas More's speech from "A Man for All Seasons." In this scene, an advocate for More is arguing that he should arrest a man whose perjury could lead to his execution. More refuses because the man has not broken the law and the other argues that More should not give the devil the "benefit of the law."
"What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ... And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you - where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's, and if you cut them down -- and you're just the man to do it -- do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!"
With the Slaughter rule change and the "sidecar" options and the reconciliation tricks and other unconstitutional benders, the Democrats are cutting a path through the laws to get their legislation passed by any means necessary. What does it mean for the country when one party, working against the will of the people, decides to change the rules as they go along? It's the seed of tyranny.

Extra - Big Government: "Schoolhouse Barack."


Anonymous said...

You're about 9 years behind Russ Feingold, and his point of comparison was a thousand times more apt:

Eric said...


Hey, didn't the House just re-authorize the Patriot Act?

another Eric Lindholm said...

Okay, I'll bite. I have mixed feelings about the health care bill, but how is reconciliation "unconstitutional"? The Constitution doesn't prescribe the filibuster or other stalling mechanisms. It seems strange to decry a maneuver designed to bring about a vote as more devious than one designed to prevent one.

Congress votes against "the will of the people" all the time; it's part of their job to make unpopular decisions if they think it's the right thing to do. If a majority in both houses support the bill, it should pass.

The bill itself might be terrible, but being allowed to vote on it isn't.

Eric said...

Well it's certainly true that the Senate has it's own rules and can change those rules...but not in the middle of the game. As it stands, the filibuster rule requires 60 votes to move legislation and the reconciliation rule allows a majority, but ONLY on budget matters. This is the Byrd Rule established by longtime Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV).

If the Senate wants to make the rule that it only requires 50 votes, more power to 'em. But that's a vote that needs to occur in the Rules Committee and then on the Senate floor.

Jefferson called the Senate the saucer to cool the tea of legislation. It's designed to slow the pace of legislation and prevent the "tyranny of the majority."

another Eric Lindholm said...

Fair enough, but I can't believe that Jefferson would have endorsed an utterly stagnant Congress, where every vote of significance is turned into an ideological death match, each side more concerned with "winning" than with doing what is right. Congress's rules of deliberation, frankly, are outdated for this day and age, but the minority will never consent to changes that make it easier to get things done.

As long as the current system is in place, each house should do everything it can within the rules to try to accomplish something. I don't think Slaughter's attempted maneuver will float, and I agree that it's cowardly in any case. But as far as fudging the interpretation of "budget matter" to include amendments to the Senate's health bill goes, I think that's pretty much within the bounds of Congress's normal game-playing.

Eric Q. Lindholm IV (no relation) said...

Hey, didn't the House just re-authorize the Patriot Act?

Hidey ho, wasn't Russ Feingold the "1" in that 98-1 vote?

And therefore, doesn't Feingold have more moral credibility than most to protest about the rule of law? Certainly more than a party that redrew districts in between censuses, dispensed with "advise and consent" procedures in the Judiciary Committee, banned the minority leader from attending Medicare conferences and summoned Capitol police to eject Democrats who did show up, threatened to overrule the Senate Parliamentarian to prohibit the filibuster, defied the Freedom of Information Act, promoted the Terri Schiavo charade, rewrote an omnibus appropriation bill after it had been voted upon, held open the prescription drug bill hours past the voting deadline, and so on and so forth... and now howls about an "unprecedented" procedure they've used many times.

It looks like the "elections have consequences" GOP is going to eat it raw next week. But at least the meal has re-whet their appetite for the Constitution.

Rick Caird said...

@another Eric Lindholm

Reconciliation is not against the Constitution, but the Slaughter rule to avoid a direct vote on the Senate bill, may well be unconstitutional.

Linda Fox said...

Ah, I remember that wonderful play, made into a movie. To me, that was the essence of what a moral man should be, one who considered his God and his soul more important that temporal riches.

How poorly these modern politicians match up to St. Thomas More - they cheerly sell their souls for such a small amount!