Messing with the Constitution

Posted: Mar 19, 2004 12:00 AM

There is a move a foot in the Congress to essentially change the way the United States Constitution is amended.  Eleven Republican congressmen have decided that the old system of congressional passage coupled with state ratification is just too cumbersome for this enlightened age.  Their idea?  To simply allow the House and Senate to amend our Constitution with a simple two-thirds majority vote.

We?ll cover the methodology in a moment; first the motivation.  These 11 stalwart defenders of our constitution, led by Representative Ron Lewis (R-KY) have decided that they?ve had it up to just about here (gesturing around my eyebrows) with what they call judicial activism.  They are particularly concerned over the prospects of legal gay marriage.  I think it would also be safe to say that they are less than thrilled over the prospect of the phrase ?under God? being taken out of our Pledge of Allegiance.

Fair enough.  The Supreme Court has been a bit feisty in the last few decades.  Some think they?ve taken Al Gores ?The Constitution should be a living, breathing document? routine a bit far.  In the mid-1990s the court breathed the idea into our body of Constitutional law that local governments could take your home away from you and transfer it to some heavy campaign contributors who promise to bulldoze the house you were born and raised in and replace it with a cluster-mansion that will pay more in property taxes.  Somehow I missed that part of the Constitution when I was studying law.

I do remember seeing something in the Constitution about amendments though. Perhaps Representative Lewis has heard of it.  It seems the people of this country, acting through their federal and local elected officials, can amend the Constitution if they feel that the courts have gone just a bit too far in their activist roles.

Well, here?s what Lewis and his 11 Republican cohorts have dreamed up.  Just last week they introduced H.R. 3920 which they call the ?Congressional Accountability for Judicial Activism Act of 2004.  This legislation would allow the congress to overturn any Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of an act of Congress by a two-thirds majority vote.  Simply put, H.R. 3920 would allow the Congress of the United States to amend our Constitution by a two-third vote of both houses.  No involvement from the Executive branch, and no vetting through the states and the people.  Just pass a law, wait for the Supremes to declare it unconstitutional, and then amend the Constitution with your two-thirds vote.

This might seem like a wonderful idea to Republicans at a time when they control both houses.  But ? consider this scenario.  Let?s say the people of the United States suddenly succumb to a nationwide epidemic of mad voter disease and place the Democrats in full and complete control of both houses.  The Democrats immediately pass a law making it a felony for any private citizen in the United States to own a firearm.  Since government is the only entity in our system entitled to use force to accomplish its goals,  the Democrats reason that government should be the only entity with the means to exert force.  Along comes the Supreme Court and, in a rare exercise of reasonable Constitutional interpretation, declares the law to be at variance with the dictates of the Second Amendment.  The Democrats merely produce their two-third votes in the Senate and the House and, voila, the Constitution is amended!

Consider another scenario:  The entire congress, mindful of its constant struggle for self-preservation, passes a law stating that all congressional and Senatorial terms shall be for life.  As soon as the court declares this absurdity to be unconstitutional the House and Senate votes almost unanimously to overrule the Supreme Court ? and once again the Constitution is amended.

H.R. 3920 is, of course, going absolutely nowhere.  It?s the Dennis Kucinich of legislation.   A somewhat nutty one percent might consider taking this tramp to dinner, but nobody?s going to pick up the check.  These Republicans are merely staking out some election-year territory in which they can claim to be the saviors of the American family and all that good and right with the world.

The outrage here is that eleven Republican members of the Congress of the United States have so little regard and respect for our Constitution that they would actually put their names on this insult.  You would normally expect this depraved behavior from Democrats or the local mob.  The offense, though,  is so grave the guilty parties must be identified.  See if one of these names is familiar to you.  We have Lewis of Kentucky, Howard of North Carolina, DeMint of South Carolina, Kingston and Collins of Georgia, Everett of Alabama, Dolittle and Pombo of California, Franks of Arizona, Hefley of Colorado, Goode of Virginia and Pitts of Pennsylvania. 

During this election year, when we have the likes of John Kerry plotting to surrender the sovereignty of the United States to the machinations of the United Nations, our Constitution needs every friend it can get.  Lewis?s eleven don?t fit the bill.

Neal Boortz is a lawyer and nationally syndicated radio talk show host.