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The Syndicate

 I'm just a bill   
 Author:  matt
 Dated:  Monday, May 24 2004 @ 04:25 AM PDT
 Viewed:  976 times  
PoliticsToday's rant topic is simultaneously idiotic, scary, and ironic. It concerns a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in March of this year.

First, there are some basics we may need to go over.

There is, outlined in a relatively obscure document called "The Constitution for the United States of America", a system of checks and balances that are to be ensured within the government to which that document applies. Basically, it breaks down thusly:

  • The government consists of three branches: executive (the President), legislative (Congress) and judicial (the Supreme Court).

  • The President controls the military and other foreign relations apparatus, has veto power over legislation proposed by Congress, and nominates people to serve in the Supreme Court.

  • Congress controls the process of creating laws and allocating funds. They have to sign off on Supreme Court nominations, may override a presidential veto with a two thirds majority, and have the ability to impeach.

  • The Supreme Court has the final say on whether a particular action or even a law is, in fact, legal.

Granted, that's a fairly simplistic view of things, but that's pretty much all we need for purposes of this rant, and if the soon to be mentioned distinguished gentlemen from Kentucky, South Carolina, Alabama, California, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Colorado had seen the Schoolhouse Rock episode that the title references, they'd know that already.

Twelve respected men with a combined 124 years of congressional experience decided to take it upon themselves to short circuit the aforementioned system of checks and balances. The title of the bill is perhaps misleading as to its content: "Congressional Accountability for Judicial Activism Act of 2004". The first part of the bill itself is much more enlightening: "A Bill To allow Congress to reverse the judgements of the United States Supreme Court."


In a move only a lawyer could respect, they cite the Constitution itself as their way in the door. They've chosen to interpret a line in Section III, Article 2 to mean that Congress has the ability to overrule the Supreme Court's decisions, that a rational person would think means that Congress should come up with a structure for the appelate system. I daresay that the Supreme Court may have a slightly different interpretation, which brings up the ironic part: the law that asserts that Congress has a direct say in what's constitutional or not is, itself, unconstitutional. Lacking an amendment, it'll never fly.

Here's the scary part: If it were to fly, if somehow Congress got a bug up its butt to pursue the matter with a 2/3 majority, we'd be in the midst of a full-blown constitutional crisis, where the checks and balances would fail because two parties would both assert that they had the power to decide a particular issue, and would be in disagreement. Since it can take a decade or so to get an amendment passed (thereby resolving the paradox), the government basically falls apart due to internal stresses.

Of course, there are worse scenarios for constitutional crisis. If the executive branch gets involved in one, then there's the whole military factor added to it... but that's a different bit of gloom and doom.

It'll most likely not come anywhere near that, since the likelihood of getting 2/3 of both the House and Senate to agree to this madness is pretty low (It'd have to be 2/3 majority to invoke the "law" to overrule the S.C. ruling overturning the "law" after the bill is passed by simple majority in the first place.)

In the meantime, let's consider another problem: What the hell kind of government are we running that this kind of shit even comes up?

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