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Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw

Andy Stone
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

Just for fun (and this is all for fun, right?) let’s talk about the Constitution once again.

I am inspired to return to this always enjoyable topic by a statement I heard on the radio a week or two ago from a Republican voter somewhere down in the Deep South, where an episode of “Desperate Housewives: Dukes of Hazard Edition” – aka, the Republican primaries – was being staged.

The Republicans claim to be BFFs (that’s “best friends forever,” you know) with the Constitution. They like to say things such as: “To Democrats, the Constitution is like a crucifix to vampires.” Or: “Democrats think the Constitution should be shredded.” Or: “Democrats think the Constitution can now be ignored.” (Actual quotes.)



They say that sort of stuff because, by golly, the Constitution is their personal property.

So I was interested to hear a stalwart deep-fried Southern Republican explain how Barack Obama “is not qualified to be president” because “the Constitution says” you can’t be president unless both your parents were born in the United States.



Now, just for the record, the Constitution says no such thing. Not even close. It says the president must be “a natural born Citizen.” That’s all. Yes, the exact definition of that term has been the subject of some debate, but there is no doubt that the Constitution does not say both a president’s parents have to have been born in the United States.

I mention this because, really, folks, the Constitution is not that long. It is not that hard to read. And if you want to stomp your feet and declare that you are the party of the Constitution – you really, really might ought to read the darn thing. It’s only about 8,000 words – and that’s including all 27 amendments.

So, along those lines, I thought I’d touch on a couple of items that seem to be near and dear to the hearts of Republicans these days, but which are actually not – repeat: not – in the Constitution of these United States. Really.

First, let’s look at the Republicans’ fanatical interest in having the Supreme Court throw out the Affordable Care Act (that’s the one they call Obamacare) – a case that the court heard just last week.

They argue that the “individual mandate,” which says that everyone must have health care insurance, is unconstitutional.

Now, I’m not going to get into the legal arguments over that. My point here is that these anti-health care, pro-Constitution (they say) forces are counting on the Supreme Court to toss that law into the trash.

But here’s the thing: The Supreme Court’s power to throw out laws passed by Congress is not – repeat: not – in the Constitution.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I think it’s a bad thing for the Supreme Court to get rid of unconstitutional laws. But that power is most definitely not to be found in the Constitution.

All the Constitution says is this: “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”

That’s it.

In fact, the power to rule a law unconstitutional was granted to the Supreme Court by … the Supreme Court.

That’s right: In 1803, in the case of Marbury v. Madison, the court simply assumed the power to overrule Congress and throw out laws.

Bing! Just like that.

Talk about judicial activism.

And yet, you can bet that the “Constitutional originalists” on the court will not hesitate to use that non-Constitutional power.

And what will happen if our current crop of activist judges relies on the power seized by an earlier bunch of activist judges to toss affordable health care for all U.S. citizens onto the ash heap of history? You can bet that those Constitution-loving, activist-judge-hating Republicans will cheer.

OK, we have time for another one. Here we go:

When the Democrats took control of the U.S. Senate in 2007, the Republicans, reduced to a minority and unable to do what they wanted – because of the inconvenient results of the election – decided to govern or, actually, not govern by means of the filibuster.

That word, by the way, comes from the Spanish “filibustero” or the French “flibustier,” both of which mean “pirate.” That’s because the filibuster “pirates” the political process.

In a filibuster, members of the minority party take the Senate floor and talk endlessly, blocking any action. A filibuster can only be ended if 60 senators vote for “cloture” (a technical term meaning “shut the hell up!”).

It is a tactic used by the minority party to block the will of the majority party (which is to say, block the will of the nation’s voters).

Have the Republicans used the filibuster a lot in recent years?

Well, in the four years from 2003 to 2007, when the Republicans controlled the Senate, Democrats filibustered 130 times.

That’s a lot.

In the four years from 2007 to 2010, when the Democrats controlled the Senate, the Republicans filibustered 276 times.

That’s a lot more. More than twice as much, if you’re into higher math.

And now, in accord with today’s theme, it’s time to point out that the filibuster cannot be found anywhere in the U.S. Constitution.

It was created by the rules of the Senate, not by the Constitution.

In other words, that good old party of the Constitution is blocking the legislative process created by the Constitution – and blocking it at all-time record rates – because they don’t like the way the country voted in the past few elections (under the rules of the Constitution).

Yes, there are good arguments for the filibuster. Avoiding the infamous “tyranny of the majority” is a sound one.

But for those who bother to actually read that darn Constitution – nope! No filibuster.

Republicans and the Constitution?

Not such good buddies after all.


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