Thursday, March 15, 2007

constitutional interpretations by congress

nowadays it is very rare that Congress interprets the constitution, and when it does, blatantly unconstitutional laws like Terri Schiavo's is created. Some times, however, they do a great job. The 1982 amendments to the VRA is one of the few recent bright spots in Congressional interpretation of the Constitution, where both sides had good points and struggled long and hard with tough questions and important issues.
Currently, there is another one: The DC-Utah House vote bill. The Washington Post reports:
Both sides can point to legal scholars to back them up. Several weeks ago, a constitutional expert at the Congressional Research Service produced a report saying that the bill was probably unconstitutional.
On the other side are the American Bar Association and former top government lawyers such as Viet Dinh, an author of the Patriot Act. Appearing at the hearing yesterday, Dinh said the legislation would probably survive a court challenge because judges usually uphold Congress's actions taken under the District Clause.
Reflecting such concerns, Republican legislators [in particular Rep. LaMar Smith of Texas, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee] are expected to propose an amendment in today's hearing calling for expedited judicial review of the bill. That would clear the way for the case to go directly to the Supreme Court on appeal after a lower court ruled.

I wouldn’t oppose this in general, but it seems like they are trying to bypass the DC Circuit, which has extreme liberals and extreme conservatives in its Court of Appeals. Depending on the draw, one panel will follow Hamdan and another will follow the Anti-Habeas Corpus act of 2006…I mean the Military Commission Act.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said ultimately a court will decide whether Congress has the authority to grant the district and Utah seats and it is worth the battle to try. "The time for action has long passed," he said.

DC voters were eloquent in their advocacy for a voting member of the House. "We are not the constituents of any of you, and therefore can command the full devotion of none of you," said Bruce P. Spiva of the advocacy group DC Vote, in his opening remarks
residents stood up silently but en masse as Spiva said there were "teachers, firefighters, veterans and students" who make up the city's population.
"We fight for democracy abroad and are denied it here at home," Spiva said. "We pay federal and local taxes. We serve on federal juries. We have fulfilled every responsibility of American citizenship, and yet we have no say in the passage of our nation's laws and do not even have ultimate authority over our own local laws and institutions."
Spiva said Congress certainly has the right to fix this "and it must change now."

Here, here!

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