By Congressman John Conyers
Taking the President to Court
Fri Apr 28, 2006 07:12

Taking the President to Court
By Congressman John Conyers

Thursday 27 April 2006

As some of you may be aware, according to the President and Congressional Republicans, a bill does not have to pass both the Senate and the House to become a law. Forget your sixth grade civics lesson, forget the book they give you when you visit Congress - "How Our Laws Are Made," and forget Schoolhouse Rock. These are checks and balances, Republican-style.

As the Washington Post reported last month, as the Republican budget bill struggled to make its way through Congress at the end of last year and beginning of this year (the bill cuts critical programs such as student loans and Medicaid funding), the House and Senate passed different versions of it. House Republicans did not want to make Republicans in marginal districts vote on the bill again, so they simply certified that the Senate bill was the same as the House bill and sent it to the President. The President, despite warnings that the bill did not represent the consensus of the House and Senate, simply shrugged and signed the bill anyway. Now, the Administration is implementing it as though it was the law of the land.

Several public interest groups have sought to stop some parts of the bill from being implemented, under the theory that the bill is unconstitutional. However, getting into the weeds a bit, they have lacked the ability to stop the entire bill. To seek this recourse, the person bringing the suit must have what is called "standing," that is they must show they were injured or deprived of some right. Because the budget bill covers so many areas of the law, it is difficult for one person to show they were harmed by the entire bill. Thus, many of these groups have only sought to stop part of it.

After consulting with some of the foremost constitutional experts in the nation, I determined that one group of people are injured by the entire bill: Members of the House. We were deprived of our right to vote on a bill that is now being treated as the law of the land.

So, I am going to court. With many of my Democratic Colleagues (list appended at the bottom of this diary), I plan to file suit tomorrow in federal district court in Detroit against the President, members of the Cabinet and other federal officers seeking to have a simple truth confirmed: a bill not passed by the House and Senate is not a law, even if the President signs it. As such, the Budget bill cannot be treated as the law of the land.

As many of you know, I have become increasingly alarmed at the erosion of our constitutional form of government. Whether through the Patriot Act, the President's Secret Domestic Spying program, or election irregularities and disenfranchisement, our fundamental freedoms are being taken away. Nothing to me is more stark than this, however. If a President does not need one House of Congress to pass a law, what's next?

The following is a list of co-plaintiffs on this lawsuit. I would note that I did not invite every Member of the House to join in the suit, and I am certain many, many more Members would have joined if asked. However, this was not possible for various arcane legal reasons.

The other plaintiffs include Rep. John Dingell, Ranking Member on the Energy and Commerce Committee; Rep. Charles B. Rangel, Ranking Member on the Ways and Means Committee; Rep. George Miller, Ranking Member on the Education and Workforce Committee; Rep. James L. Oberstar, Ranking Member on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; Rep. Barney Frank, Ranking Member on the Financial Services Committee; Rep. Collin C. Peterson, Ranking Member on the Agriculture Committee; Rep. Bennie Thompson, Ranking Member on the Homeland Security Committee; Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, Ranking Member on the Rules Committee; Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark, Ranking Member on the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee; Rep. Sherrod Brown, Representing Ohio's 13th District.

Congressman John Conyers, Jr. Home Page
Official web site for Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D - MI).

John Conyers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - 'John Conyers, Jr., 40 Years of Jobs, Justice, and Peace' (official blog); - 'Congressman John Conyers Talks About Bush Lying ...

Last Gasp for the Constitution?
by mcjoan, Daily KOS
Thu Apr 27, 2006 at 05:02:56 PM PDT

Tonight brings the welcome news that Arlen Specter might be getting a bit of a spine when it comes to executive overreach in intelligence.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said Thursday he delivered a message to Bush that cut to the heart of the debate over executive power.

"I made the point that the president doesn't have a blank check," Specter said about their meeting Wednesday. "He didn't choose to engage me on that point."

Without a pledge from Bush to provide more information on the surveillance program, Specter filed an amendment to a spending bill Thursday that amounted to a warning to the White House.

The amendment would enact a "prohibition on use of funds for domestic electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes unless Congress is kept fully and currently informed."

Specter also said he would turn the amendment into a bill and hold hearings.

"Institutionally, the presidency is walking all over Congress at the moment," Specter said. "If we are to maintain our institutional prerogative, that may be the only way we can do it."

Specter made clear that, for now, the threat was just that.

See, Arlen, you totally had me until that last little bit there. How much more nose-thumbing from BushCo is it going to take before you realize that they have no intention of playing nice, and if you're going to get answers, you have to do it with the force of the purse-strings?

Nonetheless, Specter's not-really-a-threat is accompanied by the positive development that the committee is delaying consideration of several bills on the warrantless wiretapping issue. Given that the committee has been working entirely in the dark, with no cooperation whatsoever from the administration in terms of information about their domestic surveillance programs, this is a positive step.

It's a much needed step, given last night's Intelligence reauthorization bill, which sailed through the Republican Rubber Stamp House, 327-96. There were a number of critical "no" votes, but the most important was Jane Harman's, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. This is the first time she has ever voted against an Intelligence authorization package.

"I've never been as concerned about our nation's security as I am this week," said Jane Harman (D) of California, the ranking Democrat on the panel. "We still don't have a handle on Al Qaeda," she said. "Our intelligence reorganization is in a slow start-up, and the CIA is in free fall." The longest-serving member on the committee, she voted against the annual intelligence authorization bill for the first time, citing inadequate oversight on government leaks, warrantless wiretaps, and inadequate protections for civil liberties.

Particularly discouraging was the voice vote defeat of an amendment offered by Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Harman which would simply would have required that all domestic spying on Americans comply with federal law, and that intelligence agencies would have to supply Congress of the names of those surveilled. The House of Representatives defeated an amendment requiring intelligence agencies to comply with the law.

Senator Specter, please don't let the Constitution be gutted on your watch.

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