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Posts Tagged ‘Constitution’

A few hours ago, I received word from George Allen’s campaign that today he signed The Contract from America.  By doing so, he joins the growing ranks of limited government conservatives like Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Representative Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota.  As Allen states, “To me, signing this pledge is an affirmation of my commitment to protecting individual liberty, limited government and economic freedom.”

But what is The Contract from America, you might ask?  I’m sure most of you remember the GOP’s 1994 Contract with America, but now we are talking about a contract from America?  What an odd name.  Doesn’t it sound like some secessionist ploy?  Well, here’s the contract.  Read it yourself:

The Contract from America

We, the undersigned, call upon those seeking to represent us in public office to sign the Contract from America and by doing so commit to support each of its agenda items, work to bring each agenda item to a vote during the first year, and pledge to advocate on behalf of individual liberty, limited government, and economic freedom.

Individual Liberty

Our moral, political, and economic liberties are inherent, not granted by our government. It is essential to the practice of these liberties that we be free from restriction over our peaceful political expression and free from excessive control over our economic choices.

Limited Government

The purpose of our government is to exercise only those limited powers that have been relinquished to it by the people, chief among these being the protection of our liberties by administering justice and ensuring our safety from threats arising inside or outside our country’s sovereign borders. When our government ventures beyond these functions and attempts to increase its power over the marketplace and the economic decisions of individuals, our liberties are diminished and the probability of corruption, internal strife, economic depression, and poverty increases.

Economic Freedom

The most powerful, proven instrument of material and social progress is the free market. The market economy, driven by the accumulated expressions of individual economic choices, is the only economic system that preserves and enhances individual liberty. Any other economic system, regardless of its intended pragmatic benefits, undermines our fundamental rights as free people.

1. Protect the Constitution

Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does. (82.03%)

2. Reject Cap & Trade

Stop costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures. (72.20%)

3. Demand a Balanced Budget

Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike. (69.69%)

4. Enact Fundamental Tax Reform

Adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the internal revenue code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words—the length of the original Constitution. (64.90%)

5. Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government in Washington

Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states or local authorities, or ripe for wholesale reform or elimination due to our efforts to restore limited government consistent with the US Constitution’s meaning. (63.37%)

6. End Runaway Government Spending

Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of the inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth. (56.57%)

7. Defund, Repeal, & Replace Government-run Health Care

Defund, repeal and replace the recently passed government-run health care with a system that actually makes health care and insurance more affordable by enabling a competitive, open, and transparent free-market health care and health insurance system that isn’t restricted by state boundaries. (56.39%)

8. Pass an ‘All-of-the-Above” Energy Policy

Authorize the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, lowering prices and creating competition and jobs. (55.51%)

9. Stop the Pork

Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark. (55.47%)

10. Stop the Tax Hikes

Permanently repeal all tax hikes, including those to the income, capital gains, and death taxes, currently scheduled to begin in 2011. (53.38%)

It certainly sounds promising doesn’t it?  Any effort that seeks to restrain the growing power of the federal government is certainly an idea I can get behind.  It seems, I’m not alone; the concept has the backing of a number of limited government organizations like The Leadership Institute, The Republican Liberty Caucus, and Freedom Works.

However, I do have two questions regarding the contract.  First, what’s with all the percentages after each segment?  Is it a ranking of priority?  Do the number represent folks who sign choosing to accept certain portions of the contract while rejecting others?  Well, after making a few phone calls, I discovered this answer.  In order to gauge public opinion on what are the most important priorities, the organizers held a poll.  The top ten are what are listed here.  The percentages after each are the percent of the vote each won.  “Protecting the Constitution” was labeled the highest priority, while “Stopping the Tax Hikes”, although important, was the lowest concern of the top ten.

Second, I’m not too wild about point number seven.  Sure, I’d like to see federally run health care defunded and repealed, but replaced?  Replaced with what?  Something merely more cost efficient?  I do not believe that the federal government has any constitutional authority when it comes to the health care of its citizens.  Therefore, without additional details, I cannot support this particular plank.

If you will recall, back in 1994, Republicans captured control of Congress by uniting around a list of conservative principles and priorities.  Should they do so again, I would expect them to win a far greater percentage of seats.

Therefore, despite my one particular objection, I believe that this Contract From America is an important step in the right direction.  It may be a funny sounding name, but we need to get Washington under control and we must do so now.  As our former Governor and Senator states, “Only by listening to ‘We the People’ and returning to the foundational principles of freedom, personal responsibility and opportunity for all will America once again be the land of opportunity.”

Although I still need to learn more about this effort,  I certainly do appreciate their motivation and applaud George Allen for signing on to this project.

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Is anyone else troubled by the recent developments regarding Libya?  Now I’m not talking about the clashes between pro-Gaddafi forces and the rebels who seek to overthrow him.  I assume we can agree that Gaddafi is an unjust despot, as are many of the leaders of non-democratic countries around the world.  We can freely disagree concerning whether or not the U.S. should intervene in this conflict.

Instead, the most disturbing element of current events was President Obama’s unilateral decision to launch a military strike against the nation.  Be they no-fly zones, missile attacks, or a ground force invasion, any violation of Libyan sovereign territory puts us at war with the nation.  However, according our Constitution, if you read Article One, Section Eight, only Congress has the power to declare war.  Did Obama seek and was he granted such authorization? No.

On this topic, I present to you today’s (March 21, 2011) thoughts of Democrat Dennis Kucinich (OH-10).

Isn’t President Obama’s actions a clear violation of the Constitution?  Now some people erroneously believe that the War Powers Resolution supercedes the Constitution and transfers this authority to declare war away from the Congress and to the President.   Although I don’t believe the War Powers Resolution is constitutional, that issue is a matter for another day.  To be clear, assuming the War Powers Resolution is valid, it reads:

The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to
(1) a declaration of war,
(2) specific statutory authorization, or
(3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.
So was there a declaration of war?  No.  Was there a specific statutory authorization?  Not that I can find.  How about a national emergency?  With Gaddafi desperately struggling to control his own nation, I sincerely doubt anyone can make the claim that he currently possesses either the will or the military forces necessary to pose any sort of threat to our country.

Now I want you to compare Kucinich’s words to Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (VA-7) from Hardball on February 8, 2007.

Scary isn’t it?  I certainly hope that Representative Cantor has changed his opinion in the four years since this recording.  Unfortunately his website and blog are silent on these recent developments.  Granting one man the ability to declare war without any real oversight or approval marches the nation toward the spectre of endless conflict and a totalitarian state.

At the end of the day, whichever party happens to be in power, they all must obey the Constitution.  Clearly with this action in Libya, Obama has grossly overstepped his authority.  I would not support an executively created war whether it happens under a Republican or a Democrat.  You know what is destroying this country?  This event serves as a prime example. Outside the rule of law we have given one man far too much power.  And what we do not give him willingly, he takes in the name of our own best interest, in our supposed national security, or for international peacekeeping efforts.

We must not look at this matter through the lens of whether you support or oppose the use of military force in Libya.  After all, history may judge this intervention to be a great idea or a horrid mistake.  Nevertheless, it is clear that our President has blatantly disregarded our Constitution.

You may already realize that this matter is not a partisan issue but one where pitting those who defend our laws against those who ignore them.  As Republican Representative Justin Amash (MI-3) wrote on Sunday:

It’s not enough for the President simply to explain military actions in Libya to the American people, after the fact, as though we are serfs. When there is no imminent threat to our country, he cannot launch strikes without authorization from the American people, through our elected Representatives in Congress. No United Nations resolution or congressional act permits the President to circumvent the Constitution.

Perhaps you remember the words of Democrat Rep. Steve Israel (NY-2) in which he stated in the second video, “Congress has a constitutional responsibility to decide whether we are going to war or not.”

So what will be the end result of this affair?  Looking back, will this moment be the defining time in which Congress stands up for the Constitution and rule of law or will it surrender to the executive branch?  Do you want to know why our country is heading toward oblivion?  You need look no further than Obama’s response in Libya.

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Today, members of the House of Representatives got a chance to vote on whether or not to extend some of the most onerous provisions of the Patriot Act.  Yesterday, I called my Representative, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6), to ask how he was planning to vote on this issue.  His Washington office did not have an answer at that time and so I encouraged him to vote no.  As Benjamin Franklin once said (and I have quoted several times), “they who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety” -Memoirs of the life and writings of Benjamin Franklin.  This so-called “Patriot Act” is the modern manifestation of this struggle.  In our great desire for security, would we give up our freedoms and the rule of law, that which separates us from the despotic nations and peoples who attacked us on September 11th?  Unfortunately, we failed that great test back in 2001 when the Patriot Act originally passed and then again in 2005/2006 when many of the provisions were extended the first time.

As the dust settled today, the final vote in the House was 277 in favor, 148 opposed, and 9 nonvoting.  Given that the bill required a 2/3rds majority to pass, it has been defeated…at least for now.  I was disappointed to see that a vast majority of Republicans, including Bob Goodlatte, voted in favor of this bill.  In fact, only two of Virginia’s eleven Representatives voted against the bill:  Bobby Scott (VA-3) and Jim Moran (VA-8).  I’m starting to wonder if the Tea Party’s call for limited and constitutional government has fallen on deaf ears.  Will most of the newly elected Representatives and Senators support big government business as usual?

Prior to the vote, several members spoke out in opposition to renewal.  I submit to you the words of Republican Rep. Ron Paul (TX-14) and Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH-10).

Update: Senator Rand Paul (KY) now shares his opinion this topic.

Lastly, I’d like to share one more video.  Several years ago, Judge Napolitano offered his thoughts on the Patriot Act.  In short, his opinion is that it was passed in Congress in too great of haste and erodes our Constitution and our liberty.  Watch and see if you agree.

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I can’t tell you how many times recently people have said to me either via email or in person that our country would be heading on the right track if only President Obama was out of office.  Unfortunately, such a viewpoint is not only overly simplistic, it is also quite wrong.  President Obama is a problem, yes, but the issue runs far deeper.  Even if we were to broaden our scope and remove Congressional leaders like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, our government would still be in a bad shape.  Some people have the mistaken impression that our government is a type of monarchy whereby one person, or a select few people, runs the nation.  Although from all public appearances we seem to be trending in that direction, there are still many people in Washington D.C. who can influence policy.  Just disregarding the cabinet members, advisors, and legions of bureaucrats, we still have the power to elect our president and the four hundred and thirty five members of Congress.  You must remember that the President cannot make laws, that power is reserved for the Congress. So let’s turn our focus there.

How did Nancy Pelosi become Speaker of the House?  How did Harry Reid become Majority Leader?  Was it merely by chance or was it some sort of electoral free-for-all?  No, of course not.  With the Democrats in power, they selected two of their Congressional leaders to take charge in the House and Senate.  Don’t like the actions of Reid or Pelosi?  Blame the Democrats in Congress who gave them power.  What about the Republicans?  Can they be held responsible for massive increases in the growth of the federal government?  Absolutely.  While some of them outright supported unacceptable legislation, some of the others stood silent, merely watching from the sideline.  As all spending bills must originate in the House, House members must claim the courage to vote against unconstitutional acts and wasteful spending.  But our Senators are guilty too.  In the Senate, a dedicated minority can use the filibuster to stall business in order to kill or delay bad laws.  They must not be afraid to use this tool whenever the rights of the constituents are being trampled.  The simple rule we must follow is that Representatives and Senators who either actively or passively ignore the Constitution must be removed.  Although we rarely take advantage of the opportunity, we have that chance every two (or six) years.

But the blame goes beyond the corrupt cesspool of Washington.  Should our national leaders fail us, which most have repeatedly, we must look to Richmond, and related capitals for redress.  After all, under the authority of the 10th Amendment, power not specifically granted to the federal government is reserved for the states and the people.  As a result of this nationalized health care scheme, some states, like ours, have sued the federal government.  It is a step in the right direction, of course, but they must press other issues as well where D.C. has overstepped its bounds.  Unfortunately, such a course of action requires a political will and determination that few statesmen possess.  The majority of politicians do not chart this course, and so they are at fault as well.

But blame goes further than the White House, Congress, and the State House.  What about the average citizen?  Does he or she blindly go through his or her day rarely reflecting on the mischief of Obama and his associates?  When we vote, do we really consider the issues and stances of the potential leaders in question, or are we duped by the hollow promise of “hope” and “change”?  Educated and active voters are key components of a healthy nation.  In America though, our base is largely apathetic and ignorant, drawn to the tiny details of the relatively empty lives of celebrities rather than actions of our supposed representative delegates.  We cannot complain about the whims of Washington, and the power-grabbing nature of our leaders when we refuse to get involved.  How can you hold politicians accountable when you remain unaware of their activities?  Thus the greatest culpability for people like Obama along with the greatest hope for their removal rests with a single person.  Surely you know the individual.  After all, you see that person in the mirror every morning.  So, now that we all share the blame, only one question remains.  What are you prepared to do?

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For the last several months, I have receiving emails from the office of Representative J. Randy Forbes (VA-4).  Although I don’t recall ever signing up on one of his lists, I have appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Congressman Forbes, his priorities, and his legislation.  I must say, the more I read the more I like.

He is currently cosponsoring H.R. 450, commonly known as the Enumerated Powers Act.  In short, this legislation would require Congress to demonstrate its specific Constitutional authority to enact new laws.  Along with Forbes, 62 other Representatives are either sponsoring or cosponsoring this bill including several from Virginia:  Cantor (VA-7), Goodlatte (VA-6), and Wittman (VA-1), and many conservative/liberty minded folks: Broun (GA-10), Garrett (NJ-5), and Paul (TX-14) to name just a few.

Here is Representative Forbes to explain a bit about the resolution:

The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Increasingly over the past year, many of you have written to me to express your concern for what many view to be the expanding and abusive authority exercised by the federal government. For too long, the federal government has operated without constitutional restraint. In doing so, it has created or proposed ineffective and costly programs, large burdensome healthcare mandates, massive deficits year after year, and a staggering national debt.

I’ve recently signed onto legislation called the Enumerated Powers Act, H.R. 450. The legislation mandates that all bills introduced in the U.S. Congress include a statement setting forth the specific constitutional authority under which that law would be enacted. This measure is intended to force a continual re-examination of the role of the national government and to begin to focus legislators on thoughtfully addressing the expanding reach of the federal government.

Our Founding Fathers believed that granting narrow and specific legislative power to the national government would be a powerful mechanism to protect individual freedoms. I believe H.R. 450 would take a first step in encouraging Congress to abide by the principles embodied in the Constitution.

I’d like to hear what you think of this legislation. Please e-mail me your thoughts. If you would like more information on my work on this issue or others, you may visit my Web site at forbes.house.gov.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours in service,

Randy Forbes

Member of Congress

What a novel concept huh?  Legislating according to the Constitution.  Unfortunately, I doubt the Democrats would allow such a law to pass, as it would hinder so much of their grand schemes like nationalized health care.  Hopefully once the Republicans regain control of Congress they will not forget the 10th Amendment and will advocate a return to a constitutional, limited government.  Therefore, I strongly encourage you to write to your Representative and Senators to insist they pass a law like H.R. 450.  Yes, we must enact drastic cuts in the size and scope of the federal government, but we must also curb its future growth.  H.R. 450 is an important step in the right direction.

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Individual states ought to have more power and control over both the lives of the citizens residing and visiting within it, as well as territory under their control, than the federal government.  The purpose of our national government is to accomplish tasks that state government is either unable to provide, offer large-scale benefits to all states, or restrain the states in certain aspects.  For example, it only makes sense for the national government to have the sole power to declare war, defend the states from invasion, and create and maintain a national currency.  Despite what some might say, the powers and limitations of the federal government are pretty clearly defined in the Constitution and its amendments.  I assure you that the 10th Amendment is in there for a reason!

By contrast, states have far more latitude.  Unlike the national government, assuming their constitutions allow it, they can create a statewide health care system, legalize all sorts of drugs, or modify the drinking age (assuming the federal government didn’t mettle by withholding highway funding).  Now I’m not saying that I advocate these plans, but, as “laboratories of democracy”, it is far better for a state to tinker with such modifications than Washington D.C.  Once a plan is proven successful in a state or, better yet, several states, and assuming it is constitutional, only then should it be considered on a national scale.  This largely forgotten theory was one of founding principles of our nation.  You want state run health care?  Then move to Boston.  You want to smoke marijuana?  Then migrate to Los Angeles.  Otherwise lobby your state and not the federal government.   Let’s agree to keep such plans out of the hands of D.C. bureaucrats.  If you want Virginia health care, or the freedom to use recreational drugs in Danville, then I recommend talking to the folks in Richmond.  Just know that I have the right to argue for the other side.

You say that the constitution is outdated and states rights are a thing of the past.  Assuming you are right (I sure hope you aren’t by the way), consider this fact.  If I want to contact my State Senator or one of his representatives in person, I need only to drive a couple minutes to downtown.  Conversely, if I’d like to meet someone from my U.S. Senator’s office, I’d have to travel about 2 hours to go to either Richmond or Roanoke.  Furthermore, State Senators have approximately 1/40th of the constituents that our national Senators have.  Who do you think is more responsive to a citizen’s concerns?  I often get letters, emails, and cards in response to my inquiries with Senator Obenshain.  Guess what I have gotten from Senators Webb and Warner…that’s right, nothing!  One of them knows me; the other has a territory too large for any sort of personal relationship.  Now tell me, which one represents me better?  Which is better suited to make policy decisions regarding your city, town or county?  Is it the one who lives in your community or the one who, like a distant relative, visits once or twice a year?  If for no other reason than proximity, increased devolution just makes sense.  Unfortunately, if we leave it up to the politicians in the D.C., we will continue the slow march toward a unitary state.

For additional information on this topic, I encourage you to read a recent article written by Josh Eboch, State Chapter Coordinator for the Virginia Tenth Amendment Center regarding the tension between libertarians and constitutional conservatives over the 10th Amendment.  I hope you find it as worthwhile as I did.

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Today, ladies and gentlemen, is Constitution Day.  It has been 222 years since the Constitutional Convention adopted our Constitution.  Despite the massive (and unconstitutional) growth of the federal government since that time, we would do well as free citizens to take a bit of time to reflect on the document.  As such, if you’ve never visited The 10th Amendment Center, I strongly encourage you to clink on the link today.

Now, although the day may pass with little fanfare in many parts of the country, I’m pleased to say that citizens of the Virginia Peninsula are marking the occasion.  Tonight, at Merchants Square in Colonial Williamsburg, citizens will gather to celebrate this founding document.  It pleases me to know that at The College of William & Mary, my alma mater, students from the College Republicans will be in attendance.  But what’s this?  You don’t have your own copy of the Constitution?  Find Delegate Brenda Pogge (R-96) who freely gives them out or visit either the James City County, York County, or Newport News Republican Party headquarters.

So tonight your task is threefold.  Reread the Constitution, reclaim your rights, and (if there is a gathering in your area) party like its 1787!

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