Members of the tea party caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives spend enormous amounts of energy and time waving around the U.S. Constitution and making claims about how their opponents don’t respect it. However, a recent move by several House Republicans, including Michigan’s Tim Walberg, show just how little regard they have for the Constitution when it interferes with their personal agenda.
Iowa Republican Steve King recently introduced the “Restrain the Judges on Marriage Act”. It’s a highly unusual move that would prevent the U.S. Supreme Court from hearing any cases related to marriage equality. Here’s what King says about his bill:
For too long, federal courts have overstepped their constitutionally limited duty to interpret the Constitution. Rather, federal courts have perverted the Constitution to make law and create constitutional rights to things such as privacy, birth control, and abortion. These unenumerated, so-called constitutionally-protected rights were not envisioned by our Founding Fathers.
My bill strips Article III courts of jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court of appellate jurisdiction, ‘to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, any type of marriage.’ Second, my bill provides that ‘[n]o federal funds may be used for any litigation in, or enforcement of any order or judgment by, any court created by an Act of Congress.’
Although it has been done on a few rare occasions in the past, a move by Congress to interfere in the dealings of the Judicial branch is beyond ludicrous. To mention the “Founding Fathers” in the same statement about an effort to do away with the concept of three independent, co-equal branches of government is an insult to those very same Founding Fathers. Flawed though our system may be, the checks and balances that were put in place by the founders of our country are what has made our system strong and, for the most part, sustainable.
Walberg, the Congressman from Michigan’s 7th District, was right there to join King, Louie Gohmert and several others to cosponsor this irresponsible and un-American legislation.
As Steve Benen said at the Maddow Blog, this is the Congressional version of “legislating from the bench”:
[I]t’s “rarely invoked” because the approach – known as “court-stripping” or “jurisdiction-stripping” – is usually too bizarre for most policymakers to pursue.
The idea isn’t complicated: under this scheme, Congress would pass a federal law effectively telling the courts, “We’ve identified a part of the law that judges are no longer allowed to consider.”
To reiterate what we discussed two weeks ago, let’s say you live in a state with a law that discriminates against same-sex couples. You decide to challenge the constitutionality of the law, get an attorney, and go to court. Under Steve King’s bill, the judge would have no choice but to ignore the case – the courts would have no legal authority to even review lawsuits related to marriage equality because congressional Republicans say so.
Whatever one thinks of marriage equality, this certainly isn’t “constitutional conservatism.” Indeed, it’s effectively the congressional version of “legislating from the bench” – King and his cohorts want to adjudicate from the legislature.
This will obviously go nowhere. It’s unlikely to even get a vote in the full House and, even if it were to get to President Obama’s desk, there is no way he would ever sign it. It’s just more petulant posturing to rile up forced-birthers and to give them a group to blame if their effort to prevent our country from evolving on the issue of marriage equality fails. If that happens, they will blame so-called “activist judges” on the Supreme Court for consigning their bigotry to the rubbish bin of history.
[Photo by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog]