The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, June 20, 2005

Hostettler's coup d'├ętat by rider

While lefties have been working themselves up into a frenzy over the Downing Street Memo - and the simply horrid sarcastic Brer Milbank! - the current regime was testing the waters for a further expansion of the arbitrary exercise of power.

And the target - those quintessential un-Americans, the Federal judiciary.

We know from the Schiavo circus that most of the Congressional GOP hold the judicial function in the highest of contempt; but even the Schiavo 'relief' act - S 686 (from memory!) - did not, by its terms, overrule judicial decisions made in the case. Though the - oft excerpted - GOP rhetoric on the House and Senate floor left little doubt about the druthers of the constituents to whom they were pandering.

Coming up to date, we have the vote on the House floor on Friday on the Hostettler amendment HA 282 to the DOJ appropriations bill HR 2862.

Go to H4532 of the Congressional Record for Rep Hostettler's [1] own explanation of his amendment:
In Russelburg v. Gibson County, a Federal district judge in the Southern District of Indiana ruled that the presence of a monument depicting the Ten Commandments in Gibson County amounts to a government establishment of religion because, as he stated, the display "is in violation of the Establishment Clause of the first amendment to the United States Constitution.''

This decision is inconsistent with both the clear intent of the framers and the Christian heritage of the United States, which was recounted by the Supreme Court in 1892. While it is true this opinion is consistent with more recent Supreme Court decisions, it is time that Congress exercise its authority to end the practical effect of this judicial misunderstanding. My amendment would prevent any funds from being used to enforce this unconstitutional and unlawful judgment.

He cites Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist and Chief Justice John Marshall in support of his view that the Federal judiciary is the lowest form of constitutional life.

We are, indeed, in the murky world of the appropriations rider, the freak show of the legislative process (and that's saying a lot!). Riders are - to use the language of Hostettler and his friends - the work of the Devil - combining a maximum of temptation to pander with a maximum of opportunity so to do.

There are, no doubt, goo-goo types who arrive in Congress with the intention of curbing their use. But then the most saintly is confronted by an urgent request from some lucrative special interest.

Of course, riders have their limitations: they only apply to the year covered by the appropriations bill they are attached to. And the rules of both houses restrict their use [2].

But for a guy like Hostettler who plans to destroy the Constitution in order to save it, a rider is a bloody good start, as the lawyer joke goes.

In itself, the appropriations process is as drearily abstruse as a reading of the collected works of Jacques Derrida. Just the sort of terrain in which those sufficiently motivated to withstand the tedium (pols expecting large donations, for instance) can do most damage to the polity whilst good men, by dint of catatonia, do nothing.

Compared with a ruckus over the DSM, the Conyers' meeting (1st derivative), Milbank's piece on the meeting (2nd derivative), Conyers' reaction to Milbank (3rd derivative), the Post's response - That's enough derivatives. Ed - constitutional time-bombs planted in the depths of an appropriation bill just aren't sexy enough to get the lefties jumping up and down.

It's worse though.

The Hostettler amendment passed only because of Democratic support.

Because 20 GOP members chose to defy the DeLay machine, that left the machine 16 votes short, assuming Dem solidarity (220-204).

It would only have taken nine Dems to pass the amendment - under a bipartisan catch and release. Instead 38 Dems voting to overrule the Federal judges.

We know what a spineless performance the Dems put up (even more spineless in the Senate!) when the Schiavo pandering bill came up.

And now they've distinguished themselves again.

Fallen angel Stephanie Herseth voted for the override; the bankruptcy whiner Steny Hoyer resisted the temptation.

Perhaps the Dem plan is to establish a precedent for a Dem-controlled Congress dealing with a majority Bush-appointed Supreme Court.

(Like moving to majority cloture, what goes around comes around - assuming that a change of control can actually be engineered, of course...)

Or perhaps it was just pandering as usual.

  1. John Hostettler (IN-8) has been in the house for ten years, and his the most pitifully thin bio of any member I can recall.

  2. In ways I cannot claim to have mastered!

MORE (June 21)

Hostettler was Bilbo-ing up a crusade on the House floor yesterday in debate on the defense appropriations bill HR 2863 [1], starting at H4763:
Mr. Chairman, the long war on Christianity in America continues today on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. It continues unabated with aid and comfort to those who would eradicate any vestige of our Christian heritage being supplied by the usual suspects, the Democrats. Do not get me wrong. Democrats know they should not be doing this...

He rants on. When he gets to
Like moth to a flame, Democrats can't help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians.
the sponsor of the amendment under discussion, David Obey, asks for his words to be taken down.

Apparently, had Hostettler not withdrawn those words, he would have lost his speaking privileges for the rest of the day.

Why didn't the guy accept that minor martyrdom? Perhaps he's holding that in reserve for a more important sermon.

  1. Item 16 of this.

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