Two years ago, when Senate Republicans needed to fill a vacant seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, they tapped Tea Party Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) — a senator who believes that federal child labor laws, FEMA, food stamps, the FDA, Medicaid, income assistance for the poor, and even Medicare and Social Security violate the Constitution. This year, they needed to fill two seats on the Senate body responsible for overseeing the Constitution. Once again, Senate Republicans chose to fill these seats with senators who believe the Constitution in nothing more than a block of clay that can be formed into whatever the Tea Party wants it to say.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is no stranger to conspiracy theories; he published an article last year claiming that the United Nations and George Soros are at the head of a global conspiracy to eliminate the game of golf. (Seriously. We aren’t making this up.) So his understanding of the Constitution is similarly idiosyncratic. As head of a conservative think tank’s Tenth Amendment project, Cruz co-authored an unconstitutional plan to nullify the Affordable Care Act — claiming that two states can ignore the Constitution and federal law simply by joining together in such lawlessness.
Cruz is among the most skilled attorneys in the country, but he devoted his outsized talents to reshaping the Constitution into his own far right image. His first campaign ad touted his successful work to help Texas kill a Mexican national in violation of America’s treaty obligations, and he believed in using lawsuits to tear down the health care safety net long before the Affordable Care Act’s opponents brought a completely meritless legal theory to the Supreme Court and nearly convinced the entire conservative bloc to sign onto it in its entirety. Cruz’s campaign touted his attempt to “to strike down portions of the Medicare Prescription Drug program as an unconstitutional intrusion in the sovereign authority of the States.” Although Cruz is more careful in his rhetoric than Sen. Lee, perhaps the most damning aspect of Cruz’s record is the staunch opponent of national child labor laws and Medicare’s endorsement of Cruz’s constitutional vision. In Lee’s words, “Ted is one of our nation’s leading defenders of the Tenth Amendment. He is a champion for limiting the power, size, and spending of the federal government.”
Cruz is joined on the Judiciary Committee by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who actually thinks his own election to the Senate should be unconstitutional. Flake endorsed repealing the Seventeenth Amendment, which replaced a system that led to “rampant and blatant corruption, letting corporations and other moneyed interests effectively buy U.S. Senators,” with our current system — electing senators.
Like Cruz, Flake also embraced rethinking the Tenth Amendment as a tool to impose Tea Party values on the country long before the Tea Party even existed. In 2000, Flake signed a position statement claiming that the Departments of Commerce and Housing and Urban Development, in addition to the National Endowments for the Arts and for the Humanities, “should be abolished, per the tenth amendment of the US Constitution.” For the record, nothing in the Tenth Amendment renders any of these things unconstitutional.