Since President Obama took office, Republicans have shrouded their agenda of opposition by wrapping it in the flag and the Constitution. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) even went so far as to label her radical anti-government views “constitutional conservatism.” Yet, for all of their constitutional pablum, the GOP’s agenda is nothing less than a direct assault on America’s founding document. Time and time again, Republicans have called for basic constitutional freedoms and fundamental aspects of our constitutional government to be repealed either by amendment or by activist judges:
REPEALING CITIZENSHIP: Numerous GOP lawmakers, including their Senate leader and the most-recent Republican candidate for president, are lining up behind a “review” of the 14th Amendment’s grant of citizenship to virtually all persons born within the United States. Such a proposal literally revives the vision of citizenship articulated by the Supreme Court’s infamous pro-slavery decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford. It has no place in the twenty-first century.
REPEALING CONGRESS’ POWER TO REGULATE THE ECONOMY: The Constitution’s “Commerce Clause” gives national leaders broad authority to regulate the national economy, but much of the GOP has embraced “tentherism,” the belief that this power is small enough to be drowned in a bathtub. The most famous example of tentherism is the ubiquitous frivolous lawsuits claiming that health reform is unconstitutional, but these lawsuits are part of a much greater effort. In his brief challenging health reform, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli claims that Congress is allowed to regulate “commerce on one hand” but not “manufacturing or agriculture.” Cuccinelli’s discredited vision of the Constitution was actually implemented in the late 19th and early 20th century, and it would strike down everything from child labor laws to the federal ban on whites-only lunch counters.
REPEALING CONGRESS’ POWER TO SPEND MONEY: The Constitution also gives Congress power to “provide for the common defense and general welfare,” a broad grant of authority to create federal spending programs such as Social Security. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), however, recently called upon the Supreme Court to rewrite the Constitution’s clear language and repeal parts of the budget he doesn’t like. A Texas GOP official even went so far as to claim that the federal highway system is unconstitutional. Should this GOP vision of the Constitution ever be adopted, it could eliminate not just Social Security, but also Medicare, Medicaid, federal education spending and countless other cherished programs.
REPEALING CONGRESS’ POWER TO RAISE MONEY: The Constitution also gives Congress broad authority to decide how to distribute the tax burden. Thus, for example, Congress is allowed to create a tax incentive for people to buy houses by giving a tax break to people with mortgages, and it is allowed to create a similar incentive for people to buy health insurance by taxing people who have health insurance slightly less than people who do not. Nevertheless, the frivolous assaults on health reform would eliminate this Constitutional power. Many Tea Party Republicans go even further, calling for a full repeal of the 16th Amendment, the amendment which enables the income tax. Paying taxes is never popular, but it would be impossible to function as a nation if America lacked the power to raise the money it needs to pay our armed forces, among other things.
REPEALING EQUALITY: The Constitution entitles all persons to “equal protection of the laws,” a provision that formed the basis of Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision yesterday that California cannot treat gay couples as if they are somehow inferior. Immediately after this decision was announced, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) called upon Congress to “act immediately” to overturn it — something that it could only do through a constitutional amendment. Of course, Newt’s proposal does nothing more than revive President Bush’s call for a constitutional amendment repealing the parts of the Constitution that protect marriage equality.
REPEALING FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS: As Judge Walker also held, marriage is a fundamental right protected by the Constitution’s Due Process Clause. The GOP’s anti-gay amendment would repeal this constitutional protection as well.
REPEALING ELECTION OF SENATORS: Finally, a number of GOP candidates have come out in favor of repealing the 17th Amendment, the provision of the Constitution which requires direct election of senators, although many of these candidates also backed off their “Seventeenther” stand after it proved embarrassing. It is simply baffling how anyone could take one look at the U.S. Senate, and decide that what it really needs is even less democracy.