Morning Bell: The Limitless Power of the Obama-Kagan Congress

Morning Bell: The Limitless Power of the Obama-Kagan Congress

Posted By Conn Carroll On July 1, 2010 @ 9:23 am In Rule of Law | 8 Comments

This Sunday, our nation will celebrate Independence Day, which commemorates the Continental Congress’ adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration preamble reads: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The fact that we as a nation came together every year to celebrate this document might lead many Americans to believe that a Supreme Court Justice should take the Declaration of Independence into account when they are interpreting the Constitution. Elena Kagan is not one of those Americans. Under questioning from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) yesterday, Kagan admitted [1]: “To be honest with you, I don’t have a view of what are natural rights independent of the Constitution.”

And Kagan’s disturbing indifference to the existence of natural rights is just one of the many frightening revelations her confirmation hearing has produced. On Tuesday, Sen. Coburn pressed [2] Kagan about the limits the Constitution places on Congress’ power to control what Americans do:

Coburn: If I wanted to sponsor a bill and it said Americans, you have to eat three vegetables and three fruits every day and I got it through Congress and that’s now the law of the land, got to do it, does that violate the Commerce Clause?

Kagan: Sounds like a dumb law

Coburn: Yeah, but I got one that’s real similar to it that I think is equally dumb. I’m not going to mention which it is.

Kagan: But I think that the question of whether it’s a dumb law is different from whether the question of whether it’s constitutional and I think that courts would be wrong to strike down laws that they think are senseless just because they’re senseless.

The law Coburn was referring to, of course, was President Barack Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment: the Obamacare provision that forces all Americans to buy health insurance. But Jefferson and the other Constitution framers designed the document to protect our “unalienable Rights” by limiting the power of Congress. They designed an ingenious system of checks and balances that divides state and federal authority in the hope of preventing any one government from exerting too much control over a free people. Specifically [3], Article I allocates to Congress “[a]ll legislative powers herein granted,” and section 8 of Article I (referred to by Sen. Coburn above as the Commerce Clause), grants Congress the authority “[t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.” The Supreme Court has always understood that, taken together, these clauses put some legislative powers beyond Congress’ reach [3].

But Kagan has now testified that not only does she find the Founders’ concept of “unalienable Rights” irrelevant to Constitutional interpretation, but she also declined to say if the Constitution prevents Congress from telling Americans what to eat.  Her evasive non-response to Coburn’s Commerce Clause inquiry shows that she would indeed be a rubber-stamp for almost any part of the Obama agenda that Congress enacts [4]. So if the Obama administration convinced Congress (and this is a total hypothetical) that the survival of a single car company, let’s say Chrysler, was absolutely necessary for the survival of the nation’s economy, and Congress then passed a law forcing all Americans to buy a Chrysler car, Kagan would find such a law, while perhaps “dumb,” perfectly constitutional. Jefferson must be rolling in his grave.

The leftist members of the Senate Judiciary Committee know that the Obamacare individual mandate is extremely vulnerable to being struck down by the Supreme Court. That is why they have spent so much of the hearing trying to redefine what “judicial activism” is [5]. As Heritage Deputy Director of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies Robert Alt will testify today, the Court is not committing “judicial activism” every time it finds that a law violates the Constitution. Judicial activism is not a function of outcomes, but one of interpretation [6]. Instead, it occurs when a judge applies his or her own policy preferences to uphold, or strike down, a statute or other government action which is clearly forbidden by the Constitution.

Kagan came to the committee with one of the thinnest records of any Supreme Court nominee in recent history. What little has been learned about her views so far has been highly disturbing. Nothing in her testimony has demonstrated she has either the respect for our nation’s founding documents or the independence from this White House to apply the law as it is written, and dispense justice without regard to the parties before her.

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