An Impeachable Offense

by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom Foundation

Make no mistake about it: President Obama’s 90-minute telephone conference call with a group of congressional “leaders” to consult about his plans to initiate a military attack on Syria does not comport with the U.S. Constitution, the higher law that the American people have imposed on federal officials.

The Constitution is clear: The power to declare war lies with Congress, not the president. Like it or not, under our form of government the president is prohibited from waging war without a declaration of war from Congress. If someone doesn’t like it, he’s free to start a movement to amend the Constitution to enable the president to both declare and wage war.

From a legal standpoint, it makes no difference that previous presidents have waged wars without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war. Prior violations of the Constitution do not operate as an implicit amendment of the Constitution. If Obama proceeds to carry out his threat to initiate war against Syria, he will be committing a grave constitutional offense.

The Framers did not want President Obama or any other president to have the omnipotent, dictatorial authority to send the entire nation into war on his own initiative. They knew that rulers inevitably embroil themselves in things like “saving face,” “maintaining credibility,” and “showing toughness.”

Details

And You “Can’t” Defend Obamacare…Why?

Freedom and popular government in Britain and America became possible because over the course of many years the English House of Commons, and later the American colonial legislatures, were willing to exert the power of the purse to discipline an overreaching executive.

In Britain, the House of Commons—Parliament’s lower chamber—sometimes defunded the executive in order to curb it. The House was willing do this despite threats from the Crown and “bad press” from the English establishment. In America, the colonial assemblies were willing to defund the king’s governors to check their power.

Freedom likely would have been impossible without the constancy of the “people’s houses,” led by great parliamentary leaders like Edward Coke in England and Patrick Henry in America.

Details

Grand Bargains and Budget Battles

The “Grand Bargain” refers to a yet-to-be-realized agreement between Republicans and Democrats to put the federal government’s finances on a more stable trajectory in which both sides capitulate on long-standing policy positions. For Republicans, that means agreeing to more tax revenues. For Democrats, it means agreeing to reduction in entitlement program benefits.

(Ignore the new “grand bargain” proposed by the president on Tuesday, which called for meager corporate tax reform in exchange for blowing more taxpayer money on the administration’s favorite bad ideas. The offering was a DOA political stunt.)

The “Grand Bargain”—as originally understood—hasn’t happened and it’s not going to anytime soon. A group of eight Republican senators has reportedly been discussing a possible deal with the White House, but similar efforts in the past have gone nowhere and the political landscape remains unchanged: Republicans control the House; Democrats control the Senate and White House. With the 2014 elections looming on the horizon, the House isn’t going to raise taxes and the Senate will continue to be in no hurry to touch entitlements.

Details

Liberty’s Backlash

Last week, Justin Amash, the two-term libertarian Republican congressman from Michigan, joined with John Conyers, the 25-term liberal Democratic congressman from the same state, to offer an amendment to legislation funding the National Security Agency (NSA). If enacted, the Amash-Conyers amendment would have forced the government’s domestic spies when seeking search warrants to capture Americans’ phone calls, texts and emails first to identify their targets and produce evidence of their terror-related activities before a judge may issue a warrant. The support they garnered had a surprising result that stunned the Washington establishment.

It almost passed.

The final vote, in which the Amash-Conyers amendment was defeated by 205 to 217, was delayed for a few hours by the House Republican leadership, which opposed the measure. The Republican leadership team, in conjunction with President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, needed more time for arm-twisting so as to avoid a humiliating loss.

But the House rank-and-file did succeed in sending a message to the big-government types in both parties: Nearly half of the House of Representatives has had enough of government spying and then lying about it, and understands that spying on every American simply cannot withstand minimal scrutiny or basic constitutional analysis.

The president is deeply into this and no doubt wishes he wasn’t. He now says he welcomed the debate in the House on whether his spies can have all they want from us or whether they are subject to constitutional requirements for their warrants. Surely he knows that the Supreme Court has ruled consistently since the time of the Civil War that the government is always subject to the Constitution, wherever it goes and whatever it does.

Details

‘Stupid’ ObamaCare Provision Offends America’s Highest Caste: Congress

by Michael Cannon, CATO Institute

ObamaCare’s gravest sin may be that it has offended America’s highest caste: members of Congress and their staffs. Thanks to an amendment by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the law provides:

the only health plans that the Federal Government may make available to Members of Congress and congressional staff with respect to their service as a Member of Congress or congressional staff shall be health plans that are created under this Act…or offered through an Exchange established under this Act…

In effect, ObamaCare throws members of Congress out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (where most members and staff obtain health insurance) and offers them no other choice but to enroll in coverage through one of ObamaCare’s Exchanges. But here’s the kicker: though the federal government currently pays thousands of dollars of the cost of the congresscritters’ FEHBP coverage, neither ObamaCare nor any other federal law authorizes the feds to apply that money toward a congresscritter’s Exchange premiums. Today’s New York Times reports:

David M. Ermer, a lawyer who has represented insurers in the federal employee program for 30 years, said, “I do not think members of Congress and their staff can get funds for coverage in the exchanges under existing law.”

So ObamaCare essentially delivers a pay cut to members and staff in the neighborhood of $5,000 for single employees and $10,000 for families. 

Details

Feds Creating ‘Nudge Squad’ To Manipulate Your Behavior

Think you know how others should run their lives better than they do? Fancy yourself one of the intellectual elite tasked with molding the world into your own image? Love lording power over people?

You can serve on a federal “nudge squad!”

According to a document obtained by FoxNews.com, the federal government has positions open in a newly created “Behavioral Insights Team.” These behavioral scientists will work with a large array of federal agencies molding public policy to help “nudge” Americans toward government-approved behaviors.

“Behavioral sciences can be used to help design public policies that work better, cost less, and help people to achieve their goals,” according to the feds.

Essentially, the team will study ways to manipulate Americans into buying into prescribed federal behaviors, such as paying taxes on time, adopting energy efficiency measures and eating the “right foods. The document lists several examples of U.S. and international policy initiatives already benefiting from the implementation of behavioral insights.

Increasing adoption of energy efficient measures: Offering an attic-clearance service (at full cost) to people led to a five-fold increase in their subsequent adoption of attic-insulation. Interestingly, providing additional government subsidies on attic insulation services had no such effect.

Former Obama regulatory czar  Cass Sunstein and Chicago Booth School of Business professor Richard Thaler coined the term “nudge” in a book by that title back in 2008. The duo “offers a new perspective on preventing the countless mistakes we make—ill-advised personal investments, consumption of unhealthy foods, neglect of our natural resources—and show us how sensible ‘choice architecture’ can successfully nudge people toward the best decisions.”

Thaler can’t imagine why anybody would oppose this idea.

Details

Constitutional Voodoo from Marco Rubio

Sen. Marco Rubio apparently has gotten himself into a little pickle.

You see, the Florida Senator was one of the Republicans who signed onto a bill requiring lawmakers to provide constitutional justification for any legislation filed in Congress. That sounded like a really cool idea at the time. “Conservatives” LOVE that stuff!

Yay Constitution!

But what happens when you want to do something and no constitutional justification exists?

Well, you do what politicians have done since the beginning of time. You make crap up.

That doesn’t always prove easy, as Rubio is finding out. It takes time to conjure up a convincing lie out of thin air. Of course, that never stopped any politician practicing constitutional voodoo to further his agenda through the exercise of federal power – even if that authority doesn’t actually exist. They just call lack of constitutional authority an “inconvenience.”

It seems the Tea Party darling from Florida has a little “inconvenience” on his hands. He needs to reestablish his conservative creds, tattered by his support for immigration reform. What better way to rekindle conservative romance than to play the pro-life card? So, Rubio announced earlier this month that he wants to serve as the lead sponsor on a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks.

But three weeks later…no bill. Why? Well, it seems the Republicans are having a little difficulty agreeing on the enumerated power that authorizes the federal government to legislate on abortion. And I can tell you exactly why they are having this problem.

THE POWER DOESN’T FREAKING EXIST!!!

Details

Vote on Amash Amendment Reveals Ruse of Two-Party System

For all those who still believe that Republican=Constitutionalist and Democrat=Liberty-hating liberal, something happened on Capitol Hill that might change your mind.

As was reported by The New American, the House of Representatives narrowly defeated an amendment to the defense appropriations sponsored by Republican Congressman Justin Amash (shown) of Michigan and Democratic Congressman John Conyers, also of Michigan.

The Amash Amendment would have revoked authority “for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act. It would also bar the NSA and other agencies from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect records, including telephone call records, that pertain to persons who are not subject to an investigation under Section 215” of the Patriot Act.

Despite the threat to the Establishment (or perhaps because of it), Amash’s measure failed by a vote of 205-217.

It’s the identity of the “ayes” and “nays” that tells the rest of the story.

An analysis of the roll call reveals that a majority of Democrats voted in favor of restricting the Obama administration’s wholesale surveillance of Americans, while a majority of the GOP voted to uphold the NSA’s unconstitutional surveillance of all electronic communications.

Details

A Libertarian Case for the Department of Education

Last week the Rooney-Blansten amendment requiring the federal Common Core curriculum to devote equal time to Republican presidents was narrowly defeated in the U.S. Senate, despite a RealClearPolitics poll showing 87.8921% of the public supported the idea.

I’m a libertarian who writes frequently for the Tenth Amendment Center, and years ago I donated to the Cato Institute. But despite these impeccable credentials, I support a yeasty view of the Constitution and believe it politically expedient to pass federal legislation that ensures Republican politicians receive the same favorable treatment as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in any national civics curriculum approved by the federal Department of Education.

Anti-federal supremacists need to refine their priorities, with an eye to keeping moderate Republicans in office. The focus on “federal involvement in education” is wrong-headed and counter-productive, and overlooks the legislatively-mandated benefit (explicitly affirmed in Rooney-Blansten) of having all public schools teach no fewer than 15 positive things each about Richard Nixon, the two Bushes, and even failed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Details

Enemy of the State

In a published FOIA request, an Airman stationed in the UK was investigated after a mental breakdown caused by conflicting values of US military’s mission and her own political beliefs. She was found to sympathize with Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Wikileaks. She had admitted to communicating her political ideas with various organizations known for anti-war/anti-military sentiments on Twitter and to a UK journalist. She also attended the Julian Assange Trial. However, her own admission and tweets revealed that she was never asked to release any intelligence to these groups and denied volunteering any intelligence to any journalist or group. The US Airforce Office of Special Investigations filed a complaint report on matters alleging “Communicating with the Enemy.”

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) Article 104: Communicating with the Enemy states:

“Any person who–
(1) aids, or attempts to aid, the enemy with arms, ammunition, supplies, money, or other things; or
(2) without proper authority, knowingly harbors or protects or gives intelligence to or communicates or corresponds with or holds any intercourse with the enemy, either directly or indirectly;
shall suffer death or such other punishment as a court-martial or military commission may direct.”

Who is the enemy in this document? Is it Julian Assange? Wikileaks? Journalists? Bloggers? Social media users? Those opposed to an unconstitutional and failed foreign policy? Anti-war organizations? The leaked document does not directly point to any person or organization but acknowledges who the Airman was in contact with and her activities surrounding her political beliefs. But, constitutionally speaking, who gets to determine the enemy?

The Constitution does not provide any structure to determine an enemy. An enemy could be those the US is at war with. Congress has the power to declare war but there is no framework as to what constitutes a declaration of war. In Federalist Paper number 3, it states, “The just causes of war, for the most part, arise either from violation of treaties or from direct violence.”

Details