Does the Constitution matter any more?
I'm old. I grew up in a great time and have enjoyed a good life. I have always understood that we were a nation of laws. As long as we followed and enforced the law, things worked well. The basis for basic law was the Constitution of the United States of America.
Recently, I have observed a willingness on the part of some people to disregard the law and a willingness on the part of some of our elected representatives to willing and knowingly refuse to enforce the law and to support those whose sworn duty is to uphold the law.
The results are frightening. Supposed we all acted in this manner. We would have chaos.
Recently, I received a communication from Sen. Jeff Merkley, boasting about his support for the "For the People Act." I responded to him and asked, "Does it bother you that what you are doing in the 'For the People Act' violates the Constitution?"
To this question I got a rather lengthy response, not answering my question, but rather questioning me on who I am and 'what drives me?' I took the time and wrote back a similar response and closed by asking again, "Does it bother you that what you are doing in the 'For the People Act' violates the Constitution?" and added a simple yes or no will do. To date I have received no further response. So, I am left to conclude that yes, he knows these pieces of legislation violate both the letter and the intent of the Constitution, and no he does not care.
The Constitution provides for a separation of power by creating executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government. It also outlines the powers of the federal government and leaves all other power in the hands of the member states.
Lately, it seems that the federal government is assuming powers that do not belong to it because they have the vehicle to raise taxes and they have begun to ignore their proper roles under the balancer of power provisions. They are also overstepping their proper roles and ignoring the Constitution whenever it suits their purposes. We have an executive legislating by executive order, a legislature trying to act as the judiciary and failing that attempting to "pack" the court, and a judiciary trying to be political and at times, legislating by judicial order.
Two recent examples of the Legislature overstepping its authority under the Constitution is the bill sponsored by Sens. Merkley and Wyden which would make the District of Columbia into a state. This proposed law violates Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17, which reads: "To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten square miles) as may, by cessation of particular states, and acceptance of Congress, become the seat of government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchases by the consent of the Legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock yards and other needful buildings."
The proposed law also violates Article IV, Section 3, which reads: "New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new state shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the jurisdiction of two or more states, or parts of states without the consent of the Legislature of the stats concerned as well as of the Congress."
So, the District of Columbia was created out of parts of Maryland and Virginia in 1801. The area was 10 square miles and includes land north and south of the Potomac River. On July 9, 1846, Congress retroceded (returned to state of Virginia) the land south of the Potomac.
So, it seems clear to me, at least, that if the federal government now sees part of the District of Columbia as unnecessary for its purposes, the land should be returned to the state from which it was ceded.
To make a state out of the District of Columbia would be to make a state out of parts of two states (Maryland and Virginia), since the land is rightfully theirs if the federal government no longer has need for it. You would think United States senators would know this.
The second example seems to be House Resolution 1: For the People Act of 2021. The Constitution provides in Article 1, Section 4: "The times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at times by law make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing senators." So, it seems that the manner of choosing our representatives and the choice of representatives is up to each state.
The federal government does not have the right to tell us how we are to make the choice. Over time Oregon seems to have done a good job of developing our vote-by-mail system, but not every state has such a good system. I don't believe the federal government is in a position to know the capacity of the states to handle a system that they might dictate, not do I believe that the federal government should be dictating how we select our representatives. Just look at what happened here when the feds tried to dictate how we handle health care under the Obama administration. It was an administrative and financial disaster.
There are, of course, areas where the federal government could be helpful. For example, campaign finance reform. A congressional office pays $174,000 a year. So, if you're elected to the House, you could earn $348,000 in one two-year term. So why should anyone spend more than that to get elected? And if a candidate spends more than that, where does the money come from and to whom is the candidate obligated?
If I contribute $50 to my representative and they get elected and a political action committee contributes $10,000, who is the representative going to listen to? Me, their constituent, or the PAC?
Sadly, it has become all about the money. Somewhere back in the dust lies the rule of law and our constitution being trampled and abuse by the very people who swore to protect and defend it.
John Bonham is a Newberg resident
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