Thursday, April 1, 2010

Constitutional Amendment Wish List

I've received an e-mail from several people that is apparently circling the Internet right now, and I thought I'd use it as a segue into another post that I've been meaning to do for quite some time.  Here's the text of the e-mail:

For too long we have been too complacent about the workings of Congress.  Many citizens had no idea that members of Congress could retire with the same pay after only one term, that they didn't pay into Social Security, that they specifically exempted themselves from many of the laws they have passed (such as being exempt from any fear of prosecution for sexual harassment) while ordinary citizens must live under those laws.  The latest is to exempt themselves from the Healthcare Reform that is being all of its forms.  Somehow, that doesn't seem logical.  We do not have an elite that is above the law.  I truly don't care if they are Democrat, Republican, Independent or whatever.  The self-serving must stop.  This is a good way to do that.  It is an idea whose time has come.

Amen to that!  The idea in question is a Constitutional amendment that prohibits Congress from exempting itself from any law it passes and forces on the rest of us:

Proposed 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution
"Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives."


The e-mail encourages the recipient to contact 20 people, thus spreading this idea around the country.  Sweet.

I've been dreaming of such an amendment for as long as I've been paying attention to politics.  To my knowledge, the Constitution is silent on the subject of Congress exempting itself from its own laws, and I assume that is only because it is so mind-bogglingly, shockingly, goes-against-everything-America-stands-for WRONG that they probably didn't conceive of needing to mention it.  You know, like when you include instructions on how to assemble a bicycle, you don't normally go into the scientific workings of the effects of gravity on that bicycle because you figure that any human being who gets on a bike is going to know about gravity already.  Just my thought.

Anyway, I would absolutely endorse this amendment, and I'm thinking I'll put a call in to my elected reps to suggest it.  I doubt the megalomaniacs (in both parties) in Washington would do anything with it, but hey, it's worth a shot, right?  At least if we could get someone to bring it to a vote, it would force them to go on record as wanting to maintain their own private elite status.

That's definitely the crown jewel in my Amendment wish list, but there are a few others.  I think each of these would be great, albeit somewhat unrealistic (please accept my humble apologies for not speaking in's just not how I roll):

Proposed 29th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Congressional salaries will be set by January 31st of each year in the amount equal to the previous year's median household income for the entire United States.

If this went into effect, I bet we'd see the economy recovery so quickly we'd get whiplash.

Proposed 30th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Congress is required to enact a balanced budget every year.

I know, we've already got a law that requires this, but it clearly has no teeth, is easy to get around, or both.  My amendment would dictate that any Congress failing to do so would automatically forfeit its right to run for re-election (all members).  Period.  You suck it up, you go home...all of you.  I'd consider an exception provision for wartime, but only if the conditions are clearly laid out.

Proposed 31st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
The title of any piece of legislation must be an accurate and complete description of that piece of legislation.  Furthermore, amendments offered to any piece of legislation must have a direct effect on that particular piece of legislation.

Here's where I'm going on this one.  First, don't you hate it how the Omnibus Spending Bill actually includes nothing but ten thousand earmarks, each of which is a specific pork project?  Or how about things like the wonderful sounding American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that did nothing to recover or reinvest anything?  That's got to stop because it allows Senators and Congressmen to deceive the American people about what they're doing, hiding in plain sight.  Second, what's up with stalling legislation on energy policy by throwing on amendments that would remove funding from a current war?  Yeah, I know these are parliamentary tricks that a minority relies on to help stop the majority from steam-rolling them, but is it really beneficial most of the time?  Why can't we have a process where they vote on one bill that would accomplish one thing at a time?  Stop with the gigantic all-encompassing bills and focus on fixing one problem at a time.  Seems much simpler and more effective that way, and therefore much less prone to abuse.

Proposed 32nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Tort reform, plaintiff pays if they lose.

This should be a no-brainer.  Kick the horrendously expensive lawsuits that are more about lining trial lawyers' pockets than about the true victims of the issue.  Also, if we implement a rule where the plaintiff is required to pay the court costs if they lose, I suspect we'd see a lot fewer frivolous lawsuits.

Proposed 33rd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
One vote, and only one vote.

I don't know if you've seen this or not, but often in a vote that is expected to be close, a Senator or Congressman will vote one way, and then, when the outcome of a bill is no longer in question, they'll switch their vote to a less politically inconvenient position.  I think this is an absolute crap deal, and should not be allowed.  In fact, I think I'd probably prefer a method of voting where everyone sits at their chair and pushes the "Yes" or "No" button (or, if Barack Obama is there, a third button for "Present"), the results are all tallied simultaneously, and everyone sees the final result at the same time.

Finally, we have something that I've mentioned before since it's a genuine proposal:

Proposed 34th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Enumerated Powers Act

Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona has repeatedly offered the Enumerated Powers Act, and has been denied a vote every time.  Here's what Shadegg says this would do:

1. It would encourage members of Congress to consider whether their proposed legislation belongs in the federal level in the allocation of powers or whether it belongs with the states or the people.
2. It would force lawmakers to include statements explaining by what authority they are acting.
3. It would give the U.S. Supreme Court the ability to scrutinize constitutional justification for every piece of legislation. If the justification does not hold up, the courts and the people could hold Congress accountable and eliminate acts that reach beyond the scope of the Constitution.

Basically, the essence of this act is that every piece of legislation that comes out of Congress will be required to cite the specific section of the Constitution that allows Congress to pass that piece of legislation.  Boy, wouldn't that fundamentally alter how our nation is governed!

Shadegg points out that the federal government is actually given the power to do only 18 things; everything else should fall to the state and local levels, or to individual American citizens.

Can you imagine?  Heck, I'd be elated with just a vote on the Congressional exemption and the Enumerated Powers Act!  With both of those, we wouldn't really need the others.

So, there's my amendment wishlist.  What's yours?

There's my two cents.

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