House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave herself an “A” for effort, grading her performance in office. In a “This Week” interview, Speaker Pelosi told ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas, “I think I get an A for effort. And in the House of Representatives, my mark is the mark of our members. We have passed every piece of legislation that is part of the Obama agenda.”

Asked why nearly 300 bills passed by the House are stalled in the Senate, Pelosi blamed the “delaying tactics of the Republicans in the Senate.” [source]

I can’t answer for you, but I’m guessing the last time I was recognized for my effort and not for my results was probably back in grade school. In the real world that I live in, results matter. I don’t care that the postman has to work through all sorts of weather; I just want my mail. A hungry man doesn’t care that the baker started his day before dawn; he just wants his bread. Olympic judges don’t care how hard the weightlifter works at it; they just want to see the successful clean and jerk.

Isn’t “I tried real hard” almost always followed up with “but I didn’t make it”? Isn’t it just an excuse to explain why the job isn’t done?

But Speaker Pelosi has an answer for that: it’s the evil Republicans who are blocking everything. But that’s just another excuse. Until Senator Scott Brown was sworn in the beginning of February this year, the Democrats had held a 60-seat majority in the Senate. That was sufficient to stop any filibuster attempt by the Republicans. If the Democrats failed to pass anything in the Senate, they failed because they were not united behind the bill. You can’t blame the Republicans when the Democrats could have done it without them.

Well, obviously you can blame the Republicans. Speaker Pelosi gets an A for her efforts to do so.

“Good morning, class. I have a light reading assignment for you. First read War and Peace, all 1,296 pages of it, and then tackle the 832 pages of Anna Karenina, both by Leo Tolstoy. Pay particular attention to the supporting characters, and the differences between the Tsarist society of the Napoleonic wars of War and Peace and the later time period of Anna Karenina. Tests and essays determining how well you have learned the books will comprise a large part of your grade.

“Oh, and the test may happen any day now, so I suggest you best get cracking.”

Do you think you could successfully navigate through the required 2,000+ pages of Russian prose with complete understanding? Do you think you would have the time to finish the reading and fully grasp the subtleties of Tsarist society of 19th century Russia in the short time allotted? Do you think the professor is a complete idiot to pile this load of work on you in such a small time? Doesn’t he know that you have other classes and activities you are responsible for?

But this is exactly what the Senate is doing. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act before the Senate clocks in at 2,074 pages, making it slightly shorter than the 2,128 pages in the Tolstoy reading assignment. To make it even, feel free to skip the last part of Anna Karenina after the title character dies, and Tolstoy rambles on about his Mary Sue.

Do you think any Senator has actually read this monstrosity of a bill? And do you think any Senator fully understands what is in the bill? And worse still, do you think any Senator has an understanding of the unintended consequences that will arise by the passing of this bill? Or do you think this is just a naked power-grab by Washington D.C.?

A power-grab? Surely not! It’s not like government has already grabbed the reigns of power over the economy already. Oh, wait, it has already begun.

William Boyes, an economics professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, estimates that the government now owns or controls businesses that generate about one-third of U.S. economic activity.

And adding the medical industry’s 17-18% of the U.S. economy under the thumb of the government will raise the level of the government’s control close to, if not past, the 50% mark. But don’t you dare call President Obama a socialist!

Obama took months to pick out a dog for the family, and he has yet to pick a church to attend, but the mind-boggling complexity of the health industry, the planned reforms, and their unintended consequences don’t need careful scrutiny. Nope, it’s already passed the House, and the Senate is rushing toward a vote with the grace and understanding of the long-range ramifications as a college kid homing in on the frat house beer keg. And when I say rushing, I mean it. The Senate may have a procedural vote on the bill today, when normally Saturdays are reserved for pressing the flesh of their home-state constituents. But not when it’s time to ram home a double novel sized health care bill.

I have to wonder if the people of 19th century Russia who were complaining so loudly about the corruption and abuses of power under the Tsars would have been so anxious to support their overthrow if they had foreseen the corruption and abuses of power under the later communists? It’s the unforeseen consequences that will always get you when you rush into a massive change. Do you think the people cheering the fall of the Tsars and the rise of the communists in 1917 were also cheering for political repression, economic depression, and the murder of 20 million people under Stalin? I don’t believe so. I think they were just caught up in the moment as they called for change. People forget that change can also be for the worse.

Anna Karenina starts with the best line of the whole novel: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Once government has successfully taken over our health care industry, every unhappy family will be unhappy in the same way — the unhappiness that comes from reduced freedoms and government oppression. And reduced freedoms and government oppression is exactly what you get when the Senate rushes to pass a 2,074 page long bill that they haven’t even read.

“What’s in the bill? Who cares?!? Change!”

John Nance Garner, the 32nd Vice President of the United States, once summed up the office of the Vice President as being “not worth a bucket of warm piss.” But if you were asked about the duties of the Vice President, could you name them? Here is a video of Republican Vice President candidate Sarah Palin responding to the question of a third-grader — “What does the Vice President do?”

“A Vice President has a really great job because not only are they there to support the President’s agenda, they’re, like, the team member — the team mate — to that President, but also they’re in charge of the United States Senate. So if they want to, they can really get in there with the Senators, and make a lot of good policy changes that will make life better for Brandon, and his family, and his classroom. And it’s a great job, and I look forward to having that job.”

This hands-on approach to the Senate is getting some people on the left upset, as reported on the completely impartial and non-biased *snicker* news organ, CNN:

The comments have drawn criticism from Democrats and liberal blogs which note the actual role of the vice president when it comes to the Senate is simply to cast a tie-breaking vote in the event of a stalemate. According to Article I of the U.S. Constitution, the vice president is the “President” of the Senate, but has no executive position when it comes to presiding over the chamber.

Donald Ritchie, a historian in the Senate Historical Office, told CNN that Palin’s comment was an “overstatement” of what her role would be.

“The vice president is the ceremonial officer of the Senate and has certain ceremonial functions including swearing in new senators and can vote to break a tie,” he said. “It’s a relatively limited role. It’s evolved into a neutral presiding officer of the Senate.

Ritchie also noted recent vice presidents have played a behind-the-scenes lobbying role on Capitol Hill for an administration’s policies, but called it “somewhat limited.”

Let’s read exactly what the Constitution says on the role of the Vice President, as it relates to the Senate:

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

That’s it. Notice how the article does acknowledge that the VP is the President of the Senate, but does so by putting it in quotes, like the VP isn’t really President, the VP is only “President.” (Free tip for Alexander Mooney and other aspiring journalists: scare quotes have no place in a serious news story. You’re welcome.) Anyway, the learned opinion of Mooney continues: “but has no executive position when it comes to presiding over the chamber” as if that were actually stated in the Constitution itself. But as you can see, it isn’t.

The VP is free to be as hands-on or hands-off the Senate’s day-to-day activities as he or she desires. The only official responsibility a VP has is to cast the tie-breaking vote, but what stops the VP from mingling with the Senators and persuading them to vote one way or other? The only thing that would stop the VP from doing that is the VP. Did you notice that historian Donald Ritchie admitted as much in his above quote, about how recent VPs have played a “behind-the-scenes lobbying role on Capitol Hill for an administration’s policies”? I see that as being exactly what Palin is talking about when she said a VP could really “get in there with the Senators.” And interestingly enough, she isn’t the only person who claims that power.

The same article quotes the Democrat Vice President candidate, Joe Biden, as saying pretty much the same thing as Palin: “I hope one of my roles as vice president will be as the person actually implementing Barack Obama’s policy. You gotta get the Congress to go along with it.” And how exactly do you get the Congress to do that? Well, you could try to “really get in there” with them.

Palin says it, and CNN responds that she is misstating the role of Vice President. I can envision them murmuring, “Dumb ol’ Sarah.” But Biden makes a similar statement, and there is no sanctimonious head-shaking at his comment over at CNN. That’s why I have to laugh every time I think of CNN’s claim to be impartial and non-biased in their reporting.

Frankly, if I were given the choice between a CNN interview or a bucket of warm piss, I’d take the bucket.

After seeing the Democrat-led Senate go through the silly over-night stunt to push a cut-and-run bill through, I have a rather simple question for everyone out there: is there anyone not convinced at this point that Democrats comprise the party of white flags, surrender, and running away?

And there’s a follow-up question: when has running away from people who hate and want to kill you ever made things better?

Both Republican and Democrat Senators have been working with White House Cabinet members on a new bill. As you read or hear about this bill, I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that it will almost universally be called an “immigration bill” by the mainstream media. Let’s admit here what it truly is — an illegal immigration bill.

Key senators in both parties announced agreement with the White House Thursday on an immigration overhaul that would grant quick legal status to millions of illegal immigrants already in the U.S. and fortify the border.

The plan would create a temporary worker program to bring new arrivals to the U.S. A separate program would cover agricultural workers. New high-tech enforcement measures also would be instituted to verify that workers are here legally.

The compromise came after weeks of painstaking closed-door negotiations that brought the most liberal Democrats and the most conservative Republicans together with President Bush’s Cabinet officers to produce a highly complex measure that carries heavy political consequences.

Interestingly enough, Republican Senator Arlen Specter stepped up to defend the bill — “It is not amnesty. This will restore the rule of law.” In related news, the Senate Industrial Tools Committee defended their reclassification of shovels. “It is not a spade. This is a multi-use bladed implement.” The Senate then broke into subcommittees to prove black was white and white was black.

Here’s how the news report explains this non-amnesty:

The proposed agreement would allow illegal immigrants to come forward and obtain a “Z visa” and–after paying fees and a $5,000 fine–ultimately get on track for permanent residency, which could take between eight and 13 years. Heads of household would have to return to their home countries first.

They could come forward right away to claim a probationary card that would let them live and work legally in the U.S., but could not begin the path to permanent residency or citizenship until border security improvements and the high-tech worker identification program were completed.

“Hola! I’m here in the U.S. illegally. Where can I get my amnesty?”

“It’s not amnesty. But here is your non-amnesty probationary card. And remember, this is not amnesty.”

“Ah, si! Of course this is not an amnesty card. The word amnesty has been crossed out and probationary written over it. Gracias for clearing that up.”

Try this on for size — how about we actually put real border security in place? And while that is happening, announce that anyone found in the U.S. illegally after a certain date will be deported to the nearest border and never granted a visa to return. On a second offense, they get to spend some quality time in a pink jumpsuit with that sheriff in Arizona.

If you still think that this amnesty bill is a great idea, how about placing it in context? This bill is currently about 400 pages long. Here’s a picture showing how that stacks up next to the Holy Bible.

(BORING GOVERNMENT ARTICLE ALERT! If you are frustrated to tears with governmental inner workings, skip this and read something funnier.)

The U.S. Senate is in a tizzy. Well, more accurately, the Democrat senators are in a tizzy. You see, the President has the Constitutional responsibility to select people to fill roles in the judiciary, but the judges need to be passed to the Senate for “Advise and Consent.” It only takes 51 votes of the current 100 senators to confirm the nomination. That’s all it takes, and the Constitution is mute about the need for more than a simple majority to confirm a judge. There are other instances in the Constitution that require more than a simple majority of the Senate. Amendments, treaty ratifications, and impeachment convictions are three examples of votes requiring more than a simple majority. The passing of a law, as well as the confirmation of a judge, only requires a simple majority–51 votes.

Some things don’t appear in the Constitution which are part of the internal rules and procedures of the Senate. A classic example of this is the motion of cloture. Members of the Senate may debate about the nature of a bill before them and, normally, speak for as long as they wish. To move from this discussion phase to an actual vote requires a procedural act of the Senate and the agreement of 60 senators. When a motion for cloture is proposed, there are some limits imposed upon the senators about the bill. Each senator may only address the Senate twice about the bill in question, and each senator may only talk for one hour in total. There is also a 30-hour limit imposed. Once the 30 hours have passed, the vote on the motion of cloture is taken. If there are 60 or more votes, the bill may be actually voted on. It then requires only 51 votes to pass the bill.

Another particular aspect of the Senate workings is the filibuster. A senator may stand and discourse on the subject at hand, or on any other subject he chooses. In fact, if he follows the rules of debate, he can talk for as long as he is able to do so. At times when a band of senators are riled up enough against a bill, they could gang up to drag out the Senate procedures to delay a bill or even prevent it from being voted on altogether. This fit with the Senate idea that any senator could stand and talk about any subject: favorite recipes, quotations from the phone book, your dog Billy, or even the bill at hand. In the 1930s, Senator Hugh B. Long used the filibuster to delay and stop many bills with his recipes and readings from Shakespeare. His longest filibuster lasted 15 hours. The longest filibuster on record is held by Senator Strom Thurmond, who held the floor for 24 hours and 18 minutes when debating against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

But the most famous filibuster of all time didn’t happen in the Senate. It isn’t even real. It comes from the Frank Capra movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, where Jimmy Stewart pleads passionately to his colleagues, talking himself hoarse as he stands alone against the rest of the Senate. The movie suffers from one factual goof–it couldn’t have happened that way. Back in 1917, the Senate adopted Rule 22 that allowed for a motion of cloture to stop a filibuster if enough votes were gathered. The days of a lone senator being able to stand up, blather on, and stop the rest of the other senators from proceeding were gone with the adoption of that rule. Since 1917, the Senate rules about debate have changed many times. What do the filibuster and the motion of cloture have to do with the Constitution? Well, actually, neither one appears in the Constitution as they are both part of the internal rules voted on by the Senate for its own purposes.

Why do I bring this stuff up? Because many Democrat senators are currently riled up over a proposed change to the Senate internal rules. To put it simply, it takes 60 votes to pass a motion of cloture, but only 51 votes to pass a bill or confirm a nomination. The new rules would apply only to judicial nominees. It would still require the 51 votes to confirm that person, but it would make it easier to pass a motion of cloture. The first motion would still require the 60+ votes. The next would require less, and the next even less. I believe it is the fourth motion of cloture for a nominee that requires only 51 votes to pass. And at that point, the vote for the nomination could proceed. This proposed change in the rules has been called the “Nuclear Option”–a poor choice of words. The change is being proposed because the most important judicial nominees have consistently been held up by Senate Democrats. With the possibility of multiple Supreme Court positions to be filled in President Bush’s last term, the Democrats don’t want to make this process any easier for the Republicans.

On March 16th, moveon.org held a rally with several Democrat speakers (full transcripts here). Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia said the following:

An ill wind is blowing across this country. That wind sows the seeds of destruction. Our Constitution is under attack. We must speak out. We must kill this dangerous effort to rewrite our precious Constitution. Your freedom of speech is in jeopardy. Your freedom. My freedom of speech is in jeopardy. Some in the United States Senate want to bully the American people and the Senate and force feed us far right wing judges. We cannot let them do it. Don’t let them do it. Speak out. Tell the people. Get the people. Get the people. We cannot let them do it. Their view of the Constitution is based on the opinions of a fancy Washington law firm. Our view, your view, of the Constitution is based on the plain words of the framers who wrote that Constitution.

The opponents of the filibuster, the opponents of freedom of speech, say that we don’t need 217 years of American history. Oh no. According to the opponents of the filibuster, 217 years of history is a bore. It’s simply passe. Old hat. Well they say the Constitution is stale bread. The opponents of free speech see no need to rely on Jefferson. To rely on Franklin. To rely on Madison. To rely on Hamilton. They want to nuke. Nuke. N-U-K-E. They want to nuke debate in the Senate, and stand the Senate rules on their head.

I find it interesting that a Democrat would call for “plain words” to understand the Constitution. It really isn’t that hard to understand, but it is a pity that the Supreme Court doesn’t agree. They have been ignoring what the Constitution says, relying on the opinions and laws of other nations to make some of their recent decisions. But what Senator Byrd failed to say was that he, himself, led the charge to change the filibuster rules four times when he led the Senate. So much for 217 years of history.

Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton claimed to be able to read the minds of her Republican colleagues, and messed up a movie reference for good measure:

You know, I serve with a lot of Republican Senators with whom I have worked. Some much to my amazement, to tell you the truth, that I am working with, on issues that are important to New York and America. I know that a number of them have serious doubts about the wisdom of this. They know kinda deep down in their gut this is not a good thing to do. To upend the way the Senate has operated, just because you can for sheer political power? For partisan advantage? To basically end minority rights? To go ahead and consign Mr. Smith Goes To Washington to the dustbin of history?

I have already pointed out that the unlimited filibuster died in 1917, but that doesn’t stop people like Senators Byrd and Clinton from pretending otherwise as they talk about Frank Capra’s fictional movie and the equally fictitious claim of 217 years of unchanged filibuster history. But Senator Barbara Boxer really takes the cake as the senator who speaks the plain truth about what the Democrat senators have been doing.

Why would we give lifetime appointments to people who earn up to $200,000 a year, with absolutely a great retirement system, and all the things all Americans wish for, with absolutely no check and balance except that one confirmation vote. So we’re saying we think you ought to get nine votes over the 51 required. That isn’t too much to ask for such a super important position. There ought to be a super vote. Don’t you think so? It’s the only check and balance on these people. They’re in for life. They don’t stand for election like we do, which is scary. [emphasis mine]

So much for the vaunted Constitution and history! Senator Boxer thinks that the judicial nominees with whom Democrats disagree should require 60 votes instead of the Constitutional 51, solely because Democrats want it to be the case. Listen closely–you can hear the Democrat cry of “Waaah! We’re not in power!” wherever you live.

The judicial farce surrounding the Terri Schiavo case has shown a desperate need for judges who understand the Constitution. When Congress passed the bill that President Bush signed into law, telling the federal courts to look into the Schiavo case de novo, rather than doing what Congress had the authority to tell them to do, the judges went against the will of our elected representatives. America needs judges that will look at the Constitution and base their decisions on what it says–not what they think it says, or what they think it ought to say, or what other people in other countries think, but what the text actually says. Sadly, it appears there are not enough senators with the necessary backbone to make the “nuclear option” a reality. This means that the Democrats will be able to continue slowing down the process of swearing in important judges, just because they disagree with them.

Addendum (5/26/2005): The Republicans and Democrats have reached an agreement that has put aside the nuclear option. I wish the Republicans could have held together, but some squishy types failed to come through for the party. Democrats promise suggest that they won’t mount a judicial filibuster unless there are extraordinary circumstances. But they don’t state what those are. Anyone taking bets on how long the Senate goes before the Democrats threaten to filibuster another nominee? Cox and Forkum do a good job of outlining what “extraordinary circumstances” means to Democrats.

Comedian Eddie Izzard does a fun bit about how the Church of England just isn’t as nasty as the Roman Catholic Church was back in the Inquisition days. Instead of threatening people with “confess or die” all the time, it would be more like “Tea and cake, or death?” and the people would get to choose.

“Cake or death?” That’s a pretty easy question. Anyone could answer that.

“Cake or death?”

“Eh, cake please.”

“Very well! Give him cake!”

“Oh, thanks very much. It’s very nice.”

“You! Cake or death?”

“Uh, cake for me, too, please.”

“Very well! Give him cake, too! We’re gonna run out of cake at this rate. You! Cake or death?”

“Uh, death, please. No, cake! Cake! Cake, sorry. Sorry…”

“You said death first, uh-uh, death first!”

“Well, I meant cake!”

“Oh, all right.”

You don’t have to be all that bright to figure out which would be better. Even if they are serving carrot cake, and it makes you break out in hives–is death preferable to hives?

Speaking of things that irritate, Alberto Gonzales is currently under the Senate’s microscope. Since the announced stepping down of John Ashcroft, Gonzales is President Bush’s nominee for the position of Attorney General. You would think that Senate Democrats, as the self-proclaimed champions of minorities everywhere, would be climbing all over themselves to praise Gonzales and support his nomination for this position. After all, he would be the first Hispanic to become Attorney General, and the Hispanic with the highest-level position in the executive branch of U.S. government. You would think the Democrats would be singing his praises, but you’d be wrong.

The Democrats dislike Gonzales because he isn’t one of their Hispanics. The dirty truth about Democrats is that they only love the minorities who follow Democrats and kowtow to their ideas. But once you leave the liberal plantation, you are a race-traitor and no longer considered a real minority. Look at Justice Clarence Thomas and Secretary of State nominee Condoleezza Rice. Neither one is considered by Democrats to be part of the black community because they are *gasp* Republicans. When President Bush nominated Miguel Estrada as the first Hispanic to sit on the Washington D.C. circuit court, the Democrats in the Senate never allowed Estrada’s nomination to be confirmed by vote. Why? Because he “wasn’t Latino enough” for them. Feel free to read that as “too conservative,” because that was exactly what they meant. Essentially, people are part of a cherished liberal minority if, and only if, those people also bow the knee to Democrat ideas. If they choose to think outside the liberal box, they are no longer part of the minority group. That is why people like Thomas and Rice are derogatorily referred to as “Oreos,” because Democrats think of them as black on the outside, but white on the inside. These Democrats think that being black, Hispanic, or any other minority means you must think, act, and vote with the group.

If that isn’t racism, what is?

So the Democrats will have a field day pointing their fingers at Gonzales, jumping on their high horses about the torture of al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. You will hear just how shocked and awed the senators are that Gonzales inquired of the Justice Department just what constituted the torture of detainees. The Democrat senators are shocked, shocked that he would even ask such a question. Doesn’t it make sense that this is precisely the type of question that should have been asked regarding al-Qaeda and Taliban thugs? Well, not if you are a liberal. Expect to hear much about the Abu Ghraib excesses, and marvel as the Democrats try to lay the blame for these soldiers’ actions at Gonzales’ feet because he dared to ask the Justice Department, “So, what’s that law?”

Expect to hear much discussion about the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war. Mainly you will see the Democrat senators and their liberal allies in the mass media bemoaning the fact that we aren’t treating Islamist fanatics according to the rules of the Geneva Convention. It will make for a great sound bite, because the senators can sound so very concerned about the terrible treatment of the prisoners. These same prisoners, incidentally, would love to see these senators dead, but that probably won’t make the evening news. I find it interesting that the Democrat senators are choosing to stand in defense of al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners. I guess their sworn oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” takes a back seat to their desire to stick it to President Bush and his nominee.

Incidentally, does the Geneva Convention cover these prisoners? Here’s the Cliff Notes version for the slow reader: no. First, to be bound by the Geneva Convention, both nation-states must be signatories to the treaties. When did al-Qaeda and the Taliban sign them? Why, bless my soul, they never did! Second, if a signatory violates the terms of the Geneva Convention–say, by using banned poisonous gases or hiding behind civilians–all constraints are off. The Islamist fanatics who have been fighting coalition forces are guilty of both these violations. Finally, to be viewed as a lawful soldier and merit the protections of same, the soldier must be dressed in uniform or bear some recognizable insignia. These fanatics do neither. Therefore they are not soldiers, but are considered unlawful combatants. If the U.S. wanted to do so, we could choose to execute on the spot any Islamist fighter captured by our soldiers; under the terms of the Geneva Convention, this execution would not be considered a war crime at all.

Most senators are lawyers, so none of this information should be news to them. Why, then, do they maintain this fiction? Quite simply, they would rather use the Gonzales nomination to bury a political hatchet in President Bush’s back than “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

So the Democrat senators are going to bring up the *gasp* torture *shock* that went on at Abu Ghraib and try to pin it on Gonzales (and, by implication, President Bush). But I wish that every time someone tried to bring up the “torture” of being leashed like a dog, forced to participate in a naked dog pile, or having panties placed on one’s head, a Republican senator would show the video clip of Nick Berg having his head sawn off with a large knife, to the accompaniment of the “Allahu Akbar” chorus. I cannot see how the two compare. When you get down to it, the stuff that went on in Abu Ghraib–while completely unacceptable–is about as disturbing as a standard frat hazing. When some fanatic does the Ginsu action on your neck, it is going to leave a more permanent mark.

If the Democrat senators cannot see the magnitude of difference between these two actions, either there is something seriously wrong with their judgment, or they are attempting to make political hay. Either way, it doesn’t reflect well on them. It’s pretty hard to miss the difference when offered a choice of “Cake or Death?”

One of Congress’ specific responsibilities is to propose amendments to the Constitution. This requires a two-thirds vote of both houses to start the process moving. Once Congress has voted on and passed with sufficient numbers the proposed amendment, it is then handed to the 50 states to be voted up or down. Once three-fourths of the states have voted in favor of the proposed amendment, it is fully ratified and becomes part of the Constitution. This has only been accomplished 27 times in our country’s history, with the last amendment ratified in 1992. (Not that the government pays any attention to this simple amendment.)

A majority of the people of the United States are in favor of legally defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. This definition would effectively block people of the same sex from being married, as well as polygamy, bigamy, group, clan, line, and a myriad of other non-traditional marriage arrangements. If “adult” is added to the definition, as in “an adult man and an adult woman,” it would also prohibit the man/boy unions championed by organizations like NAMBLA. While “adult” doesn’t appear in the text, here is the exact phrasing of the proposed amendment:

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.

What would the passing of this proposed amendment accomplish? Well, for starters, it would stop various judges in the U.S. from messing with what is a legislative function, as stated in Senate Resolution 275: “the power to regulate marriage lies with the legislature and not with the judiciary and the Constitution of the State of Massachusetts specifically states that the judiciary ‘shall never exercise the legislative and executive powers, or either of them: to the end it may be a government of laws and not of men’…” What I find interesting in the various judicial rulings is that marriage has already been defined by Congress: the “word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” This legal precedent was set by the Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996 and signed by President Clinton.

I find it interesting that marriage was defined in the law years before the Supreme Court of Massachusetts ruled 4 to 3 that the Massachusetts state constitution prohibits denying a marriage license to same-sex couples. Why are these justices allowing same-sex marriage licenses when federal law prohibits it? The most wet-behind-the-ears lawyer could remind them that when there is a conflict between state and federal laws, the federal law trumps. Don’t believe me? There was a heated debate that settled the matter some years ago.

Since people who should know better have been ignoring the law of the land, it is understandable that some senators have wanted to strengthen the laws by elevating them to the status of a Constitutional amendment. But this isn’t likely to happen any time soon. On July 14th, the Senate voted on a motion of cloture, a legal term for ending the debate in preparation for a final vote on the bill. A motion of cloture requires 60 votes in the Senate, and the motion died with only 48 voting in favor. Three Democrats voted in favor of the motion: Robert Byrd, Zell Miller, and Ben Nelson. But six Republicans voted against it: Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Lincoln Chaffee, Susan Collins, John McCain, Olympia Snow, and John Sununu. Even if all the Republicans had voted for the motion and the three Democrats joined in, the motion still would have failed to reach the 60 votes required.

Regardless of what the senators and pundits may say about why they voted against this motion, the reality is that the 50 senators who voted against it did so because they consider you, Joe and Jane Citizen, too stupid to be bothered with this proposed amendment. I often hear Democrats talk about the importance of democracy and how every vote should count, but when it comes to putting issues before the people, Democrats have proven that they’d rather not have you deal with government. The Senate could have passed the proposed amendment and placed the decision at the feet of the masses, but in the mind’s eye of roughly half the Senate, the masses are asses and shouldn’t be bothered. In addition to this attitude of disdain for the American voters, Democrats couldn’t vote for the amendment because they were afraid that it might actually be ratified. After all, 38 states currently have laws with language similar to this proposed amendment, and 38 is the magic number of states needed to ratify a proposed Constitutional amendment.

This 48-50 vote also exposes something else important — Senators John Kerry and John Edwards, the Democrat President and Vice-President hopefuls, didn’t show up to vote at all. They say that their presence wasn’t necessary to defeat the motion, but the reality is they were too busy campaigning to do their senatorial jobs. As pointed out by Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, Senator Kerry was absent 64% of the time in 2003, and 87% of the time in 2004 when the Senate voted on legislative issues. How would you respond to an employee who only showed up to do his or her job 13% to 36% of the time? And being a senator is John Kerry’s job. Kerry took an oath “that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter,” but it is clear from his working history that he doesn’t hold this oath too seriously.

In a news article published today, Lee Davidson discusses how Senator John Edwards’ record is equally lackluster. Davidson points out that Edwards has been consistently at or near the bottom of attendance in the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the three years he has served on this committee, he has attended only 18% of the hearings and 20% of the business meetings when the average for the entire committee was double and triple Edwards’ attendance. In the 108th Congress alone, Edwards’ attendance at business meetings has slipped even more; his attendance at three out of 34 meetings means his 9% attendance is almost eight times lower than the committee average.

So Senators Kerry and Edwards want to be your next President and Vice-President. If elected, they will place their hands on a Bible and swear, “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of (Vice) President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Does this mean the “best of [their] Ability” lies somewhere between 9% and 36% of their time? Boy, that’s the kind of work ethic I really want to see in a President. Not!

The Constitution is the law of the land.

That is a phrase often spoken by people in the press or our elected officials as they press the flesh in their attempt to be re-elected. But once they are voted into office, how much do they really uphold it?

Section 8 of the first Article in the U.S. Constitution outlines the responsibilities of Congress. If it is not listed in that section, Congress does not have the responsibility or authority to pass laws about it. Unless you have read that section within the last week, please click on it and read it now. I will wait right here until you are finished.

Done? Good. Did you read anything in there about education, welfare, or the environment? What about Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid? Did you notice that none of these programs are listed in the Constitution as responsibilities of the federal government? Each time people are sworn into the House or Senate, they swear or affirm to defend and protect the Constitution. But each law they pass without a constitutional mandate is another blow to our Constitution as the law of the land. Each time they pass a law without the authority to do so, they prove that their oaths to support the Constitution are just so much legislative hot air.

Here is another case in point. Jim Abrams, a writer for the Associated Press, wrote an article titled “Senate approves pay increase for itself” on Oct. 23. In this article, he points out that Congress will receive a pay increase during 2004, rising from $154,700 to $158,000. In a 60-34 vote on Thursday, the Senate rejected a proposal that would exempt it from a cost of living adjustment (COLA) targeted to all other federal workers and military personnel. In the previous month, the House rejected a similar proposal to exempt itself from this COLA.

As much as I dislike the other political ideas and actions of Democrat Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, I admire him for standing up against this COLA. He pointed out that in the last five years, the Senate has seen increases totaling $21,000–quite a nice sum. Sen. Feingold even went as far as to suggest that anything above his starting salary of almost six years ago should be returned to the Treasury. In this situation, I admire Sen. Feingold’s stand much more than that of Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. “I think that our representatives of government deserve a pay raise consistent with the work that we’ve produced,” he said. Do you, Senator? Then draft specific legislation that will give you this well-deserved pay raise. Do not continue this back-door method of getting more money.

It must be pretty nice to be able to approve your own pay raise. However, there is a little snag in this rosy plan: the Constitution. The 27th Amendment, ratified in 1992, says, “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.” This means that any raises or cutbacks to members of the House or Senate do not take effect until after the national November elections for Representatives. Since 2003 is not such a year, this COLA should not take effect until at least Wednesday, November 3, 2004. But this pay increase is scheduled to take effect with the first paycheck written by the U.S. Treasury in January 2004, because the majority of the people serving in the House and Senate are more interested in making a few thousand dollars more each year than in honoring their oaths to “support and defend the Constitution.” Nor is the Legislative Branch willing to “bear true faith and allegiance” to the document it pretends to revere.

“This is not a pay raise. This is an increase that’s required by law,” said Constitution-ignoring Republican Senator Ted Stevens, the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman from Alaska. He obviously wants the money more than he cares to honor the Constitution. Since this law automatically increases the pay of the Senate and House, it cannot legally take effect until November 2004, but Sen. Stevens has already turned a blind eye to the Constitutional requirement by ignoring the very nature of this pay increase. A rose is still a rose, even if you call it a shovel, Senator. And this cost of living increase will raise your pay; therefore, it is a pay raise. To quote Conan O’Brien, “Duh!”

Democrat Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware voted against the Feingold measure. He called this a “no-win situation under any circumstances” since the people would not accept any dollar amount for a pay increase for the Legislature. Well, if the Legislature can point out the many wonderful work it has completed in the past year, the people will stand behind the increase. But since the nation has been economically rocky for the last few years, just how happy do you think the public will be to view these legislators increasing their paychecks at the expense of families just trying to find work or make ends meet?

I am not all that concerned about the amount of money involved. When you consider just how much power a Senator or Representative has, it is amazing just how little he or she is paid. The leaders of large business corporations, who have much less power to affect our daily lives, are paid many times more than anyone in government. Even the President is only paid $400,000 a year, and he is the leader of the greatest nation on Earth! My primary concern is over the all-too-common disregard for Constitutional authority. The Constitution gives the government the power and permission to act, and when members of the Legislature vote to line their pockets and no one stands up for the 27th Amendment, I realize just how forsworn our elected leaders are.

Each time the Legislature passes another law dealing with welfare, education, or the environment, it is collectively thumbing its nose at the Constitution. So we should not be surprised when in a few months, the Legislature will start cashing larger paychecks regardless of Constitutional amendments against it. Senators and Representatives have shown that the Constitution usually stands in their way, and they do not care if the people see them do this. They know we are too involved with “The Next Joe Millionaire” to care about the unconstitutional acts of our elected leaders. Shame on them, and shame on us.