It's not often that Members of Congress have the opportunity to take a vote which clearly states the intent of the Congress to either follow or not follow the Constitution. A vote which is not tethered to pork-barrel spending, special-interest giveaways or political land mines. Such a vote came up last week.
Of course, when one sees the results of such a vote - when it finally comes around - it is enough to make a decent American blush, and then get very angry at the immorality of our elected officials.
Casting votes on the basis of constitutionality is not about a political ideology, it is about basic morality. The moral choice is between following the rule of law or the whims of man. The rule of law gives us liberty, freedom and civilized society, while the whims of man gives us holocausts, confiscatory economic policies and pointless wars.
Sadly, though, our representatives and senators, and our presidents, seem intent on following something other than the rule of law. They hide behind pragmatism, behind political expediency, behind the claim to be doing the "will of the people." But the rule of law is about doing what is right and moral, not about what the mob - even if it is a mob of one with the government guns behind it - might desire at the moment.
Of course, the law - the Constitution - is inconvenient for those who want to use taxpayer dollars to expand their pet causes or political ambitions. The politics of unconstitutionality knows no partisan boundaries in Washington, which accounts for the continuing upward trend of taxes, regulations, spending and, of course, pork.
And so last week there came before Congress legislation stating that Congress and Congress alone has the power to declare war and commit troops into situations of hostility - as defined and clearly stated in the Constitution. It further stated that if troops are to remain in Bosnia, then Congress should take a vote declaring a state of war. Absent a declaration of war, according to this legislation if it had passed, the troops should be home in 60 days.
This was a vote on whether or not this Congress, was going to vote in support of what the Constitution specifically mandates on the issue of military action and commit of American troops to hostile environments. No policies would change, just a statement of principle upholding the Constitution.
The Constitution is very clear on this and every other subject. The Constitution, the highest law of the land, defines what the federal government, and the three branches of the federal government, can and cannot do. Everything else, according to the law, the Constitution, is "reserved" to the states and the people.
At the core, every vote is a constitutional vote. US Representative and, later, Texas Alamo hero David Crockett, once quoted a constituent, saying, "The Constitution, to be worth anything, must be held sacred, and rigidly observed in all its provisions The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people."
Sadly, 225 Members of Congress chose to ignore the Constitution and forfeit their constitutional-required role in foreign affairs. They had the opportunity to vote in accordance with the most basic, most clearly defined section of the Constitution to which they pledged an oath to uphold, and yet 225 of the 435 representatives chose to not follow the rule of law, but to allow the whims of man to prevail.
When Congress so clearly votes against the Constitution a dangerous
precedent is indeed set, and as Mr. Crockett warned, nothing is
safe from the grasp of the politicians.
Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas in the United States House. He can be contacted at his Washington office, 203 Cannon HOB, Washington, DC 20515, or at his web site (www.house.gov/paul/).