TRANSCRIPT of call-in from Jon Roland to C-SPAN Washington Journal, Thursday, November 9, 1995, hosted by Susan Swain, with guests Sen. Howell Heflin, D-AL, and Rep. Bob Inglis, R-SC:
C-SPAN: Springfield, Mass. Good morning.
ROLAND: Good morning.
C-SPAN: You're on the air.
ROLAND: Yes. My question concerns the attention being given to the Constitution in the debates that we see on C-SPAN. I'm very frustrated. I saw, for example, in the debate over the Partial-birth Abortion Bill members of Congress invoking the Constitution when it supported their position, but with a tendency to ignore the same provisions when they did not support their policy preferences. And, I think what we've seen in the last 200 years is a willingness to ignore the Constitution, to not take it seriously. For example, even though I oppose abortion, I find the Partial-birth Abortion Bill to violate the Constitution in many fundamental ways, and [in] ways that are not being discussed by the media or by members of Congress. For example, there is no power delegated to Congress to regulate everything that affects interstate commerce, only interstate commerce itself, transactions that begin in one state and end in another. Nor does the power to "regulate" include the power to impose criminal sanctions. The Framers intended the word "regulate" to mean things like scheduling, disciplining, training, the kinds of things that an air traffic control facility does for air traffic. It would not include prohibitions. It would not include criminal sanctions. And yet we find criminal law being extended to the states in ways that were never intended, [that] in fact would have been considered anathema to the Framers.
C-SPAN: Thanks very much. You have two attorneys, including one person who served as Chief Justice in the State of Alabama here, so we'll turn your constitutional question over to our table. Senator, why don't you start, and then, Congressman, pick up after that, please.
SEN. HEFLIN: Well, I think he... he has a point. I think there is definitely going on today a federalization of many aspects that were not intended, that were intended to be left to the states, that they were not to be federal pre-emption, and one as he mentioned is in criminal law. We are federalizing a great number of crimes where there exists ... with the states, and have been..., or they are up to the states to determine it, and we're federalizing crime. We're seeing also in regards to it a federalization of tort law that is taking place. And we're seeing a lot of aspects of this that are different than what we have seen in the past in regards to federal pre-emption. I think federal pre-emption has been going on... and been going on far too... more that what the Founding Fathers wanted it to be. But nevertheless, we find it continues... and continues under new headings and new aspects of... and different groups of laws than what we've had in the past.
REP. INGLIS: I think the Senator is correct about federalization of law enforcement. It is a concern in a number of areas, not just the one the caller mentioned. But I think that there are a lot of areas where we're doing that, and it's... it's a dangerous trend. I can tell the caller that the reason that many of us feel that we can overcome that difficulty in this area of the Partial-birth Abortion Bill is to look to some other foundational documents of this country.. which of course the Declaration of Independence declares that the right to life is a fundamental right... that Mr. Jefferson wasn't even going to defend. He said "We hold these truths to be self-evident". In other words, he wasn't going to produce any proof that it should be so. It was just self-evident that "life" is a basic right in this country. So those of us who voted for the Partial-birth Abortion Bill feel that it's very important as a federal matter to state that this is a fundamental right of an American citizen, and that's what that's about. But I can agree that we do have to be careful, and of course this weighed on my mind as figuring out whether that goal of protecting life was important enough in this situation to warrant a creation of a federal crime. There are a lot of federal crimes that we've created over the last two or three years that, frankly, should not be federal crimes, and in that respect I agree completely with what the Senator just said about the danger of federalizing crime. I guess it comes down to a decision in each case as whether this one warrants it or not.
Several things should be noted about the mental processes revealed by the responses of the congressmen, which seem typical of their colleagues.
First, they tend to see all issues as policy issues, in which competing policies are assigned various weights, with the decision going to the side having the greatest weight. This mindset treats provisions of the Constitution as having some weight, but not necessarily greater weight than political, moral, or emotional factors might have for them. It reflects their background as lawyers. The principle that they are obliged by their oaths to assign constitutional provisions infinite weight would appear to be an alien concept to them.
Second, they appear to lack the ability to discuss constitutional issues competently, or even to speak in coherent sentences. They made no attempt to address the points made by the caller in any detail, and from their facial expressions while the caller spoke, one might conclude that their comprehension of the points was lacking, despite the likelihood that many of their constituents have probably made similar points in correspondence to them.
Third, the remark by Rep. Inglis shows that he lacks the most basic comprehension of the logic that no powers of government are delegated to Congress by the Declaration of Independence, which was issued before there was a Congress and did not contemplate its existence, or that Congress and its members are agents of the people, with only those powers delegated to it by the Constitution, and not any powers that they may find an excuse to assume. He seems to argue that it is okay to just turn off reason and logic, and ignore his oath, if he feels strongly enough about something.
Sen. Howell Heflin, 728 Hart Bldg, Washington, DC 20510, 202/224-4124, 202/224-3149F
Rep. Bob Inglis, 1237 Longworth Bldg, Washington, DC 20515, 202/225-6030, 202/226-1177F
C-SPAN: Eastern & Central 202/624-1111, Mountain & Pacific 202/624-1115, 202/393-3346F
Jon Roland, Constitution Society, 417 Springfield #118, Agawam, MA 01001, 413/786-6802, 789-9255F, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
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