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Constitution Revolution: Was Donald Trump Right About Birthright Citizenship?

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This post is the continuation of a weekly Constitution Revolution series for TheBlaze.com and TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo ShowTo see last week’s lesson, click here.

Is Donald Trump an uninformed buffoon when it comes to immigration like his critics claim? Or is he right to question the conventional wisdom when it comes to the 14th Amendment?

Since the topic of birthright citizenship has been all over the news, now is a great time to pause my Constitution Revolution series and clarify what the 14th Amendment means.

Before we get into that, let me lay down one disclaimer that you have to remember in order to understand this post: all I intend to do here is demonstrate the meaning of the 14th Amendment. That’s it.

Keep in mind that whatever your opinion is on illegal immigration, it has absolutely no impact on the meaning of the 14th Amendment. Whether you love the idea of birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants or you hate it – it doesn’t matter.

Truth is truth and the 14th Amendment means what it means. That’s what I intend to cover in this post. Read More

Constitution Revolution: Three Concepts Every American Needs to Know

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This post is the continuation of a weekly Constitution Revolution series for TheBlaze.com and TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo ShowTo see last week’s lesson, click here.

It’s trendy today to believe that our Constitution is outdated. That it’s irrelevant to us as individual citizens.

But as Americans, we have to realize that our Constitution isn’t just some old document that gives power to our federal government. Our Constitution was primarily designed to act like a shield that protects citizens like you and me from the government.

The idea behind the Constitution was to put limits on the government and keep it from doing bad things to you. That’s why the Constitution matters so much to people like me. That’s also why people like me tend to freak out a little bit when the government violates the Constitution—those violations tear down the protection that we have against the government doing bad things to us.

As much as that might seem theoretical or academic initially, Article 1, Section 9 is a perfect example of why those protections in the Constitution matter so much to us on a personal level.

The Constitution Impacts You On a Personal Level

IMG_6902Article 1, Section 9 is just a list of actions that the federal government is forbidden from taking—and three of the actions in that list are intended to prevent the government from unfairly putting you in prison. I don’t know about you, but I kind of like the idea that my government shouldn’t be able to randomly throw me in jail.

So let’s stop here and take a look at the part of the Constitution that prevents that. In Article 1, Section 9 it says:

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

I realize that this quote has all kinds of vocabulary words from your high school government class that you recognize but don’t actually remember. That’s ok. I’m going to go through each one of them to help you remember what they mean—and why they should matter to you.

Writ of Habeas Corpus

Let’s say you get put in jail but you think there’s no reason for it. You can petition the court to issue something called a “writ of habeas corpus.” If the court grants your petition, it will require whoever is holding you to physically bring you in front of the court so it can figure out if you are being unlawfully imprisoned.

Obviously, if it’s found that you are being held unlawfully they have to let you go.

The Constitution says that you can’t be denied the privilege of habeas corpus unless there’s a rebellion or an invasion.

It should be easy to see why that’s important. It means that our federal government can’t just randomly throw you in jail. Instead, if our federal government wants to put you in jail, it has to be able to show in a court of law why you are being held.  

Ex post facto

An ex post facto law is one that makes something illegal after it has already been done.

For example, imagine that you enjoy playing sports so you go out and play some baseball today. This part of the Constitution says that Congress can’t get together tomorrow and pass a law saying that baseball is now illegal and you are going to be punished for it—even though playing baseball was perfectly legal when you did it.

In other words, as long as you obey the law today you don’t have to worry about Congress going back and punishing you sometime in the future.

Bill of Attainder

Bill of Attainder would be a situation where Congress passed a law declaring that someone was guilty of a crime without giving them the benefit of a trial.

William Rawle – who was appointed by George Washington to serve as U.S. District Attorney for Pennsylvania – characterized the idea of a Bill of Attainder perfectly:

Bills of attainder are those by which a person without a judicial trial, is declared by the legislature to be guilty of some particular crime. The definition itself shows the atrocity of the act.

Just knowing what Bills of Attainder are should be enough to show you how dangerous they are. Can you imagine how members of Congress could use this to punish their political opponents?

If we could take a poll, I’d guess that most Americans would say that they like the idea that the government can’t use these methods of unfairly imprisoning people.

But here’s the catch – if we want the protection that Article 1, Section 9 provides us, we have to enforce the entire Constitution to get it. We can’t decide that we’re only going to enforce certain parts of the Constitution and not others.

Either the Constitution is binding on the government or it isn’t. There is no in between.

Thomas Jefferson explained why that’s true:

To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.

Once we decide that it’s ok for the government to violated the Constitution a little bit, it’s impossible to define exactly how much is too much.  

So if the people who run our government can decide that it’s ok to ignore the First Amendment, why can’t they decide that it’s also ok to suspend habeas corpus as well?

If the people in our government can ignore the part of the Constitution that protects the right of every American to exercise their religion, they can ignore every other part as well.

That’s why it should matter to every American when the Constitution is violated. It was designed to protect us from our government. But if we don’t fight to uphold every part of it, we lose the protection it offers.

Of course there will be people who say, “Who cares? Are you seriously worried that our government is going to start rounding people up and putting them in jail randomly? That would never happen here.”

And maybe those people are right; it probably won’t happen here. But it happens in other countries. The question you have to ask is, if it can’t happen here, is that because we are special people who live on magic land? Or is it because we have a Constitution that has prohibited the government from taking those actions?

Constitution Revolution: The Truth Behind the Necessary and Proper Clause

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This post is the continuation of a weekly Constitution Revolution series for TheBlaze.com and TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo ShowTo see last week’s lesson, click here.

In some ways, it’s sad that we have to stop here and take time to discuss the Necessary and Proper Clause. It is such a simple, straightforward part of the Constitution. All you need to figure out the meaning of this clause is a dictionary and little bit of common sense.

But as you know, those who wish our federal government had been granted more power than it was have no problem at all with distorting the clear language of the Constitution in order to get what they want. And ever since our Constitution was ratified they’ve been doing exactly that. Read More

Constitution Revolution: The Six Degrees Of Interstate Commerce

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This post is the continuation of a weekly Constitution Revolution series for TheBlaze.com and TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo ShowTo see last week’s lesson, click here.

Another extremely controversial and constantly abused clause in Article 1, Section 8 is the Commerce Clause. As I mentioned last week, Article 1, Section 8 is the part of the Constitution that lays out what powers Congress has the authority to use. With respect to Commerce, it says Congress has the power:

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes…

At first glance, it doesn’t seem like this clause should be too terribly complicated. The problem is that over the years, the Supreme Court has dramatically expanded the meaning of commerce “among the states” to include any type of activity that directly – or even indirectly – affects interstate commerce.

Using that definition, can you think of anything that wouldn’t affect interstate commerce if you tried hard enough to find a connection?

Read More

Constitution Revolution: The Most Abused Clause in the Constitution

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This post is the continuation of a weekly Constitution Revolution series for TheBlaze.com and TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo ShowTo see last week’s lesson, click here.

It’s time in our journey through the Constitution to look at one of the most abused and distorted clauses in the entire document: the General Welfare Clause. Over the years, we’ve managed to get to the point where our courts now read this clause to mean the complete opposite of what was intended.

That re-invention of the General Welfare Clause has been pivotal in allowing the federal government to grow to the enormous size it’s at today. So pivotal in fact, that if we could just convince the courts to apply this one clause as intended, that alone might be enough to get our system to work properly again.

To see why, let’s start by taking a look at the text of the clause itself in Article 1, Section 8:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.

Today, the conventional wisdom is that this clause means that Congress can spend money for any public purpose it wants—and that this spending power is not limited by the enumeration of powers that comes later in Article 1, Section 8. The Supreme Court made that exact claim in its majority decision in U.S. v Butler (1936).

As I’ve explained earlier, the General Welfare Clause has also been improperly used to claim that Congress has a virtually unlimited power to tax.

But that interpretation is complete nonsense. To see that, let’s go back and take a look at what the size and scope of our federal government was intended to be.

Read More

Constitution Revolution: Why The President Can’t Avoid Congress

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This post is the continuation of a weekly Constitution Revolution series for TheBlaze.com and TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo Show. To see last week’s lesson, click here.

Before we move on from Article 1, Section 7, let’s take one last look at how a bill becomes a law. It’s worth spending some time on this part of the Constitution because it does a fantastic job of illustrating the difference between how our Founders approached government – and how we’ve approached government over the last 100 years.

Our Founders knew that we would have politicians who would try to get around whatever system we had. And they were right.

It’s inevitable that we will have politicians who will try to find any loophole that will allow them to get what they want even when everyone else opposes their ideas. So when our Constitution was written, a lot of time was spent trying to figure out what types of dirty tricks and dishonest games our public officials would try to play—and then coming up with ways to guard against those.

For an example of that, take a look at the end of Article 1, Section 7. After explaining the basics of how a bill becomes a law, it says:

“If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.”

Have you ever wondered why those little details were added? I always did.

It turns out, they serve a few very important purposes.

Read More

Constitution Revolution: Our Senators Need to Be More Like Car Salesmen

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Before we get into the lawmaking process that is found in Article 1, Section 7, let’s take a little detour and talk about the process we have for buying new cars.

In the standard system for selling new cars, you have a manufacturer who builds the car and sells that car to a dealer. The dealer then turns around and sells that car to a customer like you or me. It’s a fairly simple system; and for the most part it works very well.

Under that system all three of the people who are involved in the transaction have a voice in the process. Because of that, they can all look out for their own interests. Unless the manufacturer, the dealer, and the customer all agree that the price that the car is being bought and sold for is fair to them, the deal doesn’t go through.

But imagine what would happen if somehow the manufacturer and the customer were able to get together and take away the dealer’s voice in the process. In other words, the manufacturer could say what kind of car it wanted to sell and for how much, and the customer was able to say what kind of car he was willing to buy and for how much.

Meanwhile, the dealer just had to sit there and accept whatever agreement the other two came to.

How do you think that would turn out for the dealers?

It’s not hard to figure out that when the dealer doesn’t have a voice in the process, the other two people are going to take advantage of him. The manufacturer is going to tell the dealer to buy the car at an unreasonably high price and the customer is going to expect the dealer to sell the car at an unreasonably lowprice. Put all that together and the dealer is probably going to go out of business before too long.

With that in mind, let’s look at Article 1, Section 7. In some ways, the process for how a bill becomes a law in this country is very similar to the process we have for buying new cars.

Read More

Constitution Revolution: Why Would the President Look Out For National Interests?

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Cropped

It looks like I’m lost deep in thought, doesn’t it?

In this week’s article for TheBlaze.com, I mentioned that the president evaluates bills that come to his desk from the perspective of the federal government.  But why would he do that?

As we’ve talked about, the primary reason why the president was granted the power to veto bills was to protect the executive branch from Congressional overreach.  The idea was to make sure that the president had a way to prevent members of Congress from expanding their own power in ways that would infringe on the role of the executive branch.

We should be able to count on the president to do that because—as we learned earlier in this series—it’s human nature for people to love power.  And once a person gets power, they will usually go to great lengths to protect it.  If Congress ever did choose to try to strip a president of some of his power, it’s a pretty good bet that he will do whatever is possible to block that legislation.

That’s a big deal because maintaining the proper separation of powers is a critical part of making sure that the federal government runs properly.

So when the president takes that action to protect his own power from Congress, he is also looking out for the interests of the federal government – even if he does it unintentionally.  In a sense, the president’s most important role in this process is to keep the States (the Senate) and the citizens (the House) from working together to empower themselves at the expense of the federal government.

That’s an important part of the lawmaking process because we need all three parts of our country—the people, the States, and the federal government—to be able to have someone protecting their interests in Washington, D.C.

 

Constitution Revolution: The President is Not a Policy Maker

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This post is the continuation of a weekly Constitution Revolution series for TheBlaze.com and TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo ShowTo see last week’s lesson, click here.

This week, we’re going to stay in Article 1, Section 7 and talk about the lawmaking process. More specifically, we’re going to talk about the president’s role – or lack thereof – in the process of making laws in this country.

Today, we expect our presidents to have a plan and a policy to address every aspect of American life. But the president was never intended to be a policy maker. When it comes to the lawmaking process, all he has is the power to veto. So after Congress has passed a bill, the president gets to give that bill a thumbs up or a thumbs down. That’s about it.

Beyond that, the president wasn’t granted the power to veto because the Founders were particularly interested in hearing what presidents had to say about the bills that were passed. The primary motivation in giving the president a power to veto legislation is so that he could protect the executive branch from Congressional overreach. The Founders wanted to make sure that the president had a way to prevent members of Congress from voting themselves more power and slowly taking over his role of executing the laws in this country.

Just like we did last week, let’s do a quick review on the basics of the Constitutional process for creating laws in this country:

  • A bill has to be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
  • After passing both houses of Congress, the bill is presented to the president. The president can choose to sign it into law or he can veto the bill and send it back to Congress along with his objections.
  • If members of Congress don’t agree with the president’s objections, they can choose to vote on the bill again. If it passes with 2/3 of both houses of Congress, it will become a law despite the president’s objection.

At this point it’s important to clarify that the Constitution provides us with only one process for creating laws – it’s the one we see in Article 1, Section 7. There are no exceptions or asterisks and there isn’t another section of the Constitution that gives the President alternate powers for impacting the legislative process.

To simplify that, after Congress passes a bill, the president can either sign it or he can veto it and send it back to Congress with his objections. That’s the extent of his involvement in the process. The Constitution couldn’t be a whole lot clearer about that.

But let’s take a second to look at just a few of the unconstitutional ways that laws are being made or changed today:

You might notice that none of these methods for creating or amending laws is mentioned in Article 1, Section 7. That’s because they are simply new inventions that our politicians have come up with over the years – and they all serve to make the executive branch much more powerful.

You might also have noticed that each of these newly invented ways of making laws gives the president the ability to bypass Congress in order to get the laws that he wants. But as with so much that goes on in Washington, D.C. today, that is completely backwards.

The Constitution does give Congress the authority to bypass the president and make laws completely on its own (by overriding the president’s veto). But it doesn’t give the president any way of bypassing Congress and making or changing laws entirely on his own. That alone tells us that – when it comes to the lawmaking process – what Congress wants is much more important than what the president wants.

It’s so important for us to realize that our president was never intended to be a policy maker. His role in the legislative process should be minor at best. Remember, under our system of government we have a separation of powers. And for good reason.

As Thomas Jefferson put it:

“It is not by the consolidation or concentration of powers but by their distribution that good government is effected.”

But when we allow the executive branch to increasingly bypass Congress when making or changing our laws, we are destroying that separation and concentrating a breathtaking amount of power in one branch of government.

It’s not hard to see why putting the power to create or change the laws that bind everyone in this country – as well as the power to execute those laws – into the hands of just one person is a terrible idea.

If nothing else, look at it this way: we now expect any person who wants to be president to spend over $1 billion in an effort to get elected. Any political office that is worth spending $1 billion to win is an office that is far too powerful to be safely entrusted to any one person.

Constitution Revolution: The Supreme Court Decided in Favor of Tyranny-care

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This post is the continuation of a weekly Constitution Revolution series for TheBlaze.com and TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo ShowTo see last week’s lesson, click here.

Over the years, quite a few people have asked me why I generally don’t write about or comment on new Supreme Court decisions very often. There’s actually a very good reason for that. You see, I write about and teach the Constitution. Unfortunately, Supreme Court decisions rarely have anything at all to do with what the Constitution actually says.

So you’ll have to forgive me for not going out of my way to read through endless pages of tortured logic that are completely unrelated to the topic I’m passionate about. This week’s King v. Burwell decision is a perfect example of that; the actions that the Court took in order to save Obamacare from itself are found nowhere in the Constitution.

th-1It’s time to talk about Article 1, Section 7. That works out perfectly for discussing King v. Burwell because Article 1, Section 7 is the part of the Constitution that gives us the process for creating laws in this country.

At this point, it’s important to point out that there is one—and only one—Constitutional method for creating or changing laws in this country and it’s the one we find in Article 1, Section 7. It’s also the method that you probably learned about in school or by watching School House Rocks. Here’s how it goes:

  • A bill must be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
  • Once a bill has passed both houses of Congress, the president can either sign it into law or veto it and send it back to Congress.
  • If the bill is vetoed, Congress can over-ride the president’s veto and enact it into law with a 2/3 vote.

If you look carefully at that process you might notice something important: The Supreme Court isn’t mentioned anywhere. That tells us that the Supreme Court has absolutely no role to play in creating or amending our laws. None. Zero. Zip.

The justices simply have the power to judge laws as they were enacted.

With that in mind, let’s look at what happened in King v. Burwell.

In other words, this law was intentionally designed so that anyone who signed up for Obamacare through the exchange created by the federal government wouldn’t be eligible for a subsidy.

Read more at TheBlaze…

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