Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My Reply to Senator Curt Bramble Regarding the Constitution

The following is my reply to Senator Curt Bramble on The Senate Site regarding my concerns regarding the constitutionality of the current proposed legislation designed to provide Utah and the District of Columbia new seats in the US House of Representatives.

Dear Senator Bramble,

Thank you for that excellent response. I appreciate receiving all of that interesting background information. It really helps me to understand the mindset of our legislators going in to this special session. And, I find it reassuring that you are hearing both sides of the issue from legal counsel.

Further, as a former Boy Scout, I understand the value of "being prepared" for any eventuality. So, I do not fault either the Governor or the Legislature for wanting to draw-up and approve potential congressional districts "just in case."

However, I want to make the case to our state and federal leaders that there is actually a more pressing concern for which we need to be prepared:

Defending the Constitution

The current proposed legislation appears to be an attempt to achieve through federal action what had failed to be achieved through constitutional amendment. Thus, it actually weakens our system of federalism.

The amendment process gives each state a say in the matter through local legislatures that have closer ties to the people. The current proposal denies that the states have any say in the matter.

This is so, even though the proposal essentially puts the District of Columbia on the path of eventually receiving all the rights and privileges of statehood--a clear deviation from the original vision of the Constitution’s framers.

Additionally, the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution declares that unless the federal government is given an explicit power in the Constitution, that power belongs to the states or the people. Thus, despite whatever court approved short-cuts have been taken in the past, it is the states that should actually be the ones making these kinds of major constitutional decisions.

In short, what I am saying is this:

You have described how you have been receiving mixed signals from primary sources in Washington. That is why it is all the more important for all of Utah's elected leaders, at both the state and federal level, to not give mixed signals themselves.

By approving new potential congressional districts, and then receiving a new seat early, we would be "approving" of this assault on the Constitution and federalism. Thus, we surrender the moral authority to defend states rights and strict constitutional interpretation.

I therefore urge our elected officials to use this special session to pass a resolution condemning the current proposal, and refusing to accept a new seat illegitimately. Such an action just might get someone's attention. It would be the talk of all the Sunday morning panel shows, and it could start an important national conversation that strengthens, rather than weakens, constitutional authority.

Nothing grants moral authority--credibility--more than a principled stance. Likewise, nothing undermines credibility more than being too opportunistic. We may outfox ourselves by being too prepared for the wrong thing.

Thank you again, Senator. I appreciate your time more than you know.

Alienated Wannabe

Dear Senator Bramble,

As to the question of my identity, I am just an anonymous Republican behind-the-scenes helper. If you need to contact me, Ric has my email address.

Thank you very much!

Alienated Wannabe

Senator Curt Bramble's Response to My Post

The following is Senator Curt Bramble's response to my note on The Senate Site:

Dear Alienated Wannabe,

Like you, I appreciate the dialog, although some of the acerbic, partisan comments are somewhat limited in value.

I agree that there are significant constitutional issues raised with regard to Washington DC having a vote in Congress. These include many of the arguments that have been raised here and on several other blogs and email forums.

As I see it, the issue for the Utah Legislature and citizens of Utah is really not what will or will not happen in Washington, DC. Our issue is that IF it happens, what will the 4 districts look like. There are no constitutional questions regarding the Utah Legislature re-drawing boundaries that may be different than those that were passed in 2001.

Some will claim that Utah is being used as a pawn in a decades old fight, and that if we fail to act the issue is dead. Others opine that if we fail to act, given the results of November 7th, Washington DC will get its vote next year and Utah may be left behind. Here's the frustrating part - as the Senate Majority Leader-elect and Chair of the redistricting committee, I have personally discussed this with several different primary sources in DC, as have the Governor, President Valentine, Speaker Curtis and others. Our best guess is that we simply do not know what will happen in DC. In many cases, concerns expressed privately do not reconcile with public statements, staff members will privately contradict their congressional bosses, the public statements of members of Congress do not reconcile with private admonitions, the Vote DC gang make certain claims that are both reinforced and opposed by many of the policy makers (including some who both agree and oppose at the same time!). Etcetera.

There are many in the Utah Legislature that believe, as I do, that we are best served by addressing that which is within our constitutional authority, while leaving the rest to play out in Congress, the Courts, or both, which in any event are beyond our control.

Your question about Mike Christensen and Leg Research is a good one. Typically, they will do all they can to present both sides of an issue, I have never seen them advocate one position over another, and they regularly advise us regarding possible legal challenges to proposed legislation. As to redistricting, they have advised us that it is well within our constitutional legislative prerogative to convene to draw new congressional district boundaries. As to the constitutional consequences of Washington DC getting a vote, they recognize the constitutional issues raised, as well as the legal opinions expressed by legal scholars on both sides of the issue and the potential for litigation. It is my understanding that Utah would not be involved in any anticipated litigation over the DC vote, other than in the possible capacity of filing an amicus (friend of the court) brief.

Again, thanks for participating in the discussion.

Curt Bramble

By the way, who are you???

My Note Thanking Senator Curt Bramble

The following is my note thanking Senator Curt Bramble for responding to comments on The Senate Site:

Dear Senator Bramble,

I appreciate you responding to concerns expressed here. I think that is wonderful.

What do you think about the constitutional concerns that many of us have? Does Mike Christensen and his staff typically present both sides of an issue to you all, or do they tend to advocate one position over the other? What have they said regarding our concerns toward this particular piece of legislation?

Thank you, in advance, for your response. I think your willingness to make yourself accessible here is great.

My Reply to an Anonymous SLCSPIN Blogger

The following is my indelicate response to an anonymous blogger's challenging question on SLCSPIN:

Dear Anonymous,

Let me see if I understand you correctly: In response to most of the beltway pundit's assertions, that I have heard, claiming that a lame duck President Bush will not be able to get any major piece of legislation "THAT HE WOULD WANT" through this Congress, you come back with "passing a budget" and "renewing No Child Left Behind" as examples of things he would need to sacrifice the Constitution to achieve?

Wow! That's quite a trade off, isn't it?

I do not mean to make fun of you, my friend, but please try to remember that the Democrats also need to pass a budget. And, they already want to renew most of the provisions of No Child Left Behind. So, your argument is not persuasive.

And, in fairness to the all-wise pundit class, they are talking about LEGACY type pieces of legislation, not house cleaning items. They claim that the administration acknowledges that its legacy will be the War in Iraq. History, they say, will judge the President by what he is able to salvage from this immensely difficult situation. Thus, his administration is supposedly going to set aside any futile attempt to pass new landmark legislation, and focus its energies on stabilizing Iraq sufficiently to sustain a face saving withdrawal for the US.

These same pundits tell us that the Democrats also see such a withdrawal from Iraq as being where their mandate lies. Thus, neither will they entertain delusions of liberal grandeur in seeking to pass all kinds of Great Society type legislation.

Well, I guess we will see about that, won't we? Pundits are frequently wrong.

For me, where your argument has merit is in the fact that history demonstrates both President Clinton and the first President Bush supposedly defying conventional wisdom to compromise with hostile congresses. We remember the first President Bush being pressured into going back on his "Read my lips, no new taxes!" pledge in order to pass a budget with the Democrats. And, President Clinton ended up abandoning his socialized medicine plan, only to later pass major cuts in welfare with the Republicans. So, legislation of consequence is certainly possible for the President, but is it something "THAT HE WOULD WANT?" That is the question.

I personally hope that the President's tenacity, that you reference, is fully employed in resisting the unconstitutional piece of legislation seeking to grant both the District of Columbia and the state of Utah new seats in Congress. This horrible proposal creates precedent that is bad for America. Utah is part of America. Thus, the answer to your question is this: Utah does not need to rush to get a fourth seat in Congress so badly that it is worth sacrificing the Constitution. It would be better to simply wait until the next census in four years, and get that new seat legitimately. What little the state would gain in the short run would not be worth the damage done to our country in the long run.

Please forgive me, but your comment regarding the unfeasibility of Maryland reabsorbing the District of Columbia, demonstrates that you have very little understanding of the arguments against the proposed legislation. No one, like me, who opposes the bill on constitutional grounds, would ever make that suggestion, because such a plan would also be unconstitutional!

The framers of the Constitution had a terrible real-life experience that convinced them that the seat of national government needed to reside in a neutral zone that only it controlled, not some individual state or any other kind of local government jurisdiction. So, the Constitution provides for the creation of just such an area--the District of Columbia.

The only proper way to get around that requirement would be to amend the Constitution.

During the Carter Administration, just such an effort was attempted, but it failed. Within our system of federalism, the people spoke. The answer was "No."

Now, the current proposed legislation would try to achieve the same result, but by degree, and by going around the Constitution. First, the District of Columbia gets representation in the House. Once that precedent is established, there would be no basis for denying it representation in the Senate. Then, all the rights and privileges of statehood would eventually follow, step by step, because there ultimately would be no basis for withholding them.

But, that is not what the Constitution mandates.

And, I personally agree with the framers' original vision. The same dangers that existed in their day are also present in our own. Indeed, their provision may actually be more relevant for our day.

Remember the anarchy that manifested itself in the city of Seattle when the WTO met there several years ago? What if such a crowd came to the nation's capital, but unlike Seattle's leaders, the local authorities were actually sympathetic with the demonstrators and refused to disperse them? The nation's elected officials would then be held hostage to the whims of some local leaders over whom they had no control.

A similar thing happened to our founding fathers, and they wanted to protect the nation from that ever happening again. That is why we have a District of Columbia, instead of the capital of our nation residing in a state. It was a good idea then, and I think it is still a good idea.

Now, as for achieving some kind of representational justice for the folks living within the District of Columbia, that is another question. It may be appropriate for us to address their situation. But, we should do so only by following the proper procedures for amending the Constitution, and I further believe that we should do so without abandoning the framers original vision of having the capital located in a federally controlled district.

That is all I am saying.

I am sorry, Anonymous. I wrote the piece above in a sleep deprived state, in the middle of the night, while attending a fussy baby. I apologize for the arrogant tone I adopted, and for my proclivity for run-on sentences. I’m not sure which is more annoying, but I sincerely hope you will forgive me.

Please remain engaged in the discussion. I want to hear and understand your side of the debate. Please respond to my arguments with more of your own. Eventually, we will understand each other. Until that happens, we won’t be able to accommodate our respective concerns. Thanks, my friend.

(Originally posted to www.slcspin.com and www.senatesite.com on NOV 2006)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Don't Touch that Trojan Horse!

I oppose the current effort to gain a fourth congressional seat for Utah via a compromise with the Democrats that would also grant a seat to the District of Columbia. I think that it would be better for Utah to just wait fours years and gain the new seat on its own. The current proposal is unconstitutional and further erodes federalism in this country. In many ways it is a Trojan horse, tempting us to bring-on our own destruction.

Though it is not my main consideration, as a Republican with traditional conservative values, I also believe that this proposal just does not make sense politically. In my opinion, it would lay the groundwork for the District of Columbia to eventually receive representation in the Senate. For the good of the country, I do not want two more extremely liberal Democrats in that important body.

The good news is that Jeremy Roberts and some other party activists are going to introduce a resolution at the next Salt Lake County Republican Party Central Committee meeting on December 2nd in an effort to stop this bad piece of legislation. (See related Deseret Morning News article)

I urge all like-minded individuals to show up and join in the fight. Perhaps it would even be a good idea to contact Jeremy in advance and offer to help him organize a lobbying effort directed toward both elected officials and grass roots activists. (We should each be calling our own representatives now anyway.)

He's a pretty good fund-raiser from his time on the Lincoln Club, maybe a quality mailer or something could be prepared that would explain all the problems with the current proposal. I found the following telephone number for Jeremy on the web: (801) 545-0105. I am assuming that it is still current, and that it is okay with him to distribute it. But, if not, this would not be the first time I was presumptuous.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

New Congressional Seats for Utah & the District of Columbia

I am concerned about the Constitutional questions raised by the District of Columbia gaining a seat in Congress. I am not convinced that it is legal without amending the Constitution.

Remember, during the Carter Administration, just such an amendment was proposed. But, it was rejected by the majority of state legislatures in this country. The people spoke through their elected representatives acting within our system of Federalism. The answer was "no."

Now, this latest effort appears to be trying to do an end-around the Constitution, robbing the individual state legislatures of their rightful voice in the matter. Thus, beyond being a short-sighted power grab for Utah and the District of Columbia, the proposed legislation is also a power grab by the Federal Government over the individual states.

The District of Columbia was created as kind of a neutral territory, fully controlled by the states together--the United States--not the local population. Inch by inch, it now appears to be gradually creeping toward all the rights and powers of statehood.

That reality would create a completely new dynamic which may not be in the best interest of the nation as a whole. We have learned from sad experience that the Law of Unintended Consequences frequently comes in to play with such things.

Have we really thought this thing through? Do we really want the seat of our national government controlled by a local government over which we have no power? That appears to be where we are going. But, that is not the vision provided by the Constitution.

Ironically, Utah, of all places, is pushing for this undermining of the Constitution, because we want a fourth seat so badly. But, why? Honestly, how much are we really going to get out of it? I personally can wait four years until the next census, if doing so helps to preserve Federalism in this country.

Granted, as a Republican, I am not eager to see such a geographically small, and extremely liberal, area gain so much power in the Senate. (Once the precedent of granting DC representation in the House is established, there ultimately will be no basis for denying it full Senate representation.) But, my position is not based upon political expediency. I am honestly concerned about the principle of Federalism in this country and the loss of a neutral seat for our national government.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My Reply to Pete Ashdown Regarding Abortion

Dear Pete,

First of all, thank you very much for engaging me in this forum. I am both grateful and honored that you would take the time to do so. I think conversations such as this are vital to the wellbeing of our Republic. The fact that you would take the time to share your thoughts speaks well of you. Again, I thank you very sincerely.

Secondly, I agree with you that the topic of abortion is very polarizing.

But, I differ with your implication that it should therefore be avoided. My thinking is precisely the opposite: Abortion is polarizing because it deals with some of the most fundamentally important, soul wrenching issues of our day--issues that strike a nerve, issues that simply must be addressed.

Over a million abortions are performed in the United States every year!

To pretend that we are unaware of that 800 pound gorilla sitting in our living room would simply be ridiculous. Granted, if one believed that those million abortions merely represented the disposal of extraneous tissue, then one could more easily rationalize away the significance of the phenomenon. But, if one sincerely believed--or even recognized the possibility--that those million abortions represented the willful taking of an innocent human life, unborn children, then the act of passively remaining silent would be considerably more difficult. Indeed, to do nothing would be cowardly and immoral.

I choose not to be that kind of person. Please do not expect me to apologize.

Now, just as I choose not to be cowed into remaining silent, so too do I choose not to see my "pro-choice" brothers and sisters as being monsters. Some may actually be rather disappointing in their character, but I choose to extend the benefit of the doubt to the majority.

I choose to believe that most are motivated by a sincere compassion for those women who find themselves facing very difficult circumstances. They want to respect their supposed right to respond to these situations in private and to make the hard choices alone.

I too can conceive of difficult scenarios that defy easy answers. My heart also is filled with compassion for the women who face these situations. And, I certainly do not feel comfortable in forcing my judgments upon any of them. However, in weighing both sides of the issue in my heart and mind, the consequences seem so much greater on the side of taking a life than on the side of legally requiring a pregnancy to go to term. Thus, I am "pro-life."

I honestly believe that society has the right, indeed the responsibility, to restrain abortion in most of the situations wherein it is currently administered today. The legitimately extreme and difficult scenarios constitute a sufficiently small percentage of the abortions in this country that they cannot be used to justify a larger policy of abortion on demand.

True, rape is not always an easy crime to prove, and yet in this country we still insist upon granting a trial to the accused before we send him to jail. We don't call it "divining." We call it justice.

Likewise, I am convinced that people of goodwill are capable of developing a process that would allow a judge to discretely review evidence and testimony in private, while determining whether or not to grant an order for an abortion. Would it be a perfect system? No. Would it be preferable to abortion on demand, at the rate of over a million per year? Yes.

Further, pregnancies that result from incest can be demonstrated via prenatal genetic testing. And, there are more than enough physicians who are capable of providing expert testimony as to whether or not a woman's life is in danger because of a pregnancy.

In short, the difficulty we face is not the insurmountable obstacle that you make it out to be. But, you are correct in recognizing that we do have to address these issues. That, I suspect, is why the proposed deeper restrictions on abortion failed in South Dakota. Despite the fact that the state is dominated by people who are pro-life like me, the good folks there surely did not want to go from one unacceptable extreme to another.

May we all, then, find the right balance. Because, we are a million lives per year out of balance now. May God help us to do so, I pray.

Love, Your Friend & Brother,


(Originally posted to www.slcspin.com on 14 NOV 2006)

Pete Ashdown's Response to My Post

We all agree abortion is not a desired outcome in any case, no matter the origination of the pregnancy.

There are Republicans and Democrats alike who believe abortion and other personal decisions should not be made by the state. Only by working together instead of fighting for the polarizing extreme will we ever make a difference in reducing the number of elective abortions nationwide.

Nobody of any political stripe, who supports abortion only in the case of rape, incest, and health of the mother has been able to tell me how they expect the government to divine what is rape and what is not.

33 years of politicization of abortion and all some can do is continue to hope for the Supreme Court to overturn what they say goes against the will of the people. Did anyone watch what happened in South Dakota this election? Why has it been 17 years since Senator Hatch proposed banning abortion through amendment? Could it be because the will of the people is not for the outright banning of abortion? We might as well ban sex.

I spoke of quantitatively reducing abortions if elected. It can be done without banning because I've talked to the local leaders who are doing it through contraception and education in addition to preaching abstinence. Its happening right here in Utah and it could happen nationwide if we had leaders who didn't want to lose their political whipping post.

I ran with honor and integrity and being frank and honest about social issues was an essential part of that. I refuse to politicize abortion, but instead seek solutions that will work to address the problem. Do you think Senator Hatch has done the same during his 30 year tenure which has encompassed the entire abortion debate? I see very little evidence that he has.

(Originally posted to www.slcspin.com on NOV 2006)

My Statement that Orrin Hatch was the Best Choice

Marshall, I agree that Senator Hatch was clearly the best choice. I am always confused when so-called social conservatives support a Senate candidate who is a Democrat. I doubt that such people really understand what happens to the federal bench when a Democrat controlled Senate has the power to “advise and consent” conservative judicial nominees out of the system.

One of the great achievements of Orrin Hatch, beginning in the Reagan years and stretching into the tenure of George W. Bush, has been the gradual building of a more conservative and less activist judiciary. We live in dreadful days, as it is, where unelected and unaccountable liberal judges order legislators to make laws contrary to the will of the people. Can you imagine what it would be like on the federal level if it were not for all the work of the Republican presidents and senators of the past quarter century?

This has been a major part of the quiet, but all important, struggle for the soul of our nation. Senator Hatch has been one of the heroes in this struggle. If Roe v. Wade is ever overturned, it will be because the American people elected enough Republican Presidents and enough Republican Senators to build-up a sufficiently conservative judiciary. The Democrat base seeks abortion on demand. If that offends you, then you should never vote for a Democrat senate candidate. Some are apparently tired of hearing that bit of truth, but attention fatigue does not change the facts. And, that is a fact.

(Originally posted to www.slcspin.com on NOV 2006)