Tea Party really should read the Constitution

People in the Tea Party community constantly claim how they “love” the U.S. Constitution more than anyone else. Too bad so few of them seem to know what’s really in it.

The latest display of ignorance comes from the Republican nominee for Senate from Iowa, first-term state Sen. Joni Ernst. At a forum at the 2013 Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, she made the following statement:

“You know, we have talked about this at the state Legislature before, nullification. But, bottom line is, as U.S. senator, why should we pass laws that the states are considering nullifying? Bottom line: Our legislators at the federal level should not be passing those laws. We’re right — we’ve gone 200-plus years of federal legislators going against the Tenth Amendment’s states’ rights. We are way overstepping bounds as federal legislators. So, bottom line, no, we should not be passing laws as federal legislators — as senators or congressmen — that the states would even consider nullifying. Bottom line.”

(Personally, I don’t think anyone who is so linguistically challenged as to use the phrase “bottom line” four times in one paragraph deserves anyone’s vote. But I digress.)

Actually, states can’t nullify federal law. It’s in — you guessed it — the U.S. Constitution. Article VI of the Constitution says: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof … shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” What part of “supreme Law of the Land” don’t they understand?

As reported in The Daily Beast, Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Irvine, Law School and a constitutional law scholar, noted that the Supreme Court had dealt with this issue in 1958, when, in Cooper v. Aaron, a unanimous decision signed by every justice on the court, it was made clear that states could not nullify federal laws or Supreme Court decisions. This concept is also known as the doctrine of pre-emption.

Of course, that doesn’t stop Teabaggers from claiming that the Tenth Amendment trumps all. If you recall, the Tenth Amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Somehow, those words have been twisted into meaning that states don’t have to follow federal laws if they don’t feel like it.

States have passed laws that — supposedly — exempt them from federal laws. Arizona passed a strict immigration law, and the federal government sued successfully under the supremacy clause (the U.S. Supreme Court decision was mixed, but upheld the supremacy clause in overturning parts of the law). The Missouri Legislature passed legislation nullifying federal gun laws; luckily, the Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed it, and the Legislature failed to override his veto.

There are some gray areas. An article on the website How Stuff Works discusses the idea of federal law vs. state law when it comes to marijuana laws. Marijuana is still considered a controlled substance from a federal legal standpoint, but both Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana use. The District of Columbia and 23 states allow the use of medical marijuana. In this case, it boils down to enforcement. In other words, you can do something in a state where lawmakers have made something legal, but those laws don’t apply elsewhere. Prostitution is illegal under federal law, but is legal in parts of Nevada.

And what about impeachment? A majority of GOP voters seem to think that President Obama deserves to be impeached. Again, READ THE CONSTITUTION (you can USE THE GOOGLE if you don’t have a copy handy).

Article II, Section 4, Disqualification: “The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Maybe this happened when I was on vacation, but I missed the news stories where Obama was convicted of treason. Or bribery, or any other felony or misdemeanor. Just because you disagree with a president’s policies doesn’t mean he warrants impeachment. The lawsuit that House GOP members are supporting is ridiculous enough. The basis of the suit is Obama’s one-year delay of the employer insurance mandate in the Affordable Care Act — the exact same thing House Republicans voted for in at least one of their 50-plus votes to repeal Obamacare. Funny, they never sued President George W. Bush when he did the same thing in delaying parts of Medicare Part D, which gives seniors drug coverage.

Of course, there are also those who push impeachment with the “logic” that if the GOP holds the House in the 2014 mid-terms — a likely scenario — and takes the Senate — probably 50-50 at this point — the House can impeach Obama and the Senate will remove him from office. Note to Teabaggers: Again, READ THE DAMN DOCUMENT.

Article I, Section 3, The Senate: “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all impeachments. … And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.” “Two thirds” means 67 senators. Even if the GOP gets a majority of 51 seats, you really think 16 Democratic senators will vote to remove President Obama from office?

In 2010, three-term incumbent Utah Sen. Bob Bennett — as conservative as they come — was defeated in the nominating process at that state’s Republican convention, which the party uses instead of a primary. The winner instead was now-Sen. Mike Lee, a Tea Party hero. Except for Salt Lake City, Utah is solid red; Lee won with 61% of the vote.

I remember listening to a radio report of delegates to that Utah Republican Party convention. Tea folk backing Lee claimed that they were voting for him “because he loves the Constitution.” When asked by a reporter if Bennett, too, didn’t love the Constitution, the answer was, “Lee loves it more.” So now we have a Constitution-love litmus test? Seriously?

You know, I passed the Constitution test in the eighth grade, as did everyone else who grew up in Illinois. I still carry a small copy of the document in my purse, supplied by the ACLU. I have tutored inner-city kids, off and on, since the 1980s, and have taught and quizzed multiple students as well as my own daughters on the Constitution so that they, too, would pass their tests before entering high school. I have referred to my well-worn pocket copy on numerous occasions. I’m neither an expert nor a lawyer, but I feel confident that I know the U.S. Constitution as well as most lay people.

So my advice to Teabaggers: Read the Constitution, learn what it says, and quit listening to idiots on right-wing radio and TV who claim they “know” what’s in the Constitution. Stop reading conspiracy theory e-mails from people who wear tin-foil hats. Quit making statements that display your ignorance. In other words, stop pulling quotes out of your collective asses.

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