Pelosi Reveals Deep-Set Partisanship
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi might want to pay closer attention to the news and bone up on Constitutional law while she’s at it. As reported by National Review Online and covered in-depth at Arguing With Signs, either Pelosi has a rather dim understanding of the separation of powers—or she is so unflinchingly partisan that a knee jerk response sent her foot straight to her mouth.
The whole exchange is worth reading, but Pelosi basically said that she doesn’t feel Congress has the right to pass laws that modify Supreme Court decisions—that, in fact, a Supreme Court ruling is like a dictate from God. The issue in question was the Kelo decision that made it permissible for local governments to seize private houses and turn that land over to private developers so long as the development is deemed to be in the best interests of the public.
The legislation Pelosi was asked about was a bill sponsored by Republican Senator John Cornyn (TX) that would withhold federal funds from developments that seize private property for private development. Pelosi can be forgiven for not knowing the details of Cornyn’s bill. She can even be forgiven for not having had time to formulate an opinion on Kelo. What is unforgivable is her immediate assumption that the Republicans were somehow violating the separation of powers.
Governments modify Supreme Court rulings all the time. The Court has ruled the death penalty legal, but that doesn’t stop a state from making it illegal. The Court has ruled abortion a guaranteed right, but that doesn’t stop the federal government from refusing to fund them. And the Kelo ruling in no way prevents the federal government from withholding funds from developers that seize private property for private development. Nor does the ruling prevent any government body from passing stricter standards for eminent domain seizures than what was laid out by the Court.
Pelosi was caught off guard. That happens. What’s disturbing is that she’s so uncompromisingly partisan that it didn’t even occur to her that Cornyn’s bill might actually be a good idea--or that it could even be constitutional. The Kelo decision has been denounced from the right and left and should be a great opportunity for bipartisan action. Hopefully, Pelosi will come to see that. But her knee-jerk assumption that because the bill was a Republicans initiative it must therefore be unconstitutional, clearly demonstrates how partisan and reactionary the political environment in Washington is these days.
Thanks to The Art of the Blog for bringing the story to our attention.