Tag: 14th Amendment

Removing The Citizenship Clause

Hal’s latest post about the Lee Amendment got me thinking (I know, caution, flying debris, clear the room) about the amendment process in general. The idea that changing times and circumstances would require new and unique measures was one well recognized by the framers, hence, a ready made apparatus for that change was baked in. They recognized early on that while taking great pains to create a comprehensive and thoughtful document, additional modifications would be needed in future years to meet the nation’s changing needs. Fair enough, but since Amendments become part of that document, is it not consistent that, “to meet the nation’s changing needs” might not already agreed upon Amendments need to changed, repealed or modified at a later date? Should Amendments be given any special reverence or treatment, separated from the body, since they were “additions”, can’t those additions be added to (or subtracted) through the exact same amendment process.

What I would like to focus on today is a section of the 14th Amendment, the Citizenship Clause, which was taken from the Civil Rights Act of 1866:

The Act declared that people born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power are entitled to be citizens

Now I should admit up front that I have not given this much thought and it is clearly understood that those Washington goofs have bigger fish to fry and more impending problems on their plate then to consider any Amendment amendments, but I find it odd that so many folks squeeze that hair trigger of theirs in their negativity to even discussing the matter. And it begs the question, is there anything so sacred or holy about this provision that bars even an adult discussion on the matter? If we admit that the Amendment process was designed to address “changing needs” and that the 14th Amendment was written about 150 years ago, and primarily to address the issue of slaves becoming citizens, and also admitting that illegal immigration is a big problem, the founders not anticipating that whole anchor baby concept, is not at least a discussion warranted?

I’m not going to take sides on this (yet) but am wondering:

Why should the USA honor citizenship for illegals that streak across the border seconds before their moment of conception?
If illegals broke the law in crossing our borders, should bad (illegal) behavior be rewarded?
Could not the Citizenship Clause be the impetus for the illegal immigration problem in the first place?
Given the onerous burden illegal immigrants place on the social programs of the individual states, would not nipping this in the bud by removing the carrot better the finances and balance sheets of states already hemorrhaging at the gills?
Does not this clause make a mockery of the citizenship process legal immigrants must follow, creating a laughable double standard and encouraging criminality?

Hit any and all points that strike your fancy.

I expect the left to demonize any legitimate attempt at debate on this issue, but the question stands, is it worthy of debate or do we just assume that some subjects are so sacrosanct that the mere discussion deserves a woodshed beating?

Where do you stand?

The Constitutional Question

Hmm. Now this is interesting:

Growing increasingly pessimistic about the prospects for a deal that would raise the debt ceiling, Democratic senators are revisiting a solution to the crisis that rests on a simple proposition: The debt ceiling itself is unconstitutional.

“The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law… shall not be questioned,” reads the 14th Amendment.

“This is an issue that’s been raised in some private debate between senators as to whether in fact we can default, or whether that provision of the Constitution can be held up as preventing default,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), an attorney, told The Huffington Post Tuesday. “I don’t think, as of a couple weeks ago, when this was first raised, it was seen as a pressing option. But I’ll tell you that it’s going to get a pretty strong second look as a way of saying, ‘Is there some way to save us from ourselves?'”

By declaring the debt ceiling unconstitutional, the White House could continue to meet its financial obligations, leaving Tea Party-backed Republicans in the difficult position of arguing against the plain wording of the Constitution. Bipartisan negotiators are debating the size of the cuts, now in the trillions, that will come along with raising the debt ceiling.

It’s not just Democrats. Bruce Bartlett is among a small handful of conservatives arguing this case. And they may actually have a point. The debt ceiling has always been kind of an ad-hoc thing. It’s only in the last few years that it’s become a political issue. It would definitely require the Supreme Court to decide on the validity of the debt ceiling.

That having been said … let’s not go there. For one thing, this is an attempt by the Democrats to weasel out of balancing the budget. They don’t want to make the hard choices on spending. They would love to find a loophole allowing them to avoid making any choices.

For another thing, as the HuffPo notes, this is unlikely to save the economy if we crash the debt ceiling. If we’re sitting around having a Constitutional debate about the debt, the bond markets are going to get spooked anyway. Arguing the fine points of Constitutional Law while the economy crashes around our ears would be about as close to fiddling while Rome burns since … well, since Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

And, to be frank, this is a strange place for the Left to start getting originalist about the Constitution. They’re willing to take a “living breathing Constitution” attitude when it comes to states’ rights, enumerated powers, free speech, the right to bear arms, the commerce clause, eminent domain, freedom of religion, etc., etc. But suddenly, when it comes to debt, they’re a bunch of Antonin Scalias? Please.

I expect the line of argument to gain some ground, however. Eventually, Republicans may figure out this is a way to weasel out of having to eliminate tax deductions and credits to raise revenues. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Congress, it’s that they will always take the weasel route if they can.