Monday, March 21, 2005

You tell me it's the Constitution

WASHINGTON, D.C.--As the Terri Schiavo case wends its way back up to the highest court in the land, the United States Constitution is gasping for breath. But if, like most Americans, you get your news from the broadcast media, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this case, as well as the extraordinary congressional vote that took place on Sunday, was about one family's quest to save their daughter's life. And who can blame them for taking their quest to whatever quarter would hear them?

Yet, with Congress's cynical vote to override the jurisdiction of a state court, the crisis of Terri Schiavo's parents has brought the nation to its own crisis. A constitutional crisis.

Lest you think your blogstress seized by the hyperbole demon, she asks her gentle reader to consider just what it means when the nation's top legislative body refuses to let an exhausted judicial process stand, simply because it rejects the court's decision. The U.S. Supreme Court, after all, had refused to review the ultimate decision of the Florida court on the right of Terri Schiavo's guardian to remove her feeding tube based on medical diagnoses. And the Constitution's framers, I'll wager, were pretty certain that they had designated the Supreme Court, and not the House of Representatives, as the end of the legal line.

It's been headed this way for a while. In the House, Michigan Democrat John Conyers seemed to be the only one to take note of two other pieces of House legislation (one of which rocked AddieStan's world) in which the House seemed to reserve for itself the right to determine the outcome of certain cases that may arrive before a federal court. In September, the House passed a bill that banned federal courts from enacting any decision that would result in the removal of the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. At the time, your cybertrix felt alone in her state of alarm as the bill received only minor note in the media since it was unlikely to pass the Senate. No one seemed distressed by the fact that a majority of the larger legislative body had voted to trample on the Constitution.

Our nation, it seems, is set to suffer the kind of rule that perhaps, in its contempt for its own grand heritage, it deserves.

As Conyers said on the House floor this Sunday night:

There is only one principle at stake here--manipulating the court system to achieve pre-determined substantive outcomes. By passing this law, it should be obvious to all that we are no longer a nation of laws, but have been reduced to a nation of men. By passing this law, we will be telling our friends abroad that even though we expect them to live by the rule of law, Congress can ignore it when it doesn't suit our needs. By passing this law we diminish our nation as a democracy and ourselves as legislators.

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