Since September 11, 2001 attacks, Congress has evidently debilitated its own powers as the legislative branch by allowing the Bush administration to chisel away the doctrines of democracy. Even Senator Reid, the Minority Leader, admitted that the legislative branch has become impotent, for Congress lacks oversight and willingness to “hold this administration accountable for its mistakes and misjudgments”.
Instead of challenging George W. Bush’s assertion that there are no limits on his powers as commander in chief at a time of war, Congress has continuously empowered the executive branch by approving Bush’s policies. Undoubtedly, Congress has played a self-destructing role by helping Bush dismantle the Constitution to realize his vision of “regime change” in the United States.
Against Established Constitutional Laws
Over the last five years, Congress passed major bills that lodged direct assault on the long established constitutional laws:
USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 - Oct. 25, 2001 Senate voted to pass 98-1; Oct. 24, 2001 House voted to pass 357-66. The legislation granted vast unwarranted power to the executive branch to use it against ordinary American citizens in criminal investigations, unrelated to terrorism, against immigrants legally living in the U.S., and against those whose First Amendment activities are deemed as threats to national security.
Extended USA PATRIOT ACT due to expire in December 2005 - Senate voted to reject extension; July 21, 2005 House voted to pass 257-171. The legislature extended 2 and made 14 sections permanent for the secret surveillance provisions.
Renewed USA PATRIOT Act - Mar 2, 2006 Senate voted to pass 89-11; Mar 7, 2006 House voted to pass 280–138.
Issues at stake: Attack on civil liberties (Bill of Rights): USA PATRIOT ACT Section 216 – monitoring computer use, including web surfing; Section 206 – warrantless “roving” wiretapping of individuals; Section 203 – gathering ‘foreign intelligence information’ (targeting immigrants); Section 208 – American citizens, not terrorist suspects, at any time could have their homes searched and communications monitored without probable cause.
Results: The warrantless National Security Agency (NSA) program has been keeping surveillance of telephone calls and e-mails of private citizens. More recently, CIA has been conducting “data mining” through the private financial records of thousands of Americans. Hundreds of immigrants have been arrested, detained, deported and incarcerated without charge of any crime.
A bill to require a report on the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (S.1966) – July 16, 2003 Senate voted to reject 52-42. A measure that would make public a report on the status of individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Issue at stake: Violate detainee’s Fifth Amendment right of due process within American chartered territory: Guantanamo Naval Base.
Results: Amnesty International reported ongoing abuse and torture at the U.S. detention facility where recently 89 detainees went on a hunger strike, and in the last few weeks, 3 detainees committed suicide.
Community Solutions Act of 2001 (H.R.7) - July 19, 2001 House voted to pass 233-198. The Legislature allows the creation of government-funded religion, removing restrictions on religious organizations to incorporate their beliefs into taxpayer-funded social services.
To amend the Community Service Block Grant Act to provide for quality improvements (H.R.3030) - February 4, 2004 House voted to reject 183-232. An amendment to a bill prohibiting employment discrimination based on religion in publicly funded programs run by churches and requiring CSBG programs to be run in a "lawful, secular manner".
Issue at stake: Separation of church and state ordained in the First Amendment that declares: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...."
Results: "Faith-based" groups have received billions of dollars in grants from federal agencies while federal programs have been experiencing drastic funding cuts.
Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2002 (H.R.4965) - July 24, 2002, House voted to pass 274-151. The legislation would ban safe and common methods of abortion called "partial-birth abortions”.
Unborn Victims of Violence Act (H.R.1997) - February 2, 2004, House voted to pass 254-163; March 25, 2004, Senate voted to pass 61-38. The legislation gives legal rights to the fetus as a separate individual from the woman who has been injured. By establishing the status of a fetus as an individual with fundamental rights in federal law erodes the very foundation of the woman’s right to choose abortion.
Issue at stake: Attack on the “right to privacy” for woman to choose abortion. Established as a woman’s constitutional right in the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade case is now facing real possibility of being overturned by Bush’s newly appointed “pro-life” Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.
Results: So far two U.S. states, South Dakota and Louisiana, have signed into law a bill banning most abortions while 14 other states are pursuing the same course of action.
Executive Branch Usurping Power
The Constitution is crystal clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Since 2001, Bush has so far disobeyed more than 750 laws with his signing statements, asserting that he can ignore any act of Congress that conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution. Worse still, Bush has broken so many existing constitutional laws — lying to Americans into fighting his wars, ignoring international treaty obligations at his discretion, authorizing torture of detainees in American custody, and approving warrantless domestic phone tapping — all of which are impeachable offences. Yet, this group of Congressmen wouldn’t even consider putting impeachment of Bush on the table.
The record shows that both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have continuously supported Bush's policies and given him a "blank check" to conduct his increasingly unpopular wars with rising defense budgets. One conclusion could be drawn — Congress share the blame with Bush for creating a constitutional crisis in the United States of America.
(First published on UniOrb.com, July 1, 2006)