Archives for category: This Is Common Sense with Paul Jacob

The current blather about the dying wishes of RBG, and of the lack of consideration for Merrick Garland, and of norms and traditions, etc., appears little more than the partisan bickerings of people who lust for power.

Popular discussion of constitutional law and politics is in a pretty sorry state.

Pull out your pocket constitutions, Americans!

If they did, what would they learn relevant to the current brouhaha regarding filling a newly opened seat on the Supreme Court?

“The President . . . shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court. . . .”

The Constitution of the United States, from Article II, Section 2.

Note that the President of These United States does not have an obligation to appoint judges at any given time, or labor under any prohibition as to any period in which such appointments might be made. The Senate, also, lacks constitutional obligation to advise or consent. These are Powers. Powers are not obligations. Powers may be optionally applied.

Elementary stuff, no?

There is also no specification for the number of judges to sit on the “supreme Court.” Nine has become traditional. There could be more, there could be less. There is no requirement for maintaining an odd number on such courts, the odd (as opposed to even) number being merely convenient for deciding split votes.

Paul Jacob (see Common Sense with Paul Jacob) has argued the case for reducing the number of Supreme Court justices to seven. I concur. That might be a good idea. How would we get rid of one? I would go for the frank racist on the court, Sotomayor. But Paul also wants term limits for the justices of the Supreme Court. I suggest establishing terms first. At present Supreme Court justices serve for life. Establishing terms of duration, requiring reappointment, makes sense to me. As with limits on the number of terms in office, establishing mere terms would require a constitutional amendment.

But current debate is a far cry from this level of deliberation. The Democrats have a lot to work through. Not getting what they want — something I have always had to deal with! — may be an elementary burden of democracy, but not, apparently, of the current culture of The Democracy.

twv

The inconsequential specter of Merrick Garland.

What should we do about Washington?

I am not talking about the state I live in, the Evergreen State. I’ll talk about that by-and-by (al-ki). I refer, of course, to the hapless buffoons who live in the federal government’s District of Columbia.

They say they want a bigger vote in federal elections.

OK. They can. Right now. No legislation; no constitutional amendment required.

They could move.

One of the costs of choosing to live in the imperial central district is not having complete representation by the means designed for the states.

This still being a nominally free country: pick up stakes and head across the border. Why, it might take you a few miles — or mere blocks — away.

Many people move from Illinois to escape the poisonous Chicago politics; hordes exit New York State to escape the politics of the Big Apple; scads leave the failed state of California for Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, and elsewhere.

Paul Jacob, with whom I usually agree, suggests something a little more political:

“I was born without representation, but I swear,” Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser vowed last week, “I will not die without representation.”
She has a point: 700,000 D.C. residents lack a voting representative in Congress. 
On Friday, the U.S. House passed legislation — 232 to 180 with 19 members hiding in the cloakroom and refusing to vote — to make the nation’s capital city the 51st state. Not merely garnering a U.S. Representative, but also a lifetime guarantee of two U.S. Senators. 
“D.C. will never be a state,” counters President Trump, explaining that Senate Republicans would be “very, very stupid” to allow two new U.S. Senators who are nearly certain to be Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly announced the Senate would not take up the bill.
But Republicans are not the only ones blocking representation. 
As Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) pointed out, Maryland had originally ceded some of the land to create the federal District of Columbia, and could now take back the residential areas. Those citizens would add their own House rep for Maryland and be represented by Maryland’s two U.S. Senators.
Democrats refuse. Why? Because it is not about representation. The city must be turned into a state so that two new Democratic U.S. Senators can be pulled out of a hat.
There is yet another path to representation. Make a bi-partisan deal to add two states. In addition to the State of Columbia (51), add the State of Jefferson (52) — comprised of 21 northern counties trying to secede from the rest of California. 
Better representation. No partisan advantage. Problem solved.
If anyone were interested in that.

Paul Jacob, “The State of X and Y,” June 29, 2020.

While I think it important to break up California — into several pieces, not just splitting off Jefferson — this plan sounds too complicated for the idiots Americans have become.

But my alternate plan is . . . less complicated?

Take the residential/commercial area of Washington. Split it into two, north and south. Give back the north half to Maryland and the bottom half to Virginia (I know, it would bulge out the border: deal with it). Call the two new cities North Washington, Maryland, and South Washington, Virginia. The remaining area of federal government parks and buildings would still be the District of Columbia. It would NOT be called Washington. Just the District of Columbia. It would be run completely by Congress and the President.

As Pat writes in a comment to Paul Jacob’s piece, this would require a bit of finagling, constitutionally:

[T]he Constitution would need to be amended to repeal the 23rd Amendment, which gives DC three electoral votes, since they would get their representation from Maryland. One benefit is the Electoral College would be reduced to 535 and so you would never have a tie in the presidential race. Given that only Delaware has a smaller population than DC, it’s likely that the DC residents will find themselves part of a much larger district and might even be split up when new district maps are drawn.
Even if DC became a state, the EC would go down to 537 after reapportionment, since Congress has limited the House to 435 members. Columbia’s House representative (only Delaware has a smaller population than DC) would be taken away from one of the other states, unless Congress also modified the reapportionment act that was passed early in the last century. The additional representative would be a temporary measure.

I am with commenter 2WarAbnVet on Paul’s page: I really do not want the District to become a state, no matter how named. Statehood for the imperial capitol city seems a horrendous idea.

Why?

For the same reason as allowing federal government workers the vote in federal elections is a bad idea: corruption. Bad incentives. And, considering the small size of the district, too much voting power. The federal government does not need more influence by insiders. Though most of the people there are not exactly influential, they live in and around the federal government.

Corruption, like paranoia, strikes deep, and into your tent it will creep.

I’m no barn-burner. But I am a tent-burner!

twv