Entries in Constitution (13)


Missouri Passes Right to Pray Amendment

Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) -- Missouri voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state constitution reiterating individuals’ right to pray publicly and in schools.

On a day when GOP primaries promised the most competitive statewide races, the amendment passed with 83 percent of the vote, with only two precincts still outstanding.  The measure was introduced by Republican state Rep. Mike McGhee andwas  moved onto the ballot by the General Assembly.

The amendment’s official ballot title was as follows:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure:

-- That the right of Missouri citizens to express their religious beliefs shall not be infringed;

-- That school children have the right to pray and acknowledge God voluntarily in their schools; and

-- That all public schools shall display the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution.

Freedom of speech and religion are already protected under the Bill of Rights, prompting critics of the bill to call it unnecessary and a move to trample religious minorities.  Republican lawmakers pursued the measure as a clarification of doubt.

Speaking to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in May, Democratic state Rep. Mike Kelly criticized the amendment as “jobs bill for lawyers.”  The measure also drew opposition from the Islamic Foundation of St. Louis, which voiced fears that the bill sent a message of exclusion to religious minorities.  Missouri’s four Catholic bishops supported the amendment, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


George Washington’s Personal Constitution Up for Auction

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- What did George Washington actually think about the Second Amendment?  What was his view on the role of the Supreme Court?  Did he doodle in the margins?

These questions -- and more -- could be answered when the auction house Christie’s puts Washington’s personal Constitution up for sale.  It’s expected to go for between $2 million and $3 million.

Christie’s is staging a press preview of the Constitution on Tuesday.  The actual auction will be in New York on June 22.

The annotated copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights is from 1789, Washington’s first year as the first president.  He signed it, too.

In 2009, Christie’s auctioned an autographed manuscript of the victory speech Abraham Lincoln gave in 1864 -- that one went for more than $3 million.

Washington’s pocket Constitution is being sold by the estate of H. Richard Dietrich Jr., a collector of colonial American art who died in 2007.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Detail Time for Republican Candidates on Constitution

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON ) -- The Republican presidential candidates are about to get a chance to put some policy meat on the rhetorical bones when it comes to talking about the Constitution.

On ABC’s Top Line Friday, Princeton Professor Robert George, who’s moderating a Republican presidential forum Monday in South Carolina, discussed his role with the American Principles Project.

George—who will question candidates at the American Principles Project Palmetto Freedom Forum alongside Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa—said he plans to press candidates on what they mean when they cite the federal government as growing beyond its constitutional bounds.

“A number of the Republican candidates have made clear that their view is that the national government has grown too big, too intrusive, too expensive. And they have claimed—I think quite plausibly—that there are constitutional questions and not just policy questions at issue here,” George said.

“The trouble is that the Republican candidates who make those claims and arguments have not gone into much detail about their views. And I think it’s time to press those candidates about the details.”

In George’s view, reining in the federal government shouldn’t fall to the Supreme Court exclusively, or even primarily.

“It seems to me that the primary responsibility for ensuring that the national government does stay within its constitutional limits rests with the Congress and the president—with the elected representatives of the people,” he said.

“I would reject any theory that says that Congress and the president should just do whatever they think is best from a policy point of view and then wait for the Supreme Court to tell them whether it’s permissible or not,” he said. “I would add that I think it’s the responsibility of the people—who are sovereign in this constitutional system—the people to police those boundaries by making politicians who transgress the boundaries pay the consequences at the polls.”

And with all the talk about the Tenth Amendment inside the Tea Party movement these days—it “reserved to the States” powers not delegated to the federal government—George explained why the textbooks he assigned in his class in the mid-1990s did not even include that amendment in its index.

“The Tenth Amendment is actually not something that adds a new dimension to the Constitution. It is rather a reminder of the original theory of constitutional government under the original Constitution, before the adoption of the first eight amendments, which we call the Bill of Rights,” he said.

“Now of course, if you talk to Rick Perry, if you talk to Ron Paul, probably a number of the other candidates, they’ll say there’s an additional reason that it’s been forgotten, and that is that the national government has grown too big and too strong and too powerful and that the Supreme Court has walked away since about 1937 from its responsibility to try to hold the national government to its proper constitutional limits and bounds.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


14th Amendment Plan Gains Momentum as Debt Clock Ticks

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As fears intensify that Congress will not pass a debt limit increase in time to avoid default, some Democrats are pulling out their pocket Constitutions to find a back-up plan.

Assistant Minority Leader Rep. James Clyburn, R-S.C., said on Wednesday that if a long-term deal is not struck by Aug. 2, President Obama should sign an executive order raising the debt ceiling without Congressional approval.  He said this action would be justified because of a section in the 14th Amendment that states that “the validity of the public debt...shall not be questioned.”

"I am convinced that whatever discussions about the legality of that can continue," Clyburn said.  "But I believe that something like this will bring calm to the American people, and will bring needed stability to our financial markets."

The argument is that a default would put the “validity of the public debt” in jeopardy, thus violating the 14th Amendment.  And since the president took a vow to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” it would then be his responsibility to ensure that the country does not default.

But constitutional scholars are divided over whether the amendment would, in fact, justify the president to unilaterally take action on the debt ceiling.

Laurence Tribe, a constitutional scholar at Harvard University and one of President Obama’s former professors, told ABC News earlier this month that the 14th Amendment must be upheld by Congress, not by the president.

“It’s a tempting [argument], but I think it’s fundamentally fallacious because it assumes that the executive branch is the branch of government that has the ability to enforce the 14th Amendment.  Section 5 makes clear it is Congress that has that power,” Tribe said.

Obama seems to agree.  At his University of Maryland town hall on July 22, the president said he does not believe he could use the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling, even if there is no agreement by Aug. 3.

"I have talked to my lawyers," he said.  "They are not persuaded that that is a winning argument."

But both the president and the Treasury Department have stopped short of saying Obama will not invoke the 14th Amendment if worse comes to worst.  The idea is tempting, at least, to the president.

“Believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting,” Obama said Monday at the annual meeting of the National Council of La Raza.

If the president does decide to use the amendment, House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson said on Wednesday that “his caucus is prepared to stand behind him.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Health Care Bill Next Up for Appeals Court Challenge

PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou(WASHINGTON) -- A federal appeals court in Georgia Wednesday is poised to hear a challenge brought by 26 states to the Obama administration's health care law.

Although appeals courts in Ohio and Virginia have heard similar challenges to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, Wednesday's case has drawn increased attention because of the number of states involved and because a lower court judge invalidated the entire law when he ruled against the Obama administration in January.

At the heart of the case is the key provision of the law -- the individual mandate -- that requires individuals, with few exceptions, to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax penalty.

Judge Roger Vinson of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida went further than any other judge in January and ruled that Congress had exceeded its authority in passing the mandate and concluded that the rest of the law could not stand without it.

Vinson's ruling won't take effect pending the resolution of the appeal. While an appellate court has yet to rule on the case, three lower court judges have upheld the law and two others have ruled against the Obama administration.

The issue is expected to ultimately reach the Supreme Court.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Big Break for Health Care Reform?

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(RICHMOND, Va.) -- As Justice Department lawyers prepare to defend the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals announced that the arguments -- which mark the first time a challenge to the health care law has been heard by a federal appeals court -- will be heard by three judges who were all appointed by Democratic presidents.

Up until now, the three lower court judges who have ruled in favor of the health care law were appointed by Democratic presidents, and the two who have struck down the law's central provision were nominated by Republican presidents. Now, for the first time, the challenge to the law will be heard by a three-judge appeals court panel; two of the judges were appointed by President Obama and one by President Clinton. The judges are: Diana Motz (Clinton), Andre Davis (Obama) and James Wynn (Obama).

While significant, this does not guarantee a victory for the administration. There is precedent for a judge appointed by a president from one party to rule in a way that might seem favorable to the opposing party.

A statement from the court explained that the judges were assigned by random selection: "The clerk of the court maintains a list of mature cases available for oral argument and on a monthly basis merges those cases with a list of three judge panels provided by a computer program designed to achieve random selection."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Health Care Law Challenge Inches Toward Supreme Court -- Justice Department lawyers are preparing to defend the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration's most celebrated legislative achievement.

The arguments, to begin Tuesday morning, mark the first time a challenge to the health care law has been heard by a federal appeals court.

Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal will argue that the law makes health care coverage widely available, protects consumers from insurance industry underwriting practices, and reduces the cost of uncompensated care that was previously borne by those with health insurance.

But critics say the law is unconstitutional.  They say that Congress exceeded its authority when it passed the main provision of the law that requires an individual to buy health insurance by 2014 or face a tax penalty.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit will hear two cases, one brought by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the other by Liberty University, a private Christian school.

The administration contends that the Constitution empowers Congress to regulate interstate economic activity.  It points to the costs the uninsured have passed on to providers, patients and the insured population.

Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the Attorney General of Virginia, says in court briefs that while Congress can regulate interstate activity, it cannot regulate inactivity.  He says the individual mandate compels people to buy insurance against their will.  Hei also argues that the law conflicts with a state law already on the books that says residents cannot be forced to buy health insurance.

The second case involves a challenge from Liberty University, which does not want to be forced to buy health insurance that might not be "compatible" with its employees' Christian values.  Two Virginia residents, Michele G. Waddell and Joanne V. Merrill, are also a part of the suit.  They argue that they want to manage their health care privately.

So far, three federal district court judges have upheld the law, and two others have found the individual mandate to be unconstitutional.  The three who upheld the law were appointed by Democratic presidents; those who struck it down were appointed by Republicans.

The Fourth Circuit will not announce which judges will make up the panels hearing the cases until the morning of arguments.

It is expected that the issue could reach the Supreme Court as early as next term, in the heat of the next presidential debate.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Despite Recent Interest in Constitution, Many Americans Don't Know It

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The rise of the Tea Party has sparked resurgent interest in the U.S. Constitution and the history that led to drafting it.

The Tea Party caucus has held Constitution classes on Capitol Hill for lawmakers and prompted a reading of the document in its entirety from the House floor.  Members carry printed copies in their front shirt pockets and invoke constitutional slogans in their Tweets and Facebook messages from Congress' halls.

But a survey published this week by Newsweek and an informal ABC News poll of tourists on the National Mall last month found that many Americans remain surprisingly ignorant of the founding document's provisions.

When asked, "What is the supreme law of the land?," 70 percent of the 1,000 citizens polled by Newsweek couldn't answer correctly.

Sixty-one percent didn't know that the length of a U.S. senator's term is six years, 63 percent couldn't name the number of Supreme Court justices on the bench, and 86 percent didn't know that 435 members fill the U.S. House of Representatives.

At the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., dozens of Americans ABC News surveyed didn't fare much better.  Few could recite the opening phrase of the Constitution or list the constitutional requirements to be president.

And while experts say the results aren't new or surprising, the ignorance of many Americans on the details of the Constitution sharply contrasts with their belief in the document and its impact on their lives.

In a recent poll, ABC News found that 63 percent of Americans believe the Constitution affects their lives "a great deal," and 73 percent of them said they're confident they know "some" or a "great deal" of the Constitution's contents. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Is the Libyan Conflict Constitutional?

Paul Tearle/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has chosen his words very carefully since authorizing military action in Libya. He announced the first strikes from Brazil Saturday during a five-day trip through Latin America and described a "limited military action."

Two days later in Chile, he talked about "very short time frames" and "days not weeks." And there was equal caution in El Salvador, where he steered clear of any mention of the word "war." The administration has used such language not only to calm political fears that the United States is on the brink of an open-ended military conflict, but to neutralize arguments from Congress and critics that the president has exceeded his constitutional authority.

Obama officially informed Congress of the attacks two days after the conflict began, saying he had acted pursuant to his "constitutional authority" in a manner "consistent with the War Powers Resolution."

But critics almost immediately questioned whether Obama had the constitutional authority to launch the attack. The actions in Libya reignited a long-standing debate about the scope of executive power to use force without prior congressional approval. "The constitutional lines defining the president's authority to use military force without congressional authority have never been clearly defined and remain subject to substantial debate," Matthew Waxman, an expert on national-security law at Columbia Law School, said.

While the Constitution gives Congress the power to "declare war," it also outlines that the president is the commander in chief of the Army and Navy.

"This division of authority doesn't provide much guidance," Waxman said, "especially with respect to limited uses of force."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Federal Judge: Obama's Health Care Law Unconstitutional

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A federal district judge in Florida has struck down the health care reform law President Obama signed last year, saying its individual mandate violates the Constitution.

The decision from U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson comes in response to a legal challenge by 26 states that claim the health care reform law is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit was filed immediately after President Obama signed the bill into law. The states claim -- and the court ultimately agreed on Monday -- that the law, requiring all Americans to buy health insurance by 2014, is unconstitutional.

So far, two other federal judges have upheld the constitutionality of the law and one federal court judge has struck down a portion of the law.

The case is eventually expected to reach the Supreme Court.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio