Even Bernie Sanders Doesn't Like Kelo:

Even Congress's "lone self-described socialist, Rep. Bernard Sanders of Vermont" doesn't like Kelo:

I disagree with the Supreme Court's decision in Kelo v. New London," Mr. Sanders said. "I believe that the result of this decision will be that working families and poor people will see their property turned over to corporate interests and wealthy developers."

Rep. Maxine Waters, "California Democrat and member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said she is 'outraged' by the decision. 'It's the most un-American thing that can be done.'"

And when is the last time those two agreed with Tom DeLay?

"The Supreme Court voted last week to undo private property rights and to empower governments to kick people out of their homes and give them to someone else because they feel like it," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican. "No court that denies property rights will long respect and recognize other basic human rights."

The Washington Post describes the legislation, co-sponsored by conservative James Sensenbrenner and liberal John Conyers in its story, curiously titled "House Votes To Undercut High Court On Property"

The House measure, which passed 231 to 189, would deny federal funds to any city or state project that used eminent domain to force people to sell their property to make way for a profit-making project such as a hotel or mall. Historically, eminent domain has been used mainly for public purposes such as highways or airports.

The measure, an amendment to an appropriations bill, would apply to funds administered by the departments of Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said they will push for a more inclusive measure that would apply to all federal funds.

A fact sheet said under the bill the locality or state would "lose any federal funds that would contribute in any way to the project the property would be taken for."

Nancy Pelosi, by contrast, agrees with the decision and opposes the legislation:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said she "would oppose any legislation that says that we would withhold funds for the enforcement of any decision of the Supreme Court, no matter how opposed I am to that decision." She then added: "And I'm not saying that I'm opposed to this decision." Arguing that Congress has no business interfering with the ruling unless it wants to amend the Constitution, Mrs. Pelosi said: "This is almost as if God has spoken."

So how about a constitutional amendment that makes it clear as to the limits of the emininent domain power along these lines--"nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation."

What amendment do we need--change the type font to italicize the words "public use"?

[In light of the Supreme Court's recent religion cases, the irony inherent in Congresswoman Pelosi's characterization of the Supreme Court's ruling in Kelo as "almost as if God has spoken" is just too easy, so I'll just let the readers supply their own ironic commentary on that one.]


An even curiouser headline of the same debate from the New York Times:

Republican Lawmakers Fire Back at Judiciary

Stepping up their assault on the federal judiciary, Congressional Republicans announced efforts on Thursday directed at overturning two recent Supreme Court decisions, one that allowed government to claim private property for economic development and another that stripped Kentucky courthouses of the Ten Commandments.

In contrast to the headline, the story notes in paragraph 6:

Illustrating the broad discontent in the House over the court ruling on property rights, House members voted 365 to 33 late Thursday night in support of a resolution expressing "grave disapproval" at the court decision.

It does not note this particular item from the Washington Post story, which I forgot to include in my original post:

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) introduced a similar measure and immediately drew a Democratic co-sponsor, Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.), as well as Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who is number three in his party's leadership. The House bill is sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.). Its Democratic co-sponsors include Reps. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), Maxine Waters (Calif.) and Peter A. DeFazio (Ore.).

And yet the New York Times summary of all of this bipartisan activity is "Republican Lawmakers Fire Back at Judiciary" and that Republicans are "Stepping up their assault on the federal judiciary"?

At the least the Post headline, while implying editorial disapproval of Congress, wasn't as heavy-handed as the Times in turning it into a partisan attack (in fact, to reinforce the implicit message, the only picture in the on-line version of the Times article pictures only Republican lawmakers).

And some wonder why I don't generally read that Times any more? For more reasons, see here.

John Jenkins (mail):
"nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation."

If you want it to actually read the way you're interpreting it, it should be amended to say: nor shall private property be taken, except for public use and on payment of just compensation."

Unfortunately, that will be meaningless because it still leaves "public use" up to interpretation.

The funniest thing (IMHO) about Pelosi's comment is that she doesn't understand the Supreme Court's role at all. The Court has set the boundary of the eminent domain power. There is no requirement that Congress go all the way to that boundry, nor is there any requirement that Congress fund anything ever. Art. 1, ยง 8 of my copy of the Constitution says that funding is completely within the purview of the congress. How is it that the House Minority Leader doesn't understand the relative roles of congress and the supreme court? Can anyone explain that?
7.1.2005 10:58am
How about a bill appropriating federal funds to teach Rep. Pelosi that when the Supreme Court rules that a practice is constitutional, the practice is not mandatory?
7.1.2005 11:13am
How is it that the House Minority Leader doesn't understand the relative roles of congress and the supreme court? Can anyone explain that?

I suppose Rep. Pelosi's view came into vogue once the Court asserted in Casey that through its opinions it was effectively "settling" our national debates concerning controversial issues. How magnanimous of the Court!

Where, in the performance of its judicial duties, the Court decides a case in such a way as to resolve the sort of intensely divisive controversy reflected in Roe and those rare, comparable cases, its decision has a dimension that the resolution of the normal case does not carry. It is the dimension present whenever the Court's interpretation of the Constitution calls the contending sides of a national controversy to end their national division by accepting a common mandate rooted in the Constitution.
7.1.2005 11:18am
Jeffersonian (mail):
I think TZ is assuming too much in declaring a harmony of opinion between the likes of Bernie the Bolshie and Tom Delay. Both oppose Kelo, but for very different reasons.

The Right objects to the taking because it, as a general rule, believes in the institution of private property. The Left, however, is scornful of the decision simply because it benefits wealthy individuals. If the property were taken and handed to, say, ACORN, the Left would be defending it to the hilt.

It's as the old joke about the Puritans opposition to bear baiting, not because it tormented an animal, but because it gave pleasure to the audience.
7.1.2005 11:56am
John Thacker (mail):
The Left, however, is scornful of the decision simply because it benefits wealthy individuals.

Well, a self-described Socialist could be okay with things seized for public ownership, but not private at all.

And I think that much of the Left believes, with excellent justification, that in the specific most actual cases will result in the property of the poor going to the rich, so they'd like a definite rule.
7.1.2005 12:19pm
John P. (mail):
How about leaving the U.S. Constitution as is, and instead encouraging people to amend their state constitutions or other laws and to become involved in local government?
7.1.2005 1:15pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
As a matter of fact, Jeffersonian, the liberal response to this has been unexpectedly muted. You'd think that in a contest between a huge pharmaceutical company and an elderly woman who wants to die in the house she was born in, there'd be no contest, but it isn't so. I've prowled around blogs on all sides the last week, and my impression is that in the blogosphere, at least, all the heat is from the right/libertarian side, and all the blaséness on the other. It's a puzzlement. (I suspect at least part of it has something to do with which judges were on which side, though.)
7.1.2005 1:15pm
What amendment do we need--change the type font to italicize the words "public use"?On another blog's comments I suggested that we amend the Constitution to add, "And we really, really, really mean it, dude." I was duly chastised by a commenter who pointed out that in order to be legally binding at least one of the "reallys" ought to be capitalized.

cathy :-)
7.1.2005 5:32pm
Drew (mail):
One could actually imagine the federal government outlawing the use of eminent domain for economic developement grounds based upon the fact that it interferes with interstate commerce. Unlike the case in Raich such sales actually do affect interstate commerce, as the companies that cities hope to entice are almost uniformly nation wide companies, and are considering offers from cities in other states. Even if they are not the Raich rulling should squarely put them inside the federal governments regulatory authority.

So why isn't congress headed in this direction?
7.1.2005 6:04pm
Victor Krueger (mail):
Really give it teeth. Impose criminal penalties.
Put some CEOs and corrupt city councilmembers in the real federal pen so that they are no longer capable of being constipated and the others will learn not to do that anymore.
7.2.2005 1:09am
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