The Gloves are Off
Crooked Timber has a short post upset about some Republican amendment.
So, there was a state-sponsored display of the Ten Commandments in front of the Gibson County Courthouse in Princeton, Indiana. Some citizens brought it to court, arguing that it was unconstitutional, and won.
Indiana Republican Representative John Hostettler introduced an amendment to a spending bill that would “prohibit funds in the Act from being used to enforce the judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in the case of Russelburg v. Gibson County.” Says Benen, “In other words, Hostettler would prevent the federal judiciary from enforcing its own court order. Gibson County could refuse to comply with the law and the judge couldn’t send marshals to resolve the problem.”
Ted notes that this makes a farce of the Court's authority, if they're decisions can go unenforced via an act of the majority in Congress. Other famous examples of disrespecting the other powers have involved the other two branches. President Jackson famously said "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it." More recently, President Nixon routinely used to not spend funds that Congress would allocate to different departments. And our liberal intellectual cries at how not only does this accomplish some extreme conservative goal, but also weakens these institutions as existing in anything but adherence to the dominant political party.
"Separation of powers" and other aspects in our Constitution do not absolutely function in their ideals and legalisms. They rely on politicians to respect the authority of other branches, who may disagree with them. This is not the natural condition of an idealist. An idealist thinks God is good, or abortion is wrong, and nothing else matters. For what reason would Hostettler remove this sculpture if it was in his power to keep it?
Power exists and people want to use it. In our system, that power is generally equivalent to "the will of the majority". When it's not, that will shall seek to take it. If the Constitution can only work as a check when representatives allow themselves to be checked then... well to be it in the nicest terms, it is unrealistic to rely on those checks.