Restaurant menu

The American Constitution is not a restaurant menu


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There is a deep divide in the United States, and it is not blue-red or liberal-conservative. It’s between those who believe in law enforcement as it exists and those who think they have the right – through various government authorities – to ignore laws they don’t like. .

The “rule of law” conservatives are a subset of the coalition that elected President Donald Trump. They worried about the vacancy on the Supreme Court (and a hundred federal seats below); executive decrees and regulations that largely overrode existing statutory authority; and the general idea—spreading like kudzu—that duly enacted laws can be ignored by federal, state, and local authorities when they do not suit the perceived “will of the people.”

They were concerned, in other words, with preserving constitutional government.

Sanctuary cities and marijuana legalization laws are examples of local and state governments ignoring federal law. But federal authorities and elected officials who speak out on these matters should look to their own disregard for the law. Two recent examples of Beltway elite anarchy concern the US-Mexico border fence and the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im).

The Secure Fence Act of 2006 called for the construction of 700 miles of fences along the US-Mexico border. Not even the most shameless sophist will claim something like this happened. Well under 100 miles of high fences followed. The federal government set up barriers for vehicles and counted them as “miles” toward compliance, but it’s laughable to claim the law has been implemented in any meaningful way.

Then there is Ex-Im. A small slice of conservatives – those who enjoy “Hayek/von Mises” cruises on the Danube – hate the bank with a passion. Most ordinary Americans don’t know what Ex-Im is, while most who say the US government should of course use “export credits” – subsidies – to help businesses Americans fighting for international trade against foreign competitors backed by their own. government grants. Ex-Im levels an unbalanced international business field. It worked for decades – in the dark, without controversy – until purists decided they needed a ritual sacrifice in the Austrian school. They fought hard to kill Ex-Im. Fine. It is their right. But they lost. And it wasn’t close.

Congress and President Barack Obama reauthorized the bank. In 2015, a supermajority in the House voted to fully fund the Ex-Im after a broad bipartisan coalition broke the blockade of True Believers. In the Senate, the vote was 64 to 29 in favour.

Did the bank then return to action and fund the long line of credit guarantees for American companies awaiting approval? No. About 40 deals, worth $30 billion in US proceeds, are stuck in limbo because anti-Ex-Im assassins prevented the bank’s board from getting a quorum of confirmed members. Without this quorum, transactions over $10 million cannot proceed. Thousands of jobs in the United States are threatened by this lawless filibuster.

Last year, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala. declined to allow the committee to consider confirmation of two pending candidates — a Republican and a Democrat — needed for a quorum. This year, three places are available. Ex-Im is the law, but like the border fence, sanctuary cities, and states claiming to legalize marijuana, the law is being ignored. In each case, the scenario is the same: do we respect our constitutional forms and the laws that these forms produce, or do we have to choose?

Consistency is the key. The ex-im should get his board, the fence should be built, and state and local governments should obey federal law in all matters. (It’s not called the Constitution’s “supremacy clause” for nothing.) You can’t call yourself a conservative if you don’t respect the Constitution over your personal preferences. I’m not sure you can even call yourself a good citizen if you think of the laws of the land as choices on a menu.

The president has drawn the ire of media elites again and again after speaking out on controversial topics. In many of these cases – and especially when it comes to immigration issues and national security leaks – he refers to an underlying anarchy that the public perceives and feels. Social instability is inevitable when protected classes and individuals operate under a set of rules distinct from those that apply to everyone else.

The answer, of course, is to apply federal law as passed — in any case — and insisted upon by the President and the Justice Department. As for sanctuary city advocates, ex-im plotters, marijuana advocates, and border fence haters, they should ask themselves: do we really want government at any level to choose the provisions of the Constitution that will apply today?

This is the arbitrary application of the law. Once the law is what any authority says it is, the result is chaos. Let’s stick to the Constitution. It has been in operation since 1789.

Hugh Hewitt hosts a nationally broadcast radio show and is the author of the upcoming “The Fourth Way: The Conservative Playbook for a Lasting GOP Majority.”

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