I don’t think this prediction is worth claiming the mantle of Nostrodamus or anything, but just a few days ago I predicted that Tom Delay, with his public standing taking a beating from numerous ethics violations, will become increasingly shrill in pandering to the far right. And here we have a report of his appearance, on videotape, at a conference called “Confronting the Judicial War on Faith” in Washington, wherein he ups the ante even further in the right’s war on the judiciary:
Mr. DeLay faulted courts for what he said was their invention of rights to abortion and prohibitions on school prayer, saying courts had ignored the intent of Congress and improperly cited international standards and precedents. “These are not examples of a mature society,” he said, “but of a judiciary run amok.”
“The failure is to a great degree Congress’s,” Mr. DeLay said. “The response of the legislative branch has mostly been to complain. There is another way, ladies and gentlemen, and that is to reassert our constitutional authority over the courts.”…
Mr. DeLay criticized Congress as failing to act vigorously enough. “I believe the judiciary branch of our government has overstepped its authority on countless occasions, overturning and in some cases just ignoring the legitimate will of the people,” he said. “Legislatures for too long have in effect washed our hands on controversial issues from abortion to religious expression to racial prejudice, leaving them to judges who we then excoriate for legislating from the bench. This era of constitutional cowardice must end.”
Mr. DeLay alluded to Congressional authority to “set the parameters” of courts’ jurisdictions and its obligation “to make sure the judges administer their responsibilities.”
The organizers of the conference and Congressional staff members who spoke there called for several specific steps: impeaching judges deemed to have ignored the will of Congress or to have followed foreign laws; passing bills to remove court jurisdiction from certain social issues or the place of God in public life; changing Senate rules that allow the Democratic minority to filibuster Mr. Bush’s appeals court nominees; and using Congress’s authority over court budgets to punish judges whom it considers to have overstepped their authority.
“I am in favor of impeachment,” Michael Schwartz, chief of staff to Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, said in a panel discussion on abortion, suggesting “mass impeachment” might be needed.
I’ve got a better idea. How about we impeach those in Congress who don’t understand the Constitution, or don’t care what it says? Sorry, Mr. Delay, but Congress doesn’t have “constitutional authority over the courts”. In fact, the Constitution gives very limited authority to Congress where the courts are concerned. Congress is given the power to create courts below the Supreme Court as the need arises, obviously to accomodate changes in population, caseload, and so forth. The only real checks the Congress has over the Supreme Court are the power to confirm judges and the power to impeach. And of course, the power to initiate constitutional amendments. And it’s interesting that he notes the ban on mandatory school prayer as an example of the “judiciary run amok”. If government mandated prayer is not an establishment of religion, then what on earth would be? And the invocation of the “legitimate will of the people” is quite amusing given that Delay just pushed through a constitutionally dubious law in the Schiavo case that the “will of the people” is clearly against according to polls all across the nation – including within his own very conservative district. Thankfully some genuine conservatives, as opposed to conservatives-of-convenience like Delay, see through this ruse:
Judges, including Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and one member of the federal appeals court who heard the Schiavo case, have already been sharply critical of Congressional efforts to interfere with their authority as a violation of the Constitution’s separation of powers. In a recent report, Chief Justice Rehnquist called one such measure “unwarranted and ill-considered” and said “a judge’s judicial acts may not serve as a basis for impeachment.”
I think it’s time to put a stop to such unconstitutional legislative activism on the part of an increasingly arrogant Congress.