Ignoring the Law

April 1st, 2011

Republicans are more and more trying to get away with ignoring the law. Of course, in the past, it has been mostly interpretations, such as that of constitutional law–that the First Amendment doesn’t mandate a separation of church and state, for example, or that the Ninth Amendment effectively does not exist. Recently, we have started to see more examples of Republicans rather blatantly flouting the legal process.

After Republicans in Wisconsin rammed through a law which stripped educators of their collective bargaining rights, Democrats filed a lawsuit pertaining to the process involved in passing the law; pending the outcome of that case, a Wisconsin judge ordered that the law not be published or implemented. Republicans ignored the the judge, publishing it anyway. Laws are published by the Secretary of State in an official publication, which is what the judge order halted. Republicans simply published it on their own elsewhere and claimed that this effectively invalidated the judge’s order.

So the judge reissued the order, noting that the original order was more than clear enough but emphasizing that the law may in no way be published. Again, Republicans ignored the judge, taking only minutes after the second order to publicly claim that the law was in effect and that was that.

Republicans were, effectively, claiming that they could simply ignore the courts. The court was not amused, and the judge issued a terse order stating unequivocally that the law was not published according to law and it was not in effect. Probably knowing the Republicans would simply continue thumbing their noses at the law, the judge threatened sanctions this time if they did not comply. Finally, the Republicans gave in.

They are not the only ones to have unique views on how the rule of law works, however. Republicans in Washington are currently trying to engineer a shutdown of government, held back only by the knowledge that they would, rightly, be blamed for the shutdown. In their latest ploy to make it all seem like the Democrats’ fault, they are presenting a “Prevention of Government Shutdown Act” (so named to give the impression that Democrats have been trying to shut down the government while Republicans have been trying to stop them). That little piece of grandstanding is not so startling as what Cantor, at a press conference, claimed would happen:

On Friday, we will bring to the floor, the Government Prevention of, excuse me, the Prevention of Government Shutdown Act. And that will say to the American people: the Senate’s got to act, prior to the expiration of the CR. If it doesn’t not act, HR 1 becomes the law of the land. [emphasis mine]

Cantor and the Republicans were actually claiming that they could enact a law all by themselves so long as the Senate did not agree to what they demanded. Which, of course, is utter horse manure. Both houses must agree on the exact wording of the bill and then the president has to sign it. To simply claim that House passage alone can make it “the law of the land” is astonishingly stupid.

So said Lawrence O’Donnell, who took Cantor to task for this attempt to ignore not just the law, but the Constitution itself. Apologists for Cantor called it an “error,” as if it were a slip of the tongue Cantor made at the press conference–but that “error” was written directly into the legislation, H.R. 1255, which says:

Deadline for Consideration of Legislation Funding the Government for the Remainder of Fiscal Year 2011- If the House has not received a message from the Senate before April 6, 2011, stating that it has passed a measure providing for the appropriations for the departments and agencies of the Government for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, the provisions of H.R. 1, as passed by the House on February 19, 2011, are hereby enacted into law. [emphasis mine]

There’s no error; Republicans were trying to claim that if the Senate didn’t vote on the issue by a date that Republicans set, the House would just overrule the Senate and roll past the president and make their own law.

One can only assume that, unless the Republicans have gone completely insane–which I am not discounting–that this is precisely nothing more than a PR stunt. After all, for H.R. 1255 to pass, it also would have to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president. However, to assume that this would happen would be complete and utter fantasy. In short, it’s all window dressing, all intended to give the public the impression that everything bad that happens is the Democrats’ fault–that being the cover the GOP is looking for the shut down the government.

Something in me, however, says that there are actually Republicans who believe that they could do this, or at least claim they did it and then hold their breath until they turned red in the face (they would never turn blue, after all). This is the extent to which Republicans have simply stopped recognizing what the law is and instead believe that they can claim that the law is whatever they say it is.

  1. ken sensei
    April 2nd, 2011 at 04:32 | #1

    This is the extent to which Republicans have simply stopped recognizing what the law is and instead believe that they can claim that the law is whatever they say it is.

    Well-said. If only the GOP would put as much time and creativity into actually doing the business of govt as they do reinventing new ways to interpret (and creatively ignore) the laws. Those laws are in place because the American people do not want govt officials reinterpreting and overextending their own powers as legislators. They seem to be missing the whole point of the rule of law.

    You know, there was a very influential piece on 60 Minutes last week exposing how numerous American corporations exempt themselves from paying IRS taxes by exploiting loopholes in tax laws. Simply put, those corporations just rent out a (vacant) office in Switzerland (or Ireland) and declare they are now a Swiss/Irish company, hence by-passing the 35% American tax bracket.

    Granted, US income taxes are the highest in the world, yet it comes as no surprise that our national debt is spiraling out of control without the annual $60 billion in tax revenue hoarded in foreign banks (not to mention the loss in American jobs and the subsequent IRS revenue there).

    Meanwhile, our GOP legislators are turning a blind eye to the blatant lack of responsibility by corporations to help pay down the debt and help provide a safe environment (education, national security, soc security, medicare, etc.) that American workers (corporations included) benefit from. By claiming foreign tax exemptions, those corporations could easily be barred from doing business here in the U.S., (i.e., “either work within the US tax code or take your business elsewhere”) which would surely put a dent in their profits and finally cause corporations to change their tune. Yet the GOP seems to feel no sense of urgency to penalize or regulate those corporations, maintaining only that the govt spends too much on frivolous programs and govt waste….

    Realistically, if you want to reach a balanced budget, you need to make some serious concessions in order to reach an agreement. As a concerned American, all I see is “the Party of ‘No'” spending our taxes like drunken soldiers while they are in office, then suddenly and pretentiously claiming themselves “fiscal conservatives” once the Left (deservedly) takes the White House. Taking away the unions’ bargaining rights is not going to bring jobs back to the States that lost them; on the contrary, it will only empower tax-evading corporations to pay LESS taxes and move MORE jobs overseas.

    Here’s an idea: how about we actually make compromises on both sides of the aisle and meet in the middle since that is what the public elected the legislators to do? Stop inventing illegitimate, self-serving bills and start implementing laws that benefit everyone–not just your wealthy corrupt CEO constituents.

    Hypocrisy is now business as usual for the GOP.

  2. Luis
    April 2nd, 2011 at 11:05 | #2

    Granted, US income taxes are the highest in the world…
    You mean, “marginalU.S. corporate tax rates are among the highest in the world,” right? Personal income tax rates are pretty low in the U.S. as far as developed countries go–in fact, we tax lower than most other industrialized countries.

    And while the marginal (highest-level) corporate tax rate is at the top of the list with Japan, actual corporate tax revenue in the U.S. is, as you suggest, at a historic low. It has to be a matter of reworking the tax code–and then pulling a Republican trick and making any amendment to the corporate tax code highly public and requiring more than just a simple majority.

  3. ken sensei
    April 2nd, 2011 at 14:35 | #3

    Yeah, corporate taxes are roughly 35% here in the States, while other countries are baiting the US corporations with 15-20% tax brackets, according to the report.

    I like your suggestion of reworking the tax code, but the report seemed to indicate that corporations hire teams of tax attorneys who find ways around paying their fair share. Now in your case, you actually live and earn all your income in Japan, so Japan is your legitimate tax home. But in the corporate world, this is done basically by lying about their US tax status (i.e., “our headquarters are now in an abandoned warehouse in Dusseldorf, therefore we are no longer subject to American tax laws…”).

    So I suggested the U.S govt implement a new law that limits business rights within the U.S. to corporations who move their headquarters (and tax homes) overseas.

    I mean, they have exploited the system so that they have the best of both worlds. On the one hand, US corporations, like all Americans, have the protection of the US military and the rights and freedoms that come with US citizenship. But they are getting those rights, protections and freedoms without having to pay for them, essentially freeloading off the system that we pay for through taxes.

    So I say, if they want to claim a foreign tax home, let them relinquish all other rights/benefits that they might otherwise receive. Revoke their American business rights in the US and see if they still want to claim a foreign tax home.

    Too extreme?

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