Point of order, Mr. Speaker!

If you think the individual mandate is beyond the enumerated powers of the Congress, where do you get off voting for a federal criminal law against sex-selective abortion?

Under which of the enumerated powers of the Congress may it impose criminal sanctions on physicians for the otherwise lawful practice of medicine based on the intentions of their patients?

Anyone who claims that the individual mandate is unconstitutional but a Congressional ban on sex-selective abortion is constitutional must be either a fool or a con artist. That includes the vast majority of the House Republicans, who voted both to challenge the mandate and to pass the sex-selective abortion ban.

Fearless prediction: No substantial right-leaning pundit will complain.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

24 thoughts on “Point of order, Mr. Speaker!”

  1. Nah, you got a point. Most Republicans are almost entirely unprincipled, which distinguishes them in no way from most Democrats.

    Note, however, Ron Paul’s Nay vote.

    It’s an interesting dynamic, though: Since Republicans believe in limits on government power, (Though only nominally believing it in the case of federal officeholders.) and Democrats do not, Republicans, Democrats insist, may do little to advance their agendas at the federal level, while Democrats can do anything they please.

    It’s the old story: Got to claim to have principles to be called a hypocrite. But that doesn’t make Democrats better, it means they aren’t even hypocrites.

    1. Since Republicans believe in limits on government power […] and Democrats do not,

      Clearly you don’t place much value on your own credibility.

      Come on, Brett. Why would you write stuff that everyone here knows is nonsense? Should we conclude that this clowning around is the best and most convincing argument in favor of your positions? Because that’s certainly the impression you’re conveying here.

      1. J — Why did you insert the ellipsis, then make that ad hominem attack, pretending to ignore Brett’s acknowledgement?

        1. Because the statement from Brett is a Damn Lie.
          Democrats do believe in limits to government power, thank you very much. They also believe in limits to corporate power.

        2. At what level do Republicans believe in limits on government power? Going by actual votes at all levels of government it looks like the only government power Republicans actually believe in limiting is the power to inconvenience rich people. Republicans at all levels love themselves some government power when it comes to telling other people how to live their lives.

        3. Huh? You really need to work on the reading comprehension, Ken.

          The ellipsis in my comment replaced the following text from Brett’s comment: “, (Though only nominally believing it in the case of federal officeholders.)”

          That ellipsised text is a claim by Brett about Republicans.

          My response to Brett was pointing out the absurdity of Brett’s claim about Democrats. Brett specifically said that Democrats do not believe in limits on government power.

          The text I removed was irrelevant to that point. Brett’s “acknowledgment” (as you put it) that Republicans believe X has absolutely no bearing on the absurdity of his statement that Democrats believe Y.

          Brett’s statement was ridiculous. It’s not my ellipsis that made it look ridiculous. Saying Democrats don’t believe in limits on government power marks the writer as a clown, or a liar, or insane. I’m sorry if that blunt language offends your sensibilities.

          1. The basis of that claim is that I know of nothing, absolutely nothing, that Democrats think is a good idea, that they will admit the government has no power to do. Democrats will occasionally say that the government has no power to do something, but only in the context of things they think the government shouldn’t do.

            This being the case, what we’re really looking at is claims of limits on government power as just a rhetorical tool to oppose policies, not actually as an independent belief in limits.

            Contrast this with, say, Ron Paul. He routinely votes against measures he says he thinks are a good idea. This is because he genuinely believes there are things the federal government has no authority to do.

            You don’t. You just think there are things it shouldn’t do. That’s not at all the same thing. But, what can you expect of living constitutionalists? How can there be something that’s a good idea and unconstitutional, when you’re defining constitutionality on the basis of whether a policy is a good idea?

          2. Brett, if that is what you genuinely believe, then you’re totally unqualified to comment in any thread about politics, because you don’t have the faintest understanding of the people you’re arguing with.

          3. I probably shouldn’t even dignify Brett’s trolling with a response. But here goes.

            Democrats believe that the power of government is constrained by the US constitution, the Bill of Rights and other amendments, state constitutions, etc. To ensure that these constraints are respected, we vote for candidates we believe will act responsibly, and we join groups like the American Civil Liberties Union.

            The ACLU — a majority of whose members are probably Democrats or Democratic-leaning — has a long and glorious history of standing up for the rights of unpopular individuals and groups.

            I don’t want the Klan or the Nazis to march through my town, but I support the ACLU’s efforts to safeguard their legal right to do so.

            I don’t want Brett Bellmore to pollute the internet with glibertarian trollery, but I don’t think government has the power to make him stop. I’d prefer that he stop because he has a change of heart and repents of his trollish ways.

            When you write nonsense like “Democrats don’t believe in limits on government power” you just make yourself look like an idiot.

          4. My first-approximation introspection is that when I think the government doesn’t have the power to do something, that’s part of my definition of “not a good idea [for a government action]”. What kind of thing does Ron Paul categorize as “good ideas that government is nevertheless not authorized to implement?” I rather uselessly Googled “Ron Paul good idea” — first hit is “for the US to declare bankruptcy” — and “Ron Paul opposed”, which brings up things like “The Civil Rights Act”. So for instance, when RP says that he is/was against the Civil Rights act on limitations-of-powers grounds, does he add that he regrets that the government doesn’t have that power? If not, what allows you (Brett) to say that he thinks it would otherwise be a good idea? Obviously, if you think that’s a bad example, pick another.

          5. = = = Democrats believe that the power of government is constrained by the US constitution, the Bill of Rights and other amendments, state constitutions, etc. = = =

            Well, I’m a liberal, and I generally vote for Democratic candidates (always since 2000). I do believe that the power of the US government is constrained by the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. And I believed that the current leader of the Democratic Party and President, Barack Obama, believed that too, particularly after his inauguration speech. But in fact that turned out not to be so, and it pains me to admit it but Mr. Bellmore has a point in that Democrats claimed to be deeply opposed to certain actions (e.g. of Richard Cheney, Irving Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, etc) until they held the levers of power themselves; then not so much.


            PS Mr. Bellmore: crickets.wav

          6. […] it pains me to admit it but Mr. Bellmore has a point in that […]

            That’s your point. Please don’t make excuses for Mr. Bellmore, who was just plain wrong, and offensively so.

            I’m a Democrat. I believe in a government that actively promotes the general welfare but that also is limited in its powers by the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

            Mr Bellmore claims that I — and millions of people like me — don’t exist. That annoys me. It’s doubly annoying to see someone who ought to know better cheering Mr Bellmore on from the sidelines.

          7. so, once again i ask which analogy is most apt in describing an extended discussion with brett bellmore?

            a–nailing pudding to the wall

            b–herding cats

            c–loading mercury with a pitchfork

            d–abandon hope all ye who enter here

            for the record, i still lean to c.

          8. “The ACLU — a majority of whose members are probably Democrats or Democratic-leaning — has a long and glorious history of standing up for the rights of unpopular individuals and groups.”

            And lately catches hell for doing so, as in the case of the CU decision; An ACLU success which got such a hostile reception from liberals that the ACLU convened a special meeting to consider reversing it’s position.

            And this is not a counter-example, the ACLU believes freedom of speech is a good thing, so they admit it’s a constitutional right. They disapprove of gun ownership, so, even post-Heller, will not admit it’s a constitutional right. They approve of abortion rights, so their absence from the Constitution stands irrelevant. Indeed, let me quote Nadine Strossen:

            “Putting all that aside, I don’t want to dwell on constitutional analysis, because our view has never been that civil liberties are necessarily coextensive with constitutional rights. Conversely, I guess the fact that something is mentioned in the Constitution doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a fundamental civil liberty.”

            The ACLU only defends the rights it approves of, regardless of whether they are or aren’t mentioned in the Constitution. They’re not a counter-example to my statement.

          9. So, Brett. When Democrats support a limitation on government power that is popular on the left, it doesn’t count because they’re just defending what they all think is a good thing anyway. And when they support a limitation on government power that isn’t popular on the left, that doesn’t count either, because the fact that it’s not a popular position shows that Democrats don’t support limits on government power.

            The fact is, you have to resort to these kinds of heads-you-lose, tails-I-win games because you said something that was prima facie nonsense and you can’t really defend it. I gave you a perfectly good example: virtually all Democrats loathe the idea of the Nazis or the KKK being allowed to march through their towns. But many of those same Democrats concede that the limits on government power set forth in the first amendment override their distaste for the Nazis and the KKK.

            You try to wave that away by declaring that it doesn’t count because I generally think free speech is a good thing. So I only get credit for supporting limits on government power that I think are bad? That makes no sense! What if I happen to believe that the general shape of powers and limits set forth in the constitution and bill of rights is pretty much correct? By your logic, if I actually think all the limits on government power that define our society are good, then I don’t believe in any limits on government power!

            Just … give up, Brett. When you’re that deep in a hole, the thing to do is stop digging. And in this case, apologizing to the RBC readership wouldn’t be inappropriate, for having wasted our time on such nonsense.

          10. Brett, at a certain point you’re demanding that liberals oppose things that they favor, and favor things they oppose, or else we have no principles. That’s not going to fly.

            The ACLU example is completely on point. For example, I think all members of the ACLU would argee that it is a bad thing when Fred Phelps shows up at military funerals and announces that the deceased deserved it because God Hates Fags. And yet, the ACLU is opposed to the government preventing them from doing so, as here:


            The fact that the ACLU has done othere thing that you don’t think meet this description doesn’t matter. It’s still what you claim you were looking for.

            Now, again: what’s something that conservatives think “would be a good idea”, but oppose on small-government grounds, and ONLY those grounds?

          11. Cross-posted with the one previous to my previous, which says pretty much the same thing.

  2. And of course Florida conservatives passed a bill not long ago, signed by Medicare fraudster Governor Rick Scott, forbidding pediatricians from asking patients about guns in their homes.

    No worries then about constitutionality, First Amendment rights, etc. The law was intended to carry a $5 million penalty, but that was reduced to “only” loss of license. These people are insane.

  3. Republican voters are indeed frequently less than sane, and often are fools, and of course many are con artists as well. But as to Republican politicians, the correct adjective is evil.

  4. “Anyone who claims that the individual mandate is unconstitutional but a Congressional ban on sex-selective abortion is constitutional must be either a fool or a con artist.”

    Well, no, not at all, since those two issues relate to completely different parts of the Constitution. A strict originalist could argue that the scope of the Commerce Clause was intended to be much narrower than the Supreme Court has held it to be, and that the right of privacy, upon which the right to abortion is premised, is not literally in the Constitution and hence no right to privacy should exist. They might also argue, albeit with greater difficulty, that an abortion ban is within the scope of the Commerce Clause (especially if women engaged in interstate travel in order to find a doctor who was willing and able to perform abortions)

    Or, one could argue that Congressional power over commerce extends only to those who willingly engage in commerce, such as abortion doctors, and not to those who decline to do so, such as individuals who do not wsnt to buy health insurance.

    Indeed, I would think that before 1930, if not much later, many legal scholars and many Americans would claim that the individual mandate is unconstitutional but that a ban on sex-selective abortion is constitutional. Surely, they were not all fools and con men.

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