The following are the bills we use as a reference to generate our House Scorecard on the Constitution:
Amendment 35 to H.R. 2647
In June of 2009, Congressman Rush Holt introduced Amendment 35 to H.R. 2647 as a countercurrent to the current push for coverup in American military and interrogation activities. Amendment 35 requires military interrogations to be videotaped, with an exception provided at times when there may not be time to set up a camera.
The idea of required videotaping for interrogations is not an external imposition forced upon the military, but an internal recommendation of the Walsh Report in January of 2009, which states:
We endorse the use of video recording in all camps and for all interrogations. The use of video recording to confirm humane treatment could be an important enabler for detainee operations. Just as internal controls provide standardization, the use of video recordings provides the capability to monitor performance and to maintain accountability.The Holt Amendment passed in a roll call vote by a margin of 224-193.
H.Con. Res 274
The United States Constitution is very clear when it comes to the role of religion in American politics. Religion is only mentioned twice in the Constitution, each time forbidding government from using its powers for purposes of religious imposition: "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States," goes the first constitutional declaration, and "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," goes the second constitutional declaration.
But with the introduction of H.Con. Res 274, some members of Congress are attempting to make a law respecting an establishment of religion. If passed, the bill would make it a declaration of Congress that "it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand," and would "encourage the public display" of the phrase "In God We Trust" in every public building and in every public school.
As any student of comparative religion knows, the monotheistic figure God is a particular feature of Abrahamic religion, incompatible with dozens of religious traditions from around the globe including Native American religious tradition, and also incompatible with the religious viewpoint of millions of secular, agnostic and atheist Americans. H.Con. Res 274 is a direct challenge to the First Amendment of the Constitution. Those who support the bill are brazenly sidestepping the Constitution, using government power to establish one religion in all government buildings, one religion in all public schools, one religion over others and over none.
H.J. Res 37
The history of American liberty is expansive; over time we have come to recognize and respect the equality of citizens under the law to a greater degree, by treating non-whites as full citizens, by permitting women to vote, by ending Jim Crow segregation, by ending laws against interracial marriage, and by adding the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which mandates that all people shall receive "the equal protection of the laws."
H.J. Res 37 is a constitutional amendment that would reverse this American expansion of nondiscrimination. It would reverse the 14th Amendment by specifically mandating that same-sex couples be excluded from the right to marry everywhere in the United States. The amendment would also prevent same-sex couples from attaining the same legal status as married couples by an arrangement having a name other than marriage.
H.J. Res. 37, in short, writes discrimination back into the Constitution. That is a step backward.
H.J. Res 47
A law passed to ban the burning of the American flag would be promptly struck down as unconstitutional because the 1st Amendment to the Constitution declares that freedom of speech shall not be abridged. Some consider free speech to be a good thing; others consider it to be an impediment. H.J. Res 47 is a bill before the Congress to remove the pesky impediment of free speech.
H.J. Res 47 would amend the United States Constitution to remove protection for speech that "desecrates" (renders unsacred) the flag of the United States. It would allow people to be thrown in prison for showing disrespect to the American flag.
By declaring the flag to be a sacred object, the sponsors of this constitutional amendment would establish a national civic religion. The dogma of this religion: that it is necessary to dilute actual American freedom in order to protect the symbolic representation of American freedom.
H.J. Res 6
H.J. Res 6 is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that reads:
"Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit individual or group prayer in public schools or other public institutions. No person shall be required by the United States or by any State to participate in prayer. Neither the United States nor any State shall prescribe the content of any such prayer."
The words Nothing in this Constitution are crucial, because they overrule all other previous elements of the Constitution, including ones that safeguard American minorities against the tyranny of pushy, proselytizing majorities. The 1st Amendment, which prohibits the use of government to establish religion? Gone, to be overruled by this Amendment. The 14th Amendment, which promises equal protection under law? Gone, to be overruled by this Amendment. The demand in Article VI of the Constitution that there be no religious test for office or public trust in the United States? Gone, to be overruled by this Amendment.
This Amendment states that no individual person shall be forced to engage in prayer, that's true. But that doesn't mean that students at public elementary schools, for instance, couldn't be forced to witness such prayer over and over again on stages and over loudspeakers and through distributed tracts. And if this Amendment were to become part of the Constitution, there would be nothing to bar public school principals from being hired on the basis of their willingness to stand in front of the school every day and offer loud, public prayers to Jesus. There would be nothing to bar public school principals from hiring teachers on the basis of their willingness to stand in front of their classes every hour to offer prayerful thanks to the principal's parochial understanding of God. There would be nothing to bar public school districts from allocating large sums of public money for proselytizing prayer-based religious education of students in public schools. All "voluntary" nominally, to be sure. All meant to push a religion upon others... ...because prayers that do not impose upon others are already constitutionally protected. Jo Ann Emerson, the principal sponsor of this Constitutional Amendment, mentions schools in particular because she knows that the minds of school children are malleable to influence. Even when school prayer is "voluntary," if it is ever-present it will have its effect. Government schools (and other public institutions) will be turned into agents of whichever church has the greatest numbers, the most money and the most powerful lobbyists.
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States. Nor shall any State deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. These are the American standards of nondiscrimination, chiseled into our legal bedrock in the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. How seriously do members of Congress take this section of the U.S. Constitution? H.R. 1024 is a test.
H.R. 1024, the Uniting American Families Act, is a bill which aims to put into closer compliance with the U.S. Constitution by removing discrimination according to the status of permanent couples. According to law, same-sex couples in permanent relationships cannot marry; only different-sex couples can. The creates two classes of couple in the United States. They are separate. Are they equal? Not currently. Under current immigration law, married immigrant spouses of citizens and permanent residents have a preferred route toward gaining permanent resident status themselves. Unmarried partners of citizens and permanent residents have this avenue closed to them. That is unequal treatment under law for immigrants under American jurisdiction, and it is an unequal abridgment of legal privilege for the citizens whose permanent partners wish to join them.
Introduced by New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler, the Uniting American Families Act would end this status discrimination by amending various the immigration laws that discriminate against same-sex couples when one member of a couple is a citizen or permanent resident and the other is seeking citizenship or residency status.
H.R. 104 would create a commission to investigate a bipartisan commission 'on presidential war powers and civil liberties'. The commission would investigate the extraordinary powers claimed for the Presidency under George W. Bush, including arbitrary and indefinite imprisonment, extraordinary rendition of detainees to foreign countries to be tortured, cruel and coercive interrogation techniques by American authorities and the 'ghosting' of detainees so that the American public doesn't know they have been detained. The commission would have the power to hold hearings and compel testimony by subpoena, and would issue reports to the President and to Congress. Knowing the past is key to change in the future.
H.R. 1076, also known as the Internet Safety Act, would require all internet service providers, including small-scale providers such as coffee shops, hotels, libraries and even people at home with wireless routers, to collect and maintain databases recording all identifying information about every person who uses the internet, keeping that information for 2 years so that the government can look at it on request.
What's more, the law also punishes with up to 10 years in a federal prison anyone who has a discussion board, a blog, or even a guestbook set up so that people can post pictures on it, since that would be a "facilitation" of child pornography. It doesn't even matter whether the person intends to use the guestbook for nefarious purposes or realizes that other people could do the same.
In short, H.R. 1076 would penalize people who allow anonymous or pseudonymous posting of images on the Internet, and would require ISPs to act as pre-emptive spies on the rest of us.
H.R. 1467, the "Safe and Secure America Act of 2009," lets the government continue to obtain information on you without a warrant, to engage in continued roving wiretaps, and to designate people suspected of doing things that might be activities that might end up in a terrorist act as legally equivalent to a spy for the KGB.
These are provisions of the Patriot Act that are set to expire on December 31, 2009. H.R. 1467 would keep them going for another ten years.
Did you know that if you're crossing into or out of the United States, U.S. agents have declared the right take your electronic gear and data from you without the requirement of probable cause or a warrant? If the government makes its seizure on the border, it has decided it may keep what it takes indefinitely, and there is no regulation over what the government can do with whatever data it finds. There is no requirement for the government to inform the person whose property and private information it has confiscated.
To bring information about these warrantless seizures to the light of day and provide some accountability for what the government does, Rep. Loretta Sanchez has introduced H.R. 1726, the Border Security Search Accountability Act. If passed, Sanchez’ bill would require:
* sensitive, proprietary and/or personal information to be protected under current laws applying outside the border;
In short, Rep. Sanchez’s bill creates some initial limitations on the government’s border search powers while collecting the information necessary to raise awareness and address the problem in a systematic and informed way. It is a step in the right direction.
The way that U.S. citizenship works is pretty simple when you get down to it: if you are born in this country, you are a citizen. That's the standard set out in the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. But some members of the House of Representatives are not happy with the Constitution. They want to deny the constitution's presumption of citizenship rights, to take away the citizenship of kids born in America.
That's not an exaggeration. H.R. 1868 is a bill designed to remove the guarantee that what makes you an American is being born in the USA. This bill, inappropriately named the Birthright Citizenship Act, actually takes away birthright citizenship from people born in the USA if their parents aren't permanent residents or citizens. This is the old German Heimatland model of citizenship rights guaranteed by proper bloodline. Should America go down that road?
H.R. 2704 is a bill to shut down the National Applications Office (NAO) in the Department of Homeland Security.
The NAO is a program to use military satellites to engage in surveillance of American people in American homes, American businesses and American public places. This military surveillance in domestic territory is in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act that forbids the U.S. military from being used for domestic purposes. The surveillance is done on Americans without the warrants from a judge that the 4th Amendment to the Constitution requires. The NAO is to share all this information with law enforcement officials at the state, federal and local level. Yes, this means that your local sheriff could be using military spy satellites to spy on you.
To the members of Congress who have failed to cosponsor H.R. 2704, domestic deployment of the military to spy on Americans without so much as a warrant doesn't seem to be a big deal. For those members of the House who feel that violations of the Constitution, violations of Americans' privacy and the creeping infiltration of the military into civilians' lives are significant problems, cosponsorship of H.R. 2704 is imperative.
Substantively, the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy weakens the strained U.S. military by kicking people out with good service records. There is a more formal problem with DADT as well: the policy to discriminate, to kick people out of the military because of their sexual orientation, is a violation of the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Donít Ask, Donít Tell Repeal Act of 2010 not only lends substantive benefit to the military and to lesbian and gay servicemembers, but also strengthens constitutional government.
In part of its continuing bid to assert the nature of America as a "Christian Nation" with unique privileges for Christianity in government, the Congressional Prayer Caucus has brought H.R. 3477 to the floor of the House of Representatives. It's called the CHURCH Act of 2009, and if that isn't enough to tip you off, consider the acronym when it's all spelled out: the full name of the legislation is the Congressional Hope for Uniform Recognition of Christian Heritage Act of 2009. The bill would mandate a plaque to be erected in Capitol Hill's Statuary Hall declaring that there is "no problem with having nondenominational Christian services in government buildings," that the U.S. Government should favor Christianity and a return to preaching of "Christian doctrine in this Chamber" and only restrain itself to "not choose an official Christian denomination." H.R. 3477 stands in opposition to the First Amendment clause against the use of government to establish religion.
Essential to the structure of the Constitution is the concept of the balance of powers between the three branches of government. That balance was disturbed in November of 2001, when George W. Bush issued Executive Order No. 13233. That executive order thwarted the intention of the law by declaring that sitting presidents, former presidents, and even the heirs of former presidents, would have the power to deny the release of public White House records.
Congress and the Judicial Branch cannot check the power of the White House without knowledge of the Executive apparatus that the White House has put into place. Bush executive order interfered with the system of government oversight and review the Constitution put into place. The Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2009, H.R. 35, ended this interference by specifically counteracting Executive Order No. 13233.
The Constitution and Citizenship Day Act of 2009 establishes a small grant program to fund the creation of curricula teaching high school students about the history and content of the United States Constitution, using the event of Constitution Day (September 17) as an anchor.
The Military Commissions Act is one of the worst laws to be passed by Congress during the Bush years. It revoked the ancient protection of the writ of habeas corpus, enabling arbitrary and indefinite imprisonment. The law ended the right to a fair and speedy trial, setting up a system of kangaroo courts that could operate under absurdly unjust standards. The law gave retroactive immunity to the President and his aides for war crimes. It created unconstitutional exceptions to the Geneva Conventions. It made hearsay and evidence obtained under coercive interrogation admissible.
Under President Barack Obama, the Military Commissions Act is still on the books. It is true that the prisons of Guantanamo Bay and other "black sites" run by the U.S. around the world will be closed... but the laws that enabled them remain in effect. As long as the Military Commissions Act remains on the books, any closure of prisons like those at Guantanamo will be purely voluntary... and wholly reversible.
The surest way to overcome this problem is not just to rely on the trustworthiness of the President of the United States, but to enact a law that specifically contradicts and counteracts the Military Commissions Act. U.S. Representative David Price has introduced legislation to do just that. Itís H.R. 591, the Interrogation and Detention Reform Act. It does away with the unconstitutional military tribunal system. It does away with torture interrogations. It repeals the repeal of habeas corpus and returns constitutional legal protections to the American justice system. Those members of Congress who support H.R. 591 show the most fidelity to their oath of office pledge that they defend the liberties inherent in the Constitution of the United States.
Motion to Concur on Patriot Act
On February 25, 2010, the House of Representatives passed an extension of Patriot Act provisions for spying on Americans without establishment of probable cause or so much as a demonstration that the person being spied upon is even tangentially connected to terrorism. This reauthorization of the most controversial of Patriot Act powers made it through the House hidden within Medicare legislations and contained no reforms whatsoever.
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U.S. House Constitution Scorecard from That's My Congress
House Scorecards: Overall | Discrimination | Environment | Constitution | Economy | LGBT
Senate Scorecards: Overall | Discrimination | Environment | Constitution | Economy | LGBT
"I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion..."
This is the oath of office that each member of Congress speaks before taking ahold of the reins of office. It is the duty of each Representative in Washington, DC to abide by that oath to "support and defend the Constitution". How well has our current crop in Congress done to abide by this oath: to defend free speech, freedom of peacable assembly and dissent, freedom from government establishment of religion, freedom from warrantless search and seizure, equality for all under law, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment and numerous other constitutional guarantees to We the People of the United States and all others under its jurisdiction? Drawing from roll call votes and declared support for pending bills (an act called "cosponsorship") we have identified two sets in the House: those who have worked their hardest to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, and those who have broken their oath to defend the Constitution in pursuit of power and electoral expediency.
Promise Keepers: the Strongest Defenders of the Constitution in the House
The following members of the House of Representatives are most strongly engaged in activities to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, placing their names in formal support of at least six major pro-constitution bills during the 111th Congress. Click on a representative's name to discover more about his or her voting and cosponsorship record in detail.
Oath Breakers: Members of Congress Most Starkly Bent on a Liberty-Free America
The following U.S. Representatives have not only sat out on efforts to return to constitutional governance, but have also put their weight behind at least six legislative efforts to erode respect for the Constitution in law. Click on the name of one of these members of the House to discover more about his or her voting and cosponsorship record in detail.
If you can't find your representative's name on either the honor roll or the dishonor roll, she or he belongs to the passive majority of Congress. The passive majority may not support every anti-constitutional bill brought up on the House floor but go along with the majority of representatives. The passive majority does nothing to stop the push of the executive branch for more and more power to observe and control the behavior of everyday Americans.
To find out more about your member of Congress' record of voting and cosponsorship, access our overall House of Representatives rankings here.
News on the Constitution and Politics
Read below for the latest coverage of discrimination-related political developments from That's My Congress and Irregular Times: