The following are the bills we use as a reference to generate our Senate Scorecard on the Constitution:
S. 1686, the JUSTICE Act, is a bill to reform the USA Patriot Act and FISA Amendments Act and restore some constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure by the United States Government.
It's a long bill, but the following are some of its highlights. If passed, S. 1686 would:
The JUSTICE Act is not a perfect bill; it does not wholly shutter the program of national surveillance that contravenes the 4th Amendment guarantee against search or seizure without a specific warrant from a judge. But it does move our nation in the direction of greater respect for our constitution and for civil liberty.
S. 3081, if passed, would grant the U.S. government power to imprison its own citizens without criminal charges, without any trial, at without end. Breaking nearly two hundred years of posse comitatus tradition, this legislation would allow the military to round up and hold Americans without evidence of wrongdoing. The new law would forbid the government from telling detained citizens what their rights are. Designations and determinations that could put Americans in military confinement for the rest of their lives would be made at the discretion of the President and the Secretary of Defense. Juries and judges would be forbidden from participating. Nobody in the government would ever have to prove anything. Far from moderate, this legislation gives a few people in charge of the government immense and unquestionable power over the rest of us.
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? S. 424 is a test.
S. 424, 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 Senator Patrick Leahy, 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.
S. 436, 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 other words, S. 436 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. Goodbye, American Internet. Hello, East Germany.
S.Amdt. 1133 to H.R. 2346
After years of waiting through the presidency of George W. Bush, the United States Senate finally was given the chance this year to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and put an end to the abuses there. Torture, arbitrary imprisonment, and the kangaroo courts that mocked the Constitution all could have come to an end. Instead, Senator Daniel Inouye gave us S.Amdt. 1133 to H.R. 2346, legislation that banned the President from moving prisoners out of Guantanamo and into prisons legitimately established with the American system of justice. The excuse for this amendment is that it would pressure President Obama to finally come up with a specific plan for getting prisoners out of Guantanamo. Lawmakers have had years, however, to craft such a plan. There is no more need for delay. On closing Guantanamo, it's time for Congress to act, without reservation, and without excuses. Even one in which a person is held captive in a prison outside the law is a day too long.
S.J. Res 15
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. S.J. Res 15 is a bill before the Senate to remove the pesky impediment of free speech.
S.J. Res 15 would amend the United States Constitution to remove protection for speech that "desecrates" (that is, 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.
S.J. Res 6
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 U.S. Senate are not happy with the Constitution. They want to change it to deny citizenship rights.
S.J. Res 6 is a constitutional amendment that, if passed, would deny citizenship to American-born babies if their parents are not themselves citizens. Such a change would move us toward the German model of citizenship, in which families who have lived in Germany for generations were denied citizenship because they lacked the so-called "virtue" of a German bloodline.
Do you think a German Heimatland notion of blood purity in citizenship belongs in our Constitution? Unfortunately, some of our Senators do.
Boy Raises His Hand: Yes, I Support the Bill of Rights! T-Shirt
One Nation Under Surveillance T-Shirt
Your Flag Will Not Protect You T-Shirt
I've Got a July 4, 1776 Mentality Pro-Constitution T-Shirt
Constitution Scorecard for the U.S. Senate 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 senator to abide by that oath to "support and defend the Constitution". How well has our current crop in the Senate done in abiding 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 of Senators: those who have worked their hardest to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the USA, 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 Senate
The following members of the Senate 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 two major constitutional defense bills before the U.S. Senate during the 111th Congress. Click on a senator's name to discover more about his or her voting and cosponsorship record in detail.
Oath Breakers: Senators most dedicated to an Anti-Constitutional America
The following senators not only have ignored efforts to return to constitutional governance, but have also put their weight behind at least three legislative efforts to erode respect for the Constitution in law. Click on a senator's name to discover more about his or her voting and cosponsorship record in detail.
If you can't find your senator's name on either the honor roll or the dishonor roll, she or he belongs to the passive majority in Congress: who may not support every anti-constitutional bill brought up on the Senate floor but go along with the majority of Senators who would do nothing to stop push of the executive branch to ignore civil liberties and push itself ever further into the living rooms and bedrooms of everyday Americans.
To find out more about your senator's record of voting and cosponsorship, access our overall U.S. Senate 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: