Sophie’s Constitutional Choice

An extreme example of the kinds of choices we often face in the political process can be found in the 1979 novel and 1982 movie Sophie’s Choice.  In any just society, parents aren’t asked which of their children they want to live, and in a just system of government, we’re not given conflicting choices between which parts of the constitution we want to keep, and which we will allow to wither.

There are a lot of people who don’t like the D.C. Voting Rights Act, or any of the politicians who will no doubt vote for its passage.  It is a violation of their oath to uphold the constitution if they vote for the bill, many will say.  This is not something I disagree with.  I think giving D.C. representation in Congress legislatively is unconstitutional on its face, as is the compromise granting Utah an extra seat in Congress.  If I were a Congressman, taking my oath seriously, I don’t think I could vote for it even with the pro-gun amendment.  I do hope NRA will only grade the vote on the amendment, rather than on final passage, in that case.

But we are faced with a political Sophie’s choice with the D.C. Voting Rights Act.  Republicans do not have the votes to defeat the bill outright, so the constitution is going to be offended no matter what we do.  This is an inevitable consequence of losing the 2008 elections.  Our choice is between watching the D.C. Voting Rights Act pass without amendment, or attaching an amendment that at least enhances and preserves some part of the constitutional order.  It is not a perfect choice, but I would argue that given that choice, our responsibility is to preserve what we can of the constitution.

7 thoughts on “Sophie’s Constitutional Choice”

  1. Yet another example of why we need a “one bill, one issue” Constitutional Amendment.

    I defy anyone to make good law when they are routinely forced to choose between a bill they can’t vote for and an amendment they can’t vote against (or vice-versa). There is no good choice with this kind of situation, and when campaign season rolls around again, it can be used against the incumbent no matter which way he voted.

  2. It’s especially bad when you realize that it should be described this way- “as is the compromise TEMPORARILY granting Utah an extra seat in Congress.”

    DC gets a permanent Congress Critter (with certainly more to follow) while Utah’s will go away (and possibly then some) after the 2010 census.

  3. I agree with the sentiment, but the problem with such an amendment would be enforcement. Whether an amendment is related or not is entirely in the eye of the beholder. Is the NP carry issue related to the Federal Lands Act?

  4. the question is, does the amendment survive if the bill it is attached to is found unconstitutional in a court?

  5. A better idea would to attach an amendment revoking the MFA rules, that would probably ensure that the bill never came to the floor for a vote.

  6. There aren’t the votes to pass something like that though. There are the votes to pass this amendment. Any amendment which is unpopular enough to kill the bill, is unpopular enough not to get attached in he first place. This one is possible because enough Dems who support the voting rights act also support the pro-gun amendment.

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