Republicans Pushing Mandates on State Courts

House Rules Committee: “Violate Your Oath No Matter How You Vote!”

It’s a stunning betrayal of all those hardworking, pro-Constitution Americans who gave U.S. House Republicans their majority.

Republicans controlling the House Rules Committee have added sweeping new mandates on the states to a bill repealing part of Obamacare. The result is revised H.R. 5.

Just on good government grounds, those two very different items do not belong in one bill. But what is particularly thuggish is how it forces conscientious members of Congress to violate their solemn oath to uphold the Constitution. If you vote “aye,” you get the unconstitutional mandates. If you vote “no,” then you vote to retain an unconstitutional part of Obamacare.

It’s really true.

THE BACKGROUND

THE FIRST PART of revised H.R. 5 is a resurrected zombie that was the original H.R. 5. Although promoted as “medical malpractice reform,” the measure is actually a big step toward federal control of state court systems. Essentially, it’s a lengthy set of mandates telling state and federal judges how to run their own courts whenever they deal with any health-care-related personal injury cases. I’ve written on this subject before, so only a short take is necessary here.

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The Little-Known – but Seminal – York Town Convention of 1777

 

The U.S. Constitution authorizes a “convention for proposing amendments” to offer amendments for ratification (or rejection) by the states.

The mechanism has never been used (all amendments have come from Congress), and many people have been curious about how it is supposed to work. But that’s because they are unaware of the long series of interstate “proposing” conventions held during the Founding Era—each charged with suggesting answers to specified problems.

All of these conventions were meetings of state delegations (“committees”) appointed and empowered by their respective states. In addition to the famed 1787 gathering in Philadelphia, interstate conventions met in Providence, Rhode Island (1776-77 and again in 1781); Springfield, Massachusetts (1777); New Haven, Connecticut (1778); Hartford, Connecticut (1779 and 1780); Philadelphia (1780); Boston (1780); and Annapolis, Maryland (1786). It is possible that others met in Charleston in 1777 and/or 1778 and in Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1778. Attendance ranged from three states to twelve.

The protocol of those assemblies can tell us much about the Founders’ expectations for the “convention to propose amendments.” The problem is that, except for the Annapolis and 1787 Philadelphia meetings, records covering them can be hard to find. I’ve learned that even experienced archivists can have trouble locating them.

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