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June 30, 2005
Pelosi Buries Property Rights Under A Mountain Of Ignorance

Nancy Pelosi held a press conference this afternoon, during which reporters asked her about her position on the Kelo decision. The SCOTUS ruling, CQ readers will recall, allows legislative bodies to exercise eminent domain to seize private land and transfer it to other private ownership, as long as it considers the transfer beneficial to the public good. It does, however, specifically leave those decisions to the legislature, a nuance that Pelosi appears to have missed.

Senator Jon Cornyn will shortly introduce legislation to restrict the use of federal funds for projects such as those involved in the Kelo case that simply trade one private owner for another. When reporters asked Pelosi about Cornyn's effort, she revealed that she knows nothing about Constitutional law, the Kelo decision, or even the power invested in the Congress that she supposedly leads:

Q Later this morning, many Members of the House Republican leadership, along with John Cornyn from the Senate, are holding a news conference on eminent domain, the decision of the Supreme Court the other day, and they are going to offer legislation that would restrict it, prohibiting federal funds from being used in such a manner.

Two questions: What was your reaction to the Supreme Court decision on this topic, and what do you think about legislation to, in the minds of opponents at least, remedy or changing it?

Ms. Pelosi. As a Member of Congress, and actually all of us and anyone who holds a public office in our country, we take an oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Very central to that in that Constitution is the separation of powers. I believe that whatever you think about a particular decision of the Supreme Court, and I certainly have been in disagreement with them on many occasions, it is not appropriate for the Congress to say we're going to withhold funds for the Court because we don't like a decision.

Q Not on the Court, withhold funds from the eminent domain purchases that wouldn't involve public use. I apologize if I framed the question poorly. It wouldn't be withholding federal funds from the Court, but withhold Federal funds from eminent domain type purchases that are not just involved in public good.

Ms. Pelosi. Again, without focusing on the actual decision, just to say that when you withhold funds from enforcing a decision of the Supreme Court you are, in fact, nullifying a decision of the Supreme Court. This is in violation of the respect for separation of church -- powers in our Constitution, church and state as well. Sometimes the Republicans have a problem with that as well. But forgive my digression.

So the answer to your question is, I would oppose any legislation that says we would withhold funds for the enforcement of any decision of the Supreme Court no matter how opposed I am to that decision. And I'm not saying that I'm opposed to this decision, I'm just saying in general.

First Pelosi reveals that she has no knowledge of Cornyn's well-publicized effort, despite her position as House Minority Leader. Second, she appears completely incapable of understanding the question, somehow getting the notion that Cornyn's proposal would defund the Supreme Court. When the reporter patiently explains to her what the proposal actually says, she still doesn't understand the issue, and talks about defunding enforcement of the decision.

Let's be clear on this point. Congress doesn't have to "enforce" anything on this decision. What it can do is to set conditions for the use of federal funds for supposed urban-renewal projects, and it can restrict funds to projects that use eminent domain to seize lands for the benefit of another private owner. Nothing in Kelo prevents this, and in fact the majority opinion states that SCOTUS wants the legislature at each level to take responsibility for use of ED. Cornyn wants to use the legitimate power of the legislature to ensure that federal funds do not get used to diminish private-property rights -- which doesn't conflict with Kelo at all, but shouldn't be necessary had SCOTUS followed the Constitution in its decision.

Pelosi, however, can't stop herself from looking even more foolish as the reporter follows up, trying to allow her to express some sort of opposition in principle to the decision. After all, politicians on both sides of the aisle found reasons to criticize SCOTUS on this case. Pelosi instead digs the hole as deep as she can, throwing in a reference to the Almighty moments after she castigates Republicans for not respecting the separation between church and state:

Q Could you talk about this decision? What you think of it?

Ms. Pelosi. It is a decision of the Supreme Court. If Congress wants to change it, it will require legislation of a level of a constitutional amendment. So this is almost as if God has spoken. It's an elementary discussion now. They have made the decision.

Q Do you think it is appropriate for municipalities to be able to use eminent domain to take land for economic development?

Ms. Pelosi. The Supreme Court has decided, knowing the particulars of this case, that that was appropriate, and so I would support that.

This is almost as if God had spoken. But if He did, it wouldn't matter anyway, since church and state must be kept separate, right? Besides, the Supreme Court is not God in our system. The judiciary is a co-equal branch to the Legislature and the Executive. Congress does not exist to bow before the nine robed members of SCOTUS, and neither does the President. One would think that any high-school graduate would understand that, let alone the House Democratic leader.

What an embarrassment Democratic leadership has become. We may yet see a collection of more ignorant, petulant, self-important incompetents at one time as Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Howard Dean, but I wouldn't bet on it. (via The Corner)

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 30, 2005 9:51 PM

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