I mentioned last weekend that Tom Coburn and Rand Paul have introduced a bill that would ban the use of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to protect workers' rights. While current laws would remain on the books, future laws could be killed by a simple point of order. Had this bill already been in place, child labor would still be legal and there would be no minimum wage, among other horrors. CroneWit pointed out rightly in a comment that this bill would effectively write tentherism into United States Code. And yet, Coburn and Paul managed to get 34 of their Republican colleagues to sign on to this monstrosity. By my math, that's three-fourths of the Republican Senate caucus.
Well, the full text of this bill came out late yesterday. Read it either at the GPO or on Thomas. While Coburn made a point of harping on the fact that his bill would effectively give the finger to workers in a new way, there's an even more odious provision in this bill--one that may have the effect of repealing the Necessary and Proper Clause. To wit:
(c) Enumerated Spending and Necessary and Proper Clauses- Invoking a clause included in the enumerated spending clause under clause 1 of section 8 of article I of the Constitution of the United States, such as the common defense clause and the general welfare clause, or the necessary and proper clause under clause 18 of section 8 of article I of the Constitution of the United States in a statement of constitutionality is not sufficient to satisfy the requirement of subsection (a).If I'm reading this right, any number of important bills would have never been enacted had this been in force. Off the top of my head, food safety regulations, workplace safety laws and regulations, securities laws, the Do Not Call list, Medicare and Medicaid would have likely never been permissible had this bill already been the law. Practically all of these were enacted by means of the Necessary and Proper Clause. I have to wonder--does Coburn want a situation where laws that seem like common sense to average folks can only be enacted by constitutional amendment? Those of you who are better versed in constitutional matters than I am can feel free to correct me, but I'm reading this section as an attempt to gut the Necessary and Proper Clause.
Even if it isn't, this bill is odious for another reason. It represents an attempt to write a completely discredited interpretation of the Constitution into law. ThinkProgress' Ian Millhiser, who brought this outrageous bill to light, points out that its lead cosponsor, Paul, openly praised Lochner v. New York, a 1905 SCOTUS decision that foreclosed any attempts to regulate employee-worker relations. It opened the door to three decades of decisions in which any attempts to regulate business were held to be unconstitutional. That decision is now widely reckoned as being on the same level of infamy as the Dred Scott decision and Plessy v. Ferguson. And yet, Coburn and Paul would like nothing better than to see such interpretation as the law of the land.
It cannot be stated enough--36 of the 45 Republican Senators (I'm not counting Jeff Chiesa, since we all know he's essentially keeping the seat warm for whoever wins the Democratic primary in New Jersey) have signed on to this monstrosity. Roll credits:
For those of you keeping score, that's every member of the Republican Senate leadership except Rob Portman--which makes one wonder how hard a Majority Leader McConnell would push this monstrosity.
Over my nine years as a Kossack, I've marveled at how no thanks to the religious right, some of the poorest districts in the country give Republican candidates absolutely ludicrous margins when economically, they have no business voting Republican. Well, ladies and gentlemen, this bill shows how much they value those voters. If there were any doubt that the Republican Party has become a far-right party, this bill erases it.