Rand Paul Proposes Silly Constitutional Amendment to Apply Laws Equally to Citizens and Government


Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced an interesting Constitutional amendment this week:

‘Section 1. Congress shall make no law applicable to a citizen of the United States that is not equally applicable to Congress.

‘Section 2. Congress shall make no law applicable to a citizen of the United States that is not equally applicable to the executive branch of Government, including the President, Vice President, ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and all other officers of the United States, including those provided for under this Constitution and by law, and inferior officers to the President established by law.

‘Section 3. Congress shall make no law applicable to a citizen of the United States that is not equally applicable to judges of the Supreme Court of the United States, including the Chief Justice, and judges of such inferior courts as Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

I view this as a superficial attempt to simultaneously throw red meat to Paul’s libertarian and populist Tea Party followers. First of all, the proposed amendment is unlikely to be successful, given the notorious difficulty of passing Constitutional amendments, which require two-thirds of both houses of Congress and then ratification by at least three-fourths of the states (or, 38 out of 50).

And secondly, while it may sound nice to say that not even the government will be above the law, that is the system we’re already supposed to have, yet it is largely a farce. Even if this actually became an amendment, it would be mostly symbolic.

The government is constantly breaking the law and taking actions that are clearly illegal for ordinary citizens to take.

To take just one example, the Supreme Court in 2010 decided that “material support” laws Congress passed to criminalize aiding terrorist groups includes “Advocacy performed in coordination with, or at the direction of, a foreign terrorist organization.” Yet this didn’t seem to apply to scores of current and former U.S. politicians that advocated for and got paid to speak on behalf of the Iranian dissident group Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), which was on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations until September 2012.

Here’s what former Governor Ed Rendell told journalist Daniel Denvir when confronted about his illegal support for MEK:

“If you indict me, I hope you know, you have to indict 67 other Americans who did the same thing, including seven generals … [who] served in Iraq. You’d have to indict James Jones, President Obama’s first NSC chief adviser, you’d have to indict former Attorney General [Michael] Mukasey, former FBI Director Louis Freeh … the whole kit and caboodle.” That caboodle is voluminous and high-powered, including Tom Ridge, UN Ambassador John Bolton, Rudolph Giuliani and Howard Dean, among others.

Or, take an example straight from the Executive Branch. In September, President Obama unilaterally waived the ban on supplying lethal aid to terrorist groups “to clear the way for the U.S. to provide military assistance to ‘vetted’ opposition groups fighting Syrian dictator Bashar Assad,” the Washington Examiner reported. If Presidents can simply waive laws they know they’ll soon be in violation of, an amendment like Paul’s is worthless.

Or what about the NSA’s lawlessness under the Executive Branch? Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), who is on the Senate Intelligence Committee and has access to classified information about the NSA’s surveillance practices, said this month that even with the overly broad statutory powers granted to the NSA, “the rules have been broken, and the rules have been broken a lot.”

A recently declassified FISC ruling found that the NSA “frequently and systematically violated” statutory laws governing how intelligence agents can search databases of Americans’ telephone communications and that NSA analysts deliberately misled judges about their surveillance activities in order to get court approval.

Going back a little further, President Bush flagrantly violated the law when he secretly authorized the NSA to perform warrantless surveillance on phone calls, including American communications.

I could go on and on (torture, indefinite detention, war crimes, etc. etc.)

If Paul wants laws to be applied equally, why haven’t I heard him call for indictments against the Obama and Bush administrations, not to mention the leadership of the NSA?

Probably because this is for political show. The truth is, being in the Executive Branch or in Congress is basically a get out of jail free card. If Joe Schmoe steals $50 out of the cash register of his local convenient store, he’ll be in big trouble. If the U.S. government supports terrorism, wages illegal war, and systematically violates the Fourth Amendment in complete secrecy…no problem.

17 thoughts on “Rand Paul Proposes Silly Constitutional Amendment to Apply Laws Equally to Citizens and Government”

  1. This is a great idea, but there are too many flaws in it's wording. Maybe something like "Congress shall only be compensated per diem of work equal to the average household income of the state (Senate) or district (House) they represent, and are eligible only for public programs available to the people they respectively represent." I think that may be a better amendment, but of course constructive criticism is welcome. I think more people and writers should encourage efforts like this, critiquing the wording and requesting they go back to the drawing board instead of just labeling them as doing it "for show."

  2. In another word, there is no such equal low exist and therefor the executive branch, the officeres of governments and others like Bush gang of Neo fascism can go free although is proven that they are war criminals! This is why USG calling itself exceptionism and by not having any law as such therefor they are exempted and can continue to do the war crimes by killing people of another nation and etc.

    This must be the best democratic social political and economical way for vulture capitalism system (systematically) doing whatever without being prosecuted or in some cases not even being questioned, or even asked for reason/s for their crimes against humanity, like Iraq and drons killings.

    Isn't that what capitalism is all about.

  3. Pingback: Antiwar.com Blog
  4. This is yet another brilliant move by Senator Rand Paul, highlighting the situation that exists, as you, Mr. Glaser, have yourself outlined in your article. I take exception to your explanation of why Senator Paul would introduce such a bill. It has nothing to do with placating those of us who already are aware of the political class being above the law and everything to do with squaring placing this reality in front of Congress, the president, the media, and the American people forcing some kind of a response that goes in the record. He lays traps, Mr. Glaser, over and over again. Fun to watch.

  5. Actually, it would be fascinating if it really passed.

    After all, wiretapping, torture, kidnapping, murder and many other acts are certainly illegal for citizens, and the government is claiming that they are above these laws. I'd love to see this pass because it could open up lots of cans of worms.

  6. "It's all hopeless so let's not try to move in a positive direction. Anyone who suggests doing the right thing is shot down for not doing (fill in the blank) right thing before. "

    Who is able to pass this test??

    This is defeatism. A movement in the right direction should be welcomed, even if brought to the floor by Pelosi.

  7. First we need to make everybody truly equal under the law. Today, if you steal billions of dollars from the public you will be honored in society, but if you steal from the rich, you are in prison for life.

  8. political theater. Congress has real work to do which they seem to be avoiding. This is like when I ask my 8 year old to clean her room.

  9. So Mr. Glaser, what do you propose. Wring our hands and complain, or let you do it so you have a job, or try to take back some citizen control of the government. If there are policies YOU don't like, DO something about it. Start a movement that might actually get something accomplished. You like to complain, but don't want to get your hands dirty or eliminate the problem, because you would have less to whine about.

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