Ending Blue Slip Power a Good Start

Ending Blue Slip Power a Good Start
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

In 1913, the United States Senate’s role in governing our nation suffered a dramatic and unfortunate alteration. Until adoption of the 17th Amendment in that year, the two senators sent to Washington by each state were chosen by state legislatures. The main task of all senators, a widely understood mission, was to protect the state and its people from possible domination by the federal government.

Senate floor by United States Senate, Image from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

The obvious intention of the Founders, known to all who were aware of the attitude of the Constitution’s authors and ratifiers, upheld the authority and prerogatives of the states. The national (federal) government was given few powers and states were left alone to govern within their own borders. One result of this system saw competition arise among the states to be the least domineering, the state where people would want to live, raise families, establish businesses, etc. As always occurs where competition exists, the states vied with each other to be the best state.

After 1913, the U.S. Senate became a virtual duplicate of the House of Representatives. The branch of the federal government supposed to be the guardian of the rights of the states speedily distanced itself from the intention of the Founders. Accordingly, various governmental powers, many of which trample on the rights of the individual states and are clearly unconstitutional, have become unquestioned federal duties. No longer is there a branch of the federal government to keep Washington-style domination away from welfare payments, housing, transportation, workplace safety, medical care, and a host of other areas. Federal power has mushroomed and now formerly independent states have lost their independence.

The Constitution also wisely granted power to the Senate to approve or disapprove nominees for judgeships at the Supreme Court and lower federal courts. Beginning in 1917, a procedure known as “blue slip acquiescence” enabled a senator to indicate acceptance of a presidential nominee from his or her home state for a place on a federal appeals court or a lower federal court. Refusal to send approval of an appointee on the blue-colored form torpedoed a presidential nomination.

With the Senate now controlled the Republican Party, even though “barely” in control, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) have ignored the wishes of Democrat senators by downplaying the blue slip approval process. Oregon’s two Democrat senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, refused blue slip approval for a nominee to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. But the Republican leaders in the Senate have abandoned the blue slip process. Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin likewise refused to send the coveted blue slip approval for the nomination of a fellow Wisconsinite. In this remarkable turnabout, the desire of the Democrat senators to block GOP nominees has not been fulfilled.

During the Obama administration when Democrats ruled the Senate and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) chaired the Judiciary Committee, the blue slip procedure was scrupulously followed. Before he left the Senate in late 2017, for example, Minnesota Democrat Al Franken refused to issue blue slip approval for a conservative nominated by President Trump to take a seat on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, blue-slip approval is no longer necessary.

Asked about this turning away from a century-old practice, Senator McConnell said: “The blue slip is meant to encourage consultation between the White House and home-state senators. It’s not a way for senators to have veto power over nominees for their political and ideological reasons.” Senator Grassley agreed with his GOP colleague.

So, nominees for federal judgeships will not face rejection by a single senator’s use of this arcane procedure. This is a welcome development. But reversing the 17th Amendment, a far more important step toward honoring the intent of America’s Founders, awaits overdue consideration.

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.


The Real Meanings of Two Important Words

The Real Meanings of Two Important Words
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

An increasing number of Americans have found themselves confused during discussions only to find out that the cause of the problem stems from distortions in the meaning of key words.

Image from Pixabay, CCO License.

We live in an era when correct definitions have been almost universally lost. Two prime examples come to mind: the words “democracy” and  “inflation.” I contend that getting back to the true meaning of each is long overdue and very much needed. Venal politicians and dull or deceitful economists are deceiving the public and that has to stop.

The word “democracy” entered our language from Greece. It means “the people to rule.” If the people force adoption of something truly beneficial to their nation and its people, consider it a bit of luck. But democracy customarily invites what James Madison, our nation’s fourth president, abhorred. He and other Founders made their feelings known while creating the U.S. Constitution where they chose a republic, the rule of law, to be our nation’s governmental system.

Madison explained his detestation of democracies when he wrote that they “have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they are violent in their deaths.” Instead, he and his colleagues at the 1787 convention established a “rule of law” as the standard for deliberation and action. Its main premise was to have our infant country prosper, not because of what government would do, but because of what government would be prevented from doing by the Constitution.

Today, the Constitution is given lip service and government has greatly ignored the bonds erected to insure that it would not exceed its powers. Consequently, we are victims of democracy in action, a bowing to the demands of the mob, ignoring constitutional restraints and leading the nation toward total government. Politicians are converting our republic into a democracy that will inevitably lead to tyranny. There is great need for understanding the wisdom contained in the slogan, “This is a republic, not a democracy; let’s keep it that way.”

Regarding inflation, the misuse of its correct definition has largely been hidden. Inflation is an increase in the quantity of currency, not the condition of rising prices which is the widely known, but wrong, definition. What appears to be a rise in prices for goods and services is proof that money has become less valuable. Wet streets don’t cause rain. And rising prices are the consequence of putting more money into circulation. What is inflated is the quantity of currency. When money becomes less valuable because of increasing its amount (a common practice engineered by the Federal Reserve), the rising prices for goods and services are simply a refection of the loss in value of existing money.

Early in his career, British economist John Maynard Keynes pointed his finger at would-be rulers and described the process correctly. He wrote: “By a continuous process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens…. The process engages all of the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner that not one man in a million can diagnose.” What Keynes was saying is that filling your car’s gasoline tank may have cost $5 dollars in the early and middle years of the past century. But filling your tank now costs $40 or more. The price of gasoline didn’t change; the value of a dollar changed.

A great deal more can be said about how faulty definitions inevitably lead to more power in government. Combating the harm being done to the American dream has to include correcting the widespread misinformation about democracy and inflation.

Help is needed. If you’re interested in joining the cause, contact your local JBS field coordinator today!

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.


Do We Live In A Land of Laws?

Do We Live In A Land of Laws?
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

When a federal judge blocked President Trump’s ban on entry to America from seven majority-Muslim nations, his decree won praise from the liberals and left-wingers. One of these, the Boston Globe newspaper, defiantly cheered its print issue, “We Are Still A Nation Of Laws.” Read the online version here. The target of that remark was President Trump who was thereby accused of not obeying a law and relying on his will in its place.

The Constitution states that all powers “not delegated” to the federal government by the Constitution shall remain with the states or with the people (image from PublicDomainPictures.net, CC0 Public Domain).

The particular “law” joyously pointed to by the Globe was the mandate issued by Federal District Judge James Robart. But, if our nation is indeed a land of laws, the primary law should be the U.S. Constitution, not a mandate issued by President Trump or a counter mandate issue by the judge. This is law-making by several methods never envisioned by the Founding Fathers and decidedly not authorized by the U.S. Constitution.

The Constitution, sworn to be obeyed by all federal officials, states in Article I, Section 1, Clause 1, “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States….” That means there is no law-making power in the Executive or Judicial branches. But laws are constantly being made by presidential executive order and by judicial decree. The Boston Globe isn’t alone in ignoring this clearly stated constitutional process.

The Constitution grants to Congress alone the power “To declare war.” Sending our forces into combat without a congressional declaration of war is, therefore, unconstitutional. The absence of declarations of war has led to either stalemate or defeat in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Lives have been lost, treasure has been squandered, and good will toward our nation has evaporated. Refusal to obey the war-making clause of the Constitution can be blamed for all of that.

The Constitution says that Congress shall have the power “To coin money.” It does not grant power to issue money. And, following on the absence of power to issue money, there is no authorization for Congress to delegate non-existent power to issue money to the Federal Reserve.

The Constitution tells us that it shall be the task of “the United States” (meaning the federal government), “to protect each of them against invasion.” The reference to “them” is to the states. It doesn’t specify military invasion. If upwards of 20 million have crossed into our states illegally, is that not an invasion? And isn’t the failure of the federal government to meet its assigned responsibility to protect the states from invasion a gross disregarding of the law?

The Constitution states that Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” It does not state that there shall be “separation of church and state.” Nor does it bar religious expressions at public functions. Misuse of the First Amendment has converted our nation from its refusal to elevate any particular faith to a position of dominance and an attitude that can be summed up as “separation of God and state.”

The Constitution states that all powers “not delegated” to the federal government by the Constitution shall remain with the states or with the people. But federal power has grown enormously into areas where no authorization for such intrusions can be found.

The points made above aren’t issued by the Boston Globe, by its leftist readers, nor by like-minded liberals across the nation. America became great not because of what government did, but because of what government was prevented from doing by the Constitution. America will regain its greatness when government at all levels adheres to the Constitution. There’s no other way.

How well do you know the Constitution? Download it today!

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.


A Return to the Republic: A Game Plan for Donald Trump

A Return to the Republic: A Game Plan for Donald Trump
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

The following statement was solicited and then aired, along with the thoughts of others, via the nationwide “Connecting the Dots” radio program on November 22, 2016. We were asked what advice would we give to incoming President of the United States Donald Trump.

Donald Trump speaking to supporters at an immigration policy speech at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona (photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr, some rights reserved).

Mr. Trump, I suggest that you add to your goal of making America great again the following statement: “America became great, not because of what government did, but because of what government was prevented from doing by the U.S. Constitution.”

You should consider that, were the Constitution fully adhered to, the federal government would shrink to 20 percent its size and 20 percent its cost.

To questions asking what you intend to do after your inauguration, you should say, “I am not going to do as much as people might expect. Instead I shall use all the proper powers of the presidency to undo much of what government now does. And what I intend to undo, to abolish, are all agencies, departments, and bureaucratic monstrosities that are not authorized by the Constitution.”

Among the federal agencies that should be abolished are the Departments of Education, Energy, Interior, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and many of those issuing handouts of various kinds. You should arrange to have the U.S. military and the U.S. Border Patrol take on whatever responsibilities have been assumed by the Department of Homeland Security.

One by one, all agencies of the federal government that have been created and empowered by presidential Executive Orders should be abolished. The most egregious of these is the federal Environmental Protection Agency, a monster created via an Executive Order written by President Nixon in 1970. The EPA was never voted into existence by Congress.

America has not won a war since 1945 when victory was achieved in World War II. No victory in Korea, in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Why? Because our nation submits to rules and regulations mandated by the United Nations and its controlled stepchild NATO. For this reason and many more, the United States should withdraw from the United Nations at the earliest possible time. A measure to accomplish this goal, H.R. 1205, has been introduced in the House of Representatives and it should receive presidential support.

Proper attention should be given to the very first sentence in the Constitution that states, “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States….” That means no law making is proper if made by presidential Executive Order or by a Supreme Court decision. Any law enacted outside of the legislative branch must be declared null. One good example needing termination is the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade that has legalized the taking of 60 million lives since 1973.

Presidential power must be employed to have a thorough audit of the Federal Reserve, something that hasn’t been done in the Fed’s more than 100 years of existence. Congress would welcome the help of the President to get this done. Once audited honestly and thoroughly, moves should be undertaken toward abolishing this unconstitutional engine of inflation. The path toward creating precious metal backed currency should be laid out and followed.

Various job-destroying entanglements in which our government has placed the nation should be terminated. This means exiting NAFTA, CAFTA, the World Trade Organization, and others.

Let me say again: “America became great not because of what government did, but because of what government was prevented from doing by the Constitution.”

Mr. Trump, I will continue to pray that you accomplish all your legitimate goals, only some of which I have listed in this brief statement.

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.


Executive Orders, Subject to the People

Executive Orders, Subject to the People 
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

In a nation where people enjoy freedom, laws are made by a parliament, a congress, or some similar assemblage of elected officials. These lawmakers owe their posts to voters and are, in the main, subject to the people. But, as history has repeatedly shown, the laws in many nations are made by the decrees of a king or dictator who relies on virtually almighty power to rule.

The signing of an executive order on the Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government.

The signing of an executive order on the Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government, (photo by White House Photo Office [Public domain by Pete Souza], via Wikimedia Commons).

America’s Founders knew well the excesses of that kind of power. So they declared themselves independent, fought a war to get out from under a king’s dictates, and won the struggle to be free. The very first clause in the 1787 Constitution they created left all law-making power in the hands of Congress. Under the rules established by the U.S. Constitution, the president is charged with the responsibility, not to make law, but to see that all laws properly enacted would be faithfully executed.

In the performance of his duties, a president can issue executive orders that have the force of law – but only among those who serve under him. A presidential executive order is proper when directed at government employees. While he serves, a president is much like the CEO of a company who certainly has a right to issue orders binding his employees.

In 1793, during his first term in office, George Washington issued an executive order declaring America’s neutrality in the war between France and England. Our first president soon realized that the protests of Madison and Jefferson against his executive mandate were correct. He then asked Congress to issue a law declaring the sought-after neutrality and Congress complied. There were no more presidential misuses of the executive order power for approximately 70 years.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln overstepped his authority and issued executive orders that suspended habeas corpus, blockaded southern ports, and emancipated southern slaves. He cited his role as “commander in chief” of the military to do so. Later, following the pattern set by Washington, he asked Congress to amend the Constitution to prohibit all slavery. Which was done. A measure of respect for the limitations on presidential power still existed during that period of history. Then in 1866, the Supreme Court in Ex Parte Milligan explained those limitations as follows:

The power to make necessary laws is in Congress; the power to execute in the President…. But neither can the President, in war more than in peace, intrude upon the proper authority of Congress, nor Congress upon the proper authority of the President.

Fast forward to today. In its first seven years, the Obama administration issued 560 major regulations via executive orders. Each had significant economic or social consequences for the entire nation. His wrongful reliance on the power to issue improper executive orders followed President George W. Bush’s issuance of half the number created by President Obama. As reported by Binyamin Applebaum and Michael D. Shear in the August 28, 2016 issue of the New York Times, the Obama orders aimed, among other targets, to “restructure the nation’s health care and financial industries, limit pollution, bolster workplace protections, and extend equal rights to minorities.” The Times reporters added that Obama’s reliance on executive orders “has imposed billions of dollars in new costs on businesses and consumers.”

Barack Obama has even stated his intention to use “my pen” if Congress doesn’t enact laws he wants. Too often, Congress has caved in and tolerated such completely illicit contempt for the Constitution. This docility of the legislative branch has to stop. No king or all-powerful ruler should be making laws for our nation.

Congress should declare any executive order aimed at the entire population completely null. All presidents should follow the lesson George Washington learned while he served as President. All Americans should become familiar with Article I, Section 1, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution where Congress is named as the sole possessor of “All legislative powers.”

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.


Don’t “Interpret” the Constitution; Obey It

Don’t “Interpret” the Constitution; Obey It
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

Hardly anyone knows the true assignment given the Supreme Court by the Constitution. Accordingly, it comes as little surprise to find many Americans claiming that job of the justices is to “interpret the Constitution.” But when a committed conservative makes the same claim, one realizes how thoroughly a distorted view of the American system of government has been spread.

The inside of the United States Supreme Court. In the photo are the nine chairs of the Supreme Court Justices. (Photo by Phil Roeder, some rights reserved.)

Simply stated, the job of the Supreme Court is not to interpret the Constitution, or interpret any law properly enacted. It is to see to it that the Constitution is obeyed and that all laws passed by the federal government can honestly trace their legitimacy to what appears in the its text. There has to be a positive grant of power in the document for any federal law to claim legitimacy. No law can be properly enacted under the spurious claim that it’s not prohibited and, therefore, it’s legitimate to enact it. Interpreting the Constitution or any law to have it say beyond what its text contains is completely wrong.

How did the dangerous notion of “interpreting” get started? It began soon after our nation started. It is the legacy of highly revered Chief Justice John Marshall. Appointed by President John Adams during our second President’s last day in office, Marshall served on the high court from 1801 until death claimed him in 1835. In his 1803 Marbury v. Madison decision, he declared, “It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is….” In other words, we at the Supreme Court will decide what a law says; we shall not rely on its text. We shall “interpret” both the Constitution and any law that comes before us.

Obviously sensing where Marshall would take the nation, President Thomas Jefferson stated early in his term of office (1801-1809): “On every question of construction, [let us] carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”

Jefferson repeated his stand when he stated, “The Constitution on which our Union rests shall be administered by me according to the safe and honest meaning contemplated by the plain understanding of the people of the United States at the time of its adoption.” His is the correct attitude.

Simply stated, it was never the intent of the Founders of this nation to have the Supreme Court “interpret” the Constitution. If such a power is allowed, there is really no need to have a Constitution. Reliance on the purported wisdom of nine judges is all that would be needed.

Any thinking American should never accept the dangerous notion that the Supreme Court has been awarded power to “interpret” either the Constitution or any properly enacted law.

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.


Scalia: The Passing of the Supreme Court’s “Originalist”

Scalia: The Passing of the Supreme Court’s “Originalist”
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

The sudden passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia evoked praise for his work from conservatives and, after perfunctory condolences directed to his family, dark words for his “originalism” from liberals. Many Americans who are unfamiliar with that term can be helped to understand its meaning by understanding Scalia’s disdain for considering the U.S. Constitution a “living” document subject to current whims and trends. He always believed that it was a hard and fast contract to be considered inviolate by all who had solemnly sworn to abide by it.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, served as an Associate Justice from 1986 until his death February 13, 2016. Cropped image from Collection of the Supreme Court, Photographer: Steve Petteway, public domain.

Advocates of the “living” document thesis claim that modern trends and attitudes should be considered part of the Constitution even if there is no portion of its language supporting their position. Those who insist that the Constitution cannot be altered or ignored at whim, or have new thinking added to it without an amendment, have become fewer in number. The lack of understanding among many Americans about the Constitution has allowed liberals to get away with what they claim because of their insistence that the Constitution lives. And like any other entity that lives, they say it grows naturally.

In reality, however, the Constitution is very much like a contract between the people and their government. Neither side has the authority to unilaterally change its terms. Change is permitted when both sides – in this case the government and the people – formally use the amendment process. But if a carpenter and a homeowner agree about a porch being added to the rear of the home, the carpenter cannot decide to omit building the agreed-upon steps to the backyard. Nor can the homeowner change the agreed-upon fee for the man’s work.

Justice Scalia always held that the terms of a contract (the Constitution in this case) must be honored by government officials. He found no permission for government to sanction abortion, or forbid private ownership of guns, or change the definition of marriage, or a great deal more. He frequently stated that lawmakers and judges should honor the wording of the document as it was understood when created or amended. He was an “originalist.” As such, he could point to the attitude of Thomas Jefferson who stated in 1801:

The Constitution on which our Union rests shall be administered by me according to the safe and honest meaning contemplated by the plain understanding of the people of the United States at the time of its adoption, a meaning found in the explanations of those who advocated it, not those who opposed it….

When a later need arose to restate his attitude, Jefferson stated:

On every question of construction, [let us] carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning can be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.

Though the term wasn’t in use during Jefferson’s time, he was an originalist. The steps to the backyard that were part of his mythical porch were noted in the agreement he and the carpenter had signed. There was no power for the carpenter to omit the steps or for Jefferson to alter the agreed-upon payment for the man’s work.

In like manner, the government and the people should similarly honor the contract known as the U.S. Constitution. This was the thinking employed by Antonin Scalia. We can only hope that whoever takes his place on the high court will, as he did, delight in being labeled an “originalist.”

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.