2008/10/04

Biden Clueless on Constitution

In the Vice-Presidential Debate October 2, Sen. Joseph Biden continued a pattern I have observed over the years he has been in public office: He seems unable to mention the Constitution without getting it wrong. His mentions of it during this debate was no exception. Let's examine some of his statements:
... in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple.

The fact of the matter is that under the Constitution we should be granted -- same-sex couples should be able to have visitation rights in the hospitals, joint ownership of property, life insurance policies, et cetera. That's only fair.

It's what the Constitution calls for. And so we do support it. We do support making sure that committed couples in a same-sex marriage are guaranteed the same constitutional benefits as it relates to their property rights, their rights of visitation, their rights to insurance, their rights of ownership as heterosexual couples do.
He seems to be vaguely referring to the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, but that amendment does not address governmental benefits to couples, whether same-sex or opposite-sex. That is a state matter. Constitutionally, there are not supposed to be any federal benefits, one way or another.

Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history. The idea he doesn't realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that's the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.

And the primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there's a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.

The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote. He has no authority relative to the Congress.
The constitutional provisions on the Vice-President are in Article I, Section 3, Clauses 4-6. Here is what it says:
The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

It also provides, in Article II Section 4:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Senator Biden is incorrect. The Vice-President may preside over the Senate at any time it is in session, not just to break a tie. One would think that in 35 years in the Senate he would have noticed that the Vice-President has sometimes presided there.

It is interesting to note that there is a flaw in the Constitution here, in that it permits the Vice-President to preside over his own impeachment trial. One suspects he would be under some pressure not to do that.

Gov. Palin does not yet seem to be highly knowledgeable about the Constitution, but at least she hasn't gotten anything about it wrong.

Considering that Sen. Biden has taught constitutional law in a law school, one has to be concerned about how well his students learned the subject, and even more about what he might do if he ever ascended to the presidency.

3 comments:

Philip said...

I think it is safe to say that Sen. Biden would prefer to interpret the Constitution as he would see fit for whatever audience in front of whom he would be currently speaking. This probably would be all too typical of today's politicians (a principle reason why they're not termed "statesmen[women]") and is not necessarily bad.

Under our Constitution, a given Senator has the right to be wrong about his/her given interpretation of what the text actually says. In fact, I'd wager that it is the obligation and responsibility of the other two co-equal Branches to hold him/her, individually, or the body, collectively, responsible for a "bad" interpretation.

The maxim is true: the Federal government will do anything and everything that the People will allow it to do.

Because of this maxim, it is even more so appropriate that -- per your last thought -- all of us would remain diligent to educate, hold accountable and, perhaps most importantly, inspire everyone to be aware of and take action to promote the chains the Constitution was intended to be shackled upon the Feds.

-Phil

John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

Interesting read. What is your understanding of Ammendment XX, Section 3? In the unlikely event that Obama would be found not to be a "natural born" citizen, it appears that Biden would act as President, until a new election was completed. Is that right?

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