One of the big complaints recently about Obama has been that he is acting like a king or dictator, doing end-runs around Congress such as allowing illegal aliens to avoid being deported. After all, we have three branches of government to provide checks and balances.
So it surprised me when Ted Cruz said Monday that he would encourage Congress to do an end run around the Supreme Court (a court, I might add, that is already pretty darn conservative).
Speaking about the possibility that the Supreme Court might decide in favor of marriage equality, Cruz promised the following (according to the Dallas Morning News):
He reiterated his vow to press for a constitutional amendment that would clarify the power of state legislatures to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. If the high court does legalize gay marriage nationwide, he added, he would prod Congress to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over the issue, a rarely invoked legislative tool.
First of all, it is always hilarious when presidential candidates promise to work on constitutional amendments, as it is one of the few things for which presidents have no authority at all. They can’t even veto them.
But his promise to prod Congress to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over gay marriage is really scary. Court stripping is a theoretical idea that Congress can pass a federal law that effectively tells the courts that they are not allowed to review lawsuits pertaining to certain subjects (in this case, gay marriage). In other words, it gives Congress absolute power over the courts.
Conservatives complain about “legislating from the bench”. Well, this is the same thing in reverse, “adjudicating from the legislature”. It is Congress dictating constitutional law to the courts, which completely destroys our independent judiciary.
Court stripping is not a new idea. Back in the 1980s, another crazy conservative Senator, Jesse Helms (R-NC) repeatedly tried to prevent federal courts from hearing cases related to school prayer. More recently, Sam Brownback (now the governor who is destroying Kansas) and Todd Akin tried to do the same thing about the Pledge of Allegiance. But both attempts failed.
There’s little chance Cruz could implement court stripping over gay marriage. After all, a strong majority of Americans support marriage equality. But it just demonstrates that when conservatives scream about separation of powers, they are only throwing a temper tantrum because they didn’t get their way.