Up is down, black is white
I find myself in the curious position of agreeing with the ethically impaired House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and disagreeing with his Democratic counterpart, Nancy Pelosi, regarding a proposal to deny federal funds for local redevelopment projects in which eminent domain is used to make way for a commercial venture. The measure is in response to the Supreme Court's recent ruling that governments may use eminent domain to acquire private property even when it is not for a traditional public use such as a highway or government building.
Republicans and a relative handful of Democrats are backing the measure, while most Democrats, including Pelosi, stand opposed:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) criticized the measure. "When you withhold funds from enforcing a decision of the Supreme Court, you are in fact nullifying a decision of the Supreme Court," she told reporters. "This is in violation of the respect of separation of powers in our Constitution."
Here's why she's wrong: For starters, there is nothing for Congress to enforce in this decision. (And one could argue that Congress has no responsibility to enforce any law, only to obey them; the executive branch is responsible for law enforcement.) The high court merely allowed a local government (New London, Conn.) to move forward with a plan to use eminent domain to acquire homes that stand in the way of a private redevelopment project. The court's decision did not compel any government, either state, local or federal, to adopt either a specific definition of public use or any particular policies regarding eminent domain; in fact, the majority in this decision noted the court's longstanding deference to legislatures regarding the proper use of eminent domain. Congress, being a legislative body, has every right to use its power of the purse to endorse or oppose the use of eminent domain in local redevelopment projects that seek federal support. (A bill in the Senate would go further by prohibiting eminent domain for economic development projects.)
I can, however, understand Pelosi's frustration, given the all-out assault that conservatives have launched on the judiciary, and the contempt for the rule of law and separation of powers they've shown in the process. Some Republicans are foolishly backing a constitutional amendment that would protect references to God on public property (in reaction to another recent Supreme Court ruling) and one Republican House member introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill to strip $1.5 million from the Supreme Court's budget as punishment for the New London case. Such behavior one would expect from children.