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Quote of the Day: Taxpayer Privacy and IRS Abuse

At CFIF, the issue of improving taxpayer privacy and protection against persistent abuse by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) remains among our most important missions.  Among the abuses that we've chronicled is the case of convicted criminal Charles Littlejohn, who rejoined the IRS in 2017 with the specific purpose of illegally breaching and leaking the private tax returns of Donald Trump and other Americans to radical left-wing organizations like ProPublica.

In The Wall Street Journal this week, one of those victims speaks out on his own experience and the need for greater taxpayer protection against this recurring problem that should terrify all Americans of every political persuasion.  Ira Stoll, whose tax information was passed to ProPublica, even helpfully details how…[more]

May 29, 2024 • 11:28 AM

Liberty Update

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Supreme Court Vacancy: Follow the (Original) Obama-Biden-Reid Rule Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, March 17 2016
For Republicans to follow Obama's preferred set of rules today rather than the rules by which he played as a Senator would be unilateral disarmament and foolish.

In May 2005, Senator Harry Reid (D - Nevada) unequivocally renounced any Senate obligation to even vote on President George W. Bush's nominations, let alone confirm them, even though he had won reelection just months earlier:  

"The duties of the Senate are set forth in the U.S. Constitution.  Nowhere in that document does it say the Senate has a duty to give presidential appointees a vote." 

Today, Senator Reid is singing a completely different tune: 

"We have that nasty little Constitution.  Which says they are obligated to hold hearings and they are obligated to vote." 

For his part, Senator Barack Obama stood with Reid on judicial nominations, pledging to filibuster Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito in 2006 even though he openly admitted his professional qualifications:  

"While I certainly believe that Judge Samuel Alito has the training and qualifications necessary to serve as a Supreme Court Justice, after careful review of his record, I simply cannot vote for his nomination.  I have no doubt that Judge Alito has the training and qualifications necessary to serve.  He's an intelligent man and an accomplished jurist.  And there's no indication he's not a man of great character...  I will be supporting the filibuster because I think Judge Alito, in fact, is somebody who is contrary to core American values, not just liberal values." 

But just like Reid, Obama now demands a different standard.  Directly contradicting his earlier position, Obama this week suggested that his Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland deserves confirmation on the merit of his qualifications alone:  

"[I]t is tempting to make this confirmation process simply an extension of our divided politics - the squabbling that's going on in the news every day.  But to go down that path would be wrong.  It would be a betrayal of our best traditions, and a betrayal of the vision of our founding documents.  At a time when our politics are so polarized, at a time when norms and customs of political rhetoric and courtesy and comity are so often treated like they are disposable - this is precisely the time when we should play it straight, and treat the process of appointing a Supreme Court justice with the seriousness and care it deserves.  Because our Supreme Court really is unique.  It's supposed to be above politics.  It has to be.  And it should stay that way.  To suggest that someone as qualified and respected as Merrick Garland doesn't even deserve a hearing, let alone an up or down vote, to join an institution as important as our Supreme Court, when two-thirds of Americans believe otherwise - that would be unprecedented." 

So Obama now believes that Supreme Court nominees should be judged on qualifications and professional respect alone, remaining "above politics" and in accord with "our founding documents" even though he asserted quite the opposite when he was in a position to vote in the way he now demands of the Senate. 

And it's unfair to respond that Republicans today are just as hypocritical or behaving in similarly partisan fashion. 

It's one thing for them to have paid tribute to tradition and mutual respect between the coequal branches before the Democrats declared judicial war, whether against Robert Bork or Samuel Alito.  But it's a different thing to behave in accord with the new set of rules established by Obama, Reid and Vice President Joe Biden when he also chose to filibuster the Senate vote on Alito. 

For Republicans to follow Obama's preferred set of rules today rather than the rules by which he played as a Senator would be unilateral disarmament and foolish.  It's one thing to practice peaceful coexistence before war is declared.  It's not hypocritical to practice war once war has been brought to you. 

As for the Constitution itself, Obama, Biden and Reid all know that its text does not in any way mandate what they now seek, as University of Illinois College of Law Dean Vikram Amar cogently summarizes: 

"The text of the Constitution certainly does not use any language suggesting that the Senate has a legal obligation to do anything;  instead, Article II, Section 2, says the president 'shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint' various high-level executive and judicial officers.  This simply means that the president may not appoint a justice without the Senate's 'consent' or approval, not that the Senate must express its lack of consent in any particular way or along any particular timeline...  For example, no credible argument can be made that after the House of Representatives passes a bill and sends it to the Senate for consideration, the Senate must hold hearings and/or take votes.  Or that the Senate has a duty to take up a treaty desired by the president." 

Accordingly, as a matter of constitutional law, Obama and Reid had it right the first time, proving the adage that even a broken clock is correct twice per day.  For them to demand a different course today constitutes hypocrisy. 

The same cannot be said of Senate Republicans, who are simply playing by rules set by people like Obama, Biden and Reid.  They therefore deserve conservatives' and libertarians' support in steadfastly opposing Obama's opportunity to tilt the Court in his partisan direction. 

Notable Quote   
"Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says Democrats have tipped their hand to their desire to unleash noncitizen voting by opposing his state's citizenship verification in court and he is urging elections chiefs in other states to fight such lawsuits.Georgia's citizenship verification system has prevented noncitizens from getting on state voter rolls, but the state had to defend it in court…[more]
— Natalia Mittelstadt, Just the News
Liberty Poll   

Which would be the most useful for voters: a televised presidential debate that only includes Trump and Biden or one that adds Kennedy?