The House voted yesterday to use the spending power of Congress to undermine a Supreme Court ruling allowing local governments to force the sale of private property for economic development purposes. Key members of the House and Senate vowed to take even broader steps soon.
Last week’s 5 to 4 decision has drawn a swift and visceral backlash from an unusual coalition of conservatives concerned about property rights and liberals worried about the effect on poor people, whose property is often vulnerable to condemnation because it does not generate a lot of revenue.
The House measure, which passed 231 to 189, would deny federal funds to any city or state project that used eminent domain to force people to sell their property to make way for a profit-making project such as a hotel or mall. Historically, eminent domain has been used mainly for public purposes such as highways or airports.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) introduced a similar measure and immediately drew a Democratic co-sponsor, Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.), as well as Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who is number three in his party’s leadership. The House bill is sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.). Its Democratic co-sponsors include Reps. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), Maxine Waters (Calif.) and Peter A. DeFazio (Ore.).
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.”
Real dumb, Nancy. Not only are you completely ignorant on the constitution, you’re putting yourself on the side of developers and tax collectors and in opposition to homeowners.
By the way, Nan–nearly 70% of Americans are homeowners. Keep it up!
UPDATE: Check out this interview with Pelosi:
Q Could you talk about this decision? What you think of it?
Ms. Pelosi. It is a decision of the Supreme Court. If Congress wants to change it, it will require legislation of a level of a constitutional amendment. So this is almost as if God has spoken. It’s an elementary discussion now. They have made the decision.
Q Do you think it is appropriate for municipalities to be able to use eminent domain to take land for economic development?
Ms. Pelosi. The Supreme Court has decided, knowing the particulars of this case, that that was appropriate, and so I would support that.
That’s a prime candidate for inclusion in the Stupid Politician Utterance Hall of Fame. Check out the rest of the interview, it’s clear that Pelosi had no idea what the House resolution which passed yesterday was actually about.
Back when Dick Gephardt retired, one of the knocks on Pelosi moving up to the minority leadership was that she was just a socialite fundraiser who didn’t have a grasp of either policy or communications. Looks like that read was dead-on.