Republicans Drafting New "Contract On America"
In 1994, then House Speaker Newt Gingrich unleashed his Contract on America, a set of 10 bills to be considered within the first 100 days of the 104th Congress.
Now, in 2010, the Republicans are drafting a remake. This time, they are going to use social media to get ideas, so when they unveil it after Labor Day, it will have built-in support.
So what was in the Gingrich version? One of the ten bills was a crime bill, named the "Taking Back Our Streets Act." It was a trojan horse of a bill. Presented as the answer to the "crime crisis" for "minorities and the poor," in its specifics, the plan's solutions were simply to incarcerate and execute in greater numbers.[More...]
Details of the bill are here.)
The bill overwhelmingly passed the House, with the exception of the repeal of the Assault Weapons Ban and the federalization of state street crime involving guns (through the creation of new mandatory minimum sentences), which Gingrich managed to separate from the remainder of the crime bill for later consideration.
The provisions that passed the House (pdf) were those: curtailing the exclusionary rule to allow the admission of evidence seized in warrantless searches if the officer acted in "good faith;" imposing severe restrictions on habeas corpus petitions; eliminating all drug prevention funding and the establishment of drug courts included in the prior year's crime bill (Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994); mandating restitution for direct and indirect victims of crime, regardless of the offender's ability to pay; restricting prisoner lawsuits; and authorizing $ 10 billion dollars for building more prisons to house violent offenders, while disallowing funds to build alternative correctional facilities.
Not content with the Gingrich plan, Senators Orrin Hatch and Bob Dole presented an even more draconian version for the Senate, called S.3. Among the low-points of their bill: the abolition of the Fourth Amendment Exclusionary Rule and the creation in its stead of a tort claim with a cap of $ 30,000 in almost all cases; the almost complete evisceration of habeas relief; an increase in mandatory minimum offenses; the complete exemption of federal prosecutors from ethical rules other than those adopted by the Attorney General, and allowance of contact by federal prosecutors and agents with opposing parties known to be represented by counsel; the creation of a new obstruction of justice offense for attorneys; the shifting of the burden of proof to the defendant in cases involving an alleged involuntary or coerced confession; further restrictions on the application of the mandatory minimum safety valve; and the mandatory treatment of juveniles 13 and over charged with violent crimes as adults (with no opt-out provisions for Native Americans on reservations).
Did the Dems come to the rescue? No. Oklahoma City happened. The Clinton Administration introduced the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995 (H.R. 896, S. 390). It should have been called the McCarthyism, Korematsu and Star Chamber Renewal Act.
All of these proposals contained massive assaults on the Bill of Rights, and would have inflicted more damage on constitutionally protected liberties than any other legislation in then-recent memory.
How did it end? Of the five Gingrich provisions passed by the House, the Senate passed three: one increasing penalties for child pornography; one blocking funding for Clinton's "100,000 cops on the beat" provision in the 1994 crime bill; and a version of the House bill requiring mandatory victim restitution that allowed a federal judge to forego issuing a victim restitution order in "extraordinary circumstances"). Clinton, of course, vetoed the block on funding the cops on the beat. The final scorecard: the total number of 1995 fully enacted criminal justice bills contained in the Taking Back Our Streets Act (House) and S. 3 (Senate) was a grand total of one (increasing child pornography penalties).
What does this mean for 2010? Only that Republicans tend to bring a tidal wave of reactionary, oppressive and ill-advised legislation, while the Dems don't do enough to stop it. Be forewarned. History tends to repeat itself and leopards don't change their spots. Any "Contract With America" Republicans come up with is just going to be another "Contract On America" and no amount of pre-vetting on Facebook will change that.
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