In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling expanding government’s eminent-domain powers, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California told The Hill newspaper: “This is almost as if God has spoken.”
Fortunately, the vast majority of House members, including Pelosi’s fellow Democrats, are more agnostic about the controversial Kelo v. New London, Conn., decision, which affirmed that government can force homeowners to sell their property to make way for private development.
The House roundly condemned the ruling, with 365 members registering “grave disapproval.” A second measure, HR 3135, intends to give teeth to that denunciation by limiting use of federal funds in any state or local project that uses eminent-domain powers from Kelo.
The bill, by House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., has attracted bipartisan support, including liberal partisans Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and Maxine Waters, D-Calif. They’re on board because their poor and working-class constituents stand to be bulldozed by government-aided developers – just like the benighted folks in New London.
Meantime, in the Senate, Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is co-sponsoring a companion Republican bill that’s also gathering support on both sides of the aisle. A coalition ranging from the NAACP to religious groups to farmers has signed on, as well.
A few hard-liners are holding out in Pelosi’s unreconstructed camp, however. They support allowing seizure of private property to benefit other private enterprises that could generate more tax revenue.
This position is legally and morally slippery, and the majority in Congress is moving to halt the slide. As Sensenbrenner says, “American taxpayers should not be forced to contribute in any way to the abuse of government power.”
Even the author of the Kelo decision, Justice John Paul Stevens, acknowledged that nothing precludes states “from placing further restrictions (on) the exercise of the taking power.”
That’s sound strategy and something American residents should also weigh when choosing their local councilmen and commissioners. Whatever else happens in Washington, this Supreme Court decision must not stand in the way of government by the consent of the governed.
Journal Gazette: www.fortwayne.com/mld/journalgazette