March 06, 2015

The arrogance of Congress passes on to the hired help

I know it's kind of shitty being a Congressional aide. The pay's pretty shitty, at least in terms of Washington professional class dollars. And, the boss can often be a shithead.

But, that's no excuse to be a shithead yourself.

Several days ago, as the clock started ticking ever faster for New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez to face federal corruption charges, a couple of his aides were hauled in front of a grand jury.

Where they refused to testify.

On what grounds? Not the Fifth Amendment, since they (at least right now) aren't facing charges themselves.

No, they called into play the "speech and debate clause" of the body of the Constitution, which reads as follows:
The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

Just one SMALLLLLL problem.

The paragraph mentions "Senators and Representatives."

It does NOT mention the hired help. 

A federal district court read that clearly, and they appealed. For some reason, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals doesn't read the Constitution the same way, and has ordered a hearing. It had better see things the same way as the district court, or else, Members of Congress will treat their aides like Hillary Clinton treats private email servers.

The Constitution is pretty clear. Yeah, Congressmen didn't have a bunch of aides 200-plus years ago. But there was a sergeant at arms and other officials from the start. If the Founders had wanted this to extend to Congressional staff, they could have put that in the Constitution.

Unfortunately, a three-judge appellate panel disagreed, and said the district judge must wade through a mass of individual emails. It also notes the court system has generally extended the clause to aides, which is bullshit itself.

Meanwhile, that first link has an interesting side note, and that is that the Menendez investigation could expand to include Minority Leader Harry Reid. Reid was good as Majority Leader and so far as Minority Leader; he's not afraid to play hardball with the GOP.

That said, he's long struck me as no higher than the midpoint in ethical rankings of Senators.

Folks, including any tea partiers who read me, this is why you have to stop voting for Democrats AND Republicans. It's why you have to vote YOUR rascal out of office.

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