Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Legislative Immunity

            The U.S. Constitution grants Members of Congress immunity from arrest during their attendance at sessions of their body, save for treason, felony, or breach of the peace. Furthermore, they shall not be questioned by any agency for any speech or debate in either House.
            Early in High School, my generation was taught these provisions were necessary to preclude detaining legislators under color of law, thereby preventing participation in their legislative duties.  While the Constitution provides that a legislator is not immune to arrest for such things as leading a riot, robbing a bank or betraying the Country, they cannot be arrested for minor offences such as a parking ticket.  The wisdom, in these immunities, designed to prevent disruption of the legislative process is obvious, but it is doubtful they were intended to grant unrestricted authority for legislators to exempt themselves from any or all Acts of Congress. 
However, while “We the People” sleep, Congress habitually exempts itself from its own legislation.  Two of the more blatant exemptions are from Social Security and the new Health Care Laws.  These and other exemptions may be distasteful, elitist, and self-serving, but they are not exemptions from otherwise criminal activities.  Now, there are reports of insider trading by Members of Congress, their spouses and staff members, only they claim Security Laws do not apply to them. 
If the legislative purpose of Congress is to enrich its members, then perhaps, there is reason for them to determine their own immunity.  If not, Members of Congress should be subject to the same laws everyone else is.  Better to follow the letter of the Constitution and take a chance on a legislator being detained, than to continue the perversions of the Legislative Immunity envisioned by The Founders.  As a commonly circulated email says, “Social Security would be fixed tomorrow if Congress were required to participate in it.”


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