Congress assails domain ruling
By Charles Hurt
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
July 1, 2005
Congress lashed out at the Supreme Court yesterday for
expanding government powers of eminent domain and vowed to ban
any federal funds for state and local governments that employ
the new authority.
Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat and member of the
Congressional Black Caucus, said she is "outraged" by the
decision. "It's the most un-American thing that can be done."
Last week's Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New
London created new eminent domain powers to allow local
governments to take private property from its lawful owner and
give it to a private developer who promises to generate
greater tax revenue with the land.
The new powers of eminent domain -- long reserved for taking
property only for public use such as highways -- could be used
to build developments such as privately owned strip malls or
In response, a bipartisan group of senators and House members
joined yesterday in introducing legislation that will withhold
federal funding from any state or local government that tries
to use those expanded powers.
"The Supreme Court voted last week to undo private property
rights and to empower governments to kick people out of their
homes and give them to someone else because they feel like
it," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican.
"No court that denies property rights will long respect and
recognize other basic human rights."
The decision was particularly explosive amid speculation that
one or more Supreme Court justices may retire in coming weeks.
Republicans who already view the Supreme Court as power-hungry
said the decision will rally Americans behind their effort to
make the court more conservative.
"The only silver lining to the cloud of this decision is the
possibility that this time the court has finally gone too
far," Mr. DeLay said.
While many opposed the proposal to address the ruling, few in
Congress -- including the House's lone self-described
socialist, Rep. Bernard Sanders of Vermont -- defended the
Supreme Court ruling.
"I disagree with the Supreme Court's decision in Kelo v. New
London," Mr. Sanders said. "I believe that the result of this
decision will be that working families and poor people will
see their property turned over to corporate interests and
Mr. Sanders opposes the withdrawal of federal funding, but
added that "there is no doubt Congress should address this
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said
she "would oppose any legislation that says that we would
withhold funds for the enforcement of any decision of the
Supreme Court, no matter how opposed I am to that decision."
She then added: "And I'm not saying that I'm opposed to this
Arguing that Congress has no business interfering with the
ruling unless it wants to amend the Constitution, Mrs. Pelosi
said: "This is almost as if God has spoken."
Mrs. Pelosi was among those who opposed an amendment to a
spending bill yesterday that bars federal funds from being
used on projects where the expanded powers of eminent domain
have been used. The amendment passed 231-189.
One public official happy with the court ruling is D.C. Mayor
Anthony A. Williams, who heads the National League of Cities.
He called the ruling a "victory."
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., the Wisconsin Republican who
is co-sponsoring House legislation with Michigan Democrat John
Conyers Jr., said the Kelo case "has the potential of becoming
the Dred Scott decision of the 21st century," a reference to
the 1857 case in which slavery was guaranteed constitutional.
"We need to have legislation such as the Sensenbrenner-Conyers
bill that will prevent our taxpayers' money from putting us
into the abyss that has been caused by the majority of the
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, also has introduced a bill
to counter the justices' decision.
"It is clearly within the power of Congress to limit the use
of federal funds," Mr. Cornyn said.
Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican and chairman of the House
Administration Committee, promised to hold hearings on the
matter and yesterday quoted the author of the Declaration of
"As Thomas Jefferson once said, 'A government big enough to
give you everything you want is a government big enough to
take away everything you have,' " Mr. Ney said.