“Protect and Serve Act” passes House. File under bipartisan-is-just-another-word-for-both-sides-licking-the-same-boot: majorities of both Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have voted in favorof new hate crime legislation that sets up cops as a protected class.
Overall, just 35 House members voted against the bill (H.R. 5698), which isn’t far from making it a federal crime to resist arrest. Under the so-called “Protect and Serve Act,” anyone who injures or attempts to injure a police officer will be guilty of a federal offense—no matter how small the injury and no matter if it was intentional—if the offense has some connection to or effect on interstate commerce.
The House Liberty Caucus opposed the creation of this new federal hate crime, which it said “violates the Constitution”—the 10th Amendment grants authority to prosecute offenses against state and local cops only to the states—”and furthers the dangerous federalization of criminal law.”
The House just voted overwhelmingly to pass new federal hate crime legislation. Members of the @libertycaucus joined me to oppose this bill in accordance with the Constitution. https://t.co/gXz0rgo2mE #5thAmendment #10thAmendment #equalprotection #federalism https://t.co/fjyEAHFXEv
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) May 16, 2018
An increasing amount of conduct once only punished at the local level is now falling under the purview of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security’s HSI unit, and immigration agents. (If the shift from community policing to more metrics-based and militaristic models has had bad effects on civilian-cop relations and incarceration rates, just think how much more damage FBI and ICE agents can rack up!)
Lawmakers are justifying the Protect and Serve Act using (what else?) the Commerce Clause. But this “does not significantly narrow the range of covered offenses or avoid the constitutional violation,” said the Liberty Caucus statement.
A tenuous connection to economic activity cannot transform a criminal law that has nothing to do with economic activity—and that is is explicitly for the purpose of public safety—into a regulation of interstate commerce. If it could, the Commerce Clause would destroy the Constitution’s design for a very limited federal role in criminal law enforcement, covering only a few crimes that are clearly federal in nature.
That ship has long since sailed, alas. But good on the (lonely!) Liberty Caucus for at least trying to stand up against Congress’ use of the Commerce Clause like an incantation that overcomes the Constitution.
A related bill in the Senate is currently with the Judiciary Committee.