Montana residents William Crain, an artist and Stewart Rhodes, an attorney, have launched a petition to recall the state’s congressional delegation, Sen. Max Baucus (D), Sen. Jonathan Tester (D) and Rep. Denny Reberg (R) over their vote for the National Defense Authorization Act that explicitly authorized the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects, including American citizens. Montana is one of nine states that has provisions to recall its elected federal officials. Under the Montana Recall Act all state officials in Montana are subject to recall for physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, violation of the oath of office, official misconduct, or conviction of a felony offense. The Montana petitions (there is one for each of the three), states the following “reason for recall”:
1. “The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees all U.S citizens: “a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed…”
2. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 (NDAA 2011) permanently abolishes the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, “for the duration of hostilities” in the War on Terror, which was defined by President George W. Bush as “task which does not end” to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001.
3. Those who voted Aye on December 15th, 2011, Bill of Rights Day, for NDAA 2011 have attempted to grant powers which cannot be granted, which violate both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
4. The Montana Recall Act stipulates that officials including US senators can only be recalled for physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, violation of the oath of office, official misconduct, or conviction of a felony offense.
5. Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act reads in substance: “Congress affirms that the authority of the President to detain …A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda…or associated forces…including any person who has…directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces…The disposition of a person…may include…Detention…without trial until the end of the hostilities…”
6. “Substantial support” of an “associated force” may imply citizens engaged in innocuous, First Amendment activities. Direct support of such hostilities in aid of enemy forces may be construed as free speech opposition to U.S. government policies, aid to civilians, or acts of civil disobedience.
7. Section 1021 reads: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law.” But “existing law” may be construed to refer to Padilla v. Rumsfeld in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the government’s claim of authority to hold Americans arrested on American soil indefinitely.
8. Thus Senators Bacus, Tester, and Congressman Rehberg who voted Aye on December 15th, 2011, Bill of Rights Day, for NDAA 2011 have violated his Oath of Office to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution which guarantees all citizens the right to a jury trial “In all criminal prosecutions.”
According to the press release, Mr. Rhodes stated:
These politicians from both parties betrayed our trust, and violated the oath they took to defend the Constitution. It’s not about the left or right, it’s about our Bill of Rights. Without the Bill of Rights, there is no America. It is the Crown Jewel of our Constitution, and the high-water mark of Western Civilization. [..]
Two time Medal of Honor winner Marine General Smedley Butler once said “There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights.” Time to fight.
It’s not clear if the courts will allow states to recall their federal politicians. It hasn’t gotten very far in the past. In 1967, a recall campaign was waged against Sen Frank Church by Ron Rankin, a Republican county commissioner in Kootenai County in northern Idaho. The U.S. District Court for Idaho ruled that the state’s recall laws did not apply to U.S. senators and that such a recall would violate the U.S. Constitution. Since Idaho’s State Attorney General Alan Shephard decided to accept the court’s ruling, writing that “It must be pointed out that a United States senator is not a state officer but a federal officer whose position is created by Article I, Section I of the United States Constitution. There seems to be no provision for canvassing the votes of a recall election of a United States senator.”
However, it can be argued that since there is no provision provided in the Constitution to recall members of congress, that right is preserved for the states under the 10th Amendment which states:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Leaving Mr. Rhodes’ affiliation with The Oath Keepers, a group that has been criticized in the past for adopting extremist views and language, and for their supposed ties to white supremacist and militia groups, the petition drive does have some merits. If successful, it could lead to other states passing laws to provide for the recall of elected federal officers who think that the Constitution is quaint. Good luck to them and perhaps good riddance to Baucus, Tester and Reberg.