A new bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., which would strip various privileges granted to former presidents if they have been “twice impeached.” Since only one president, former President Donald Trump, fits that description, it appears that the bill has been targeted at him.
If enacted, “twice impeached” presidents would be stripped of their pension, clerical help, and mailing privileges that past holders of the office enjoy by law. No federal funds could be used to name any federal building after them, and they would lose the right to a burial in Arlington National Cemetery. Only presidents William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy are currently buried at Arlington, but every president is entitled to that honor.
Rep. Sanchez made it clear in a statement that the bill was prompted by, and targeted at Trump.
“For years, Donald Trump poured gasoline on lies, encouraging racism and hatred, then lit the match on January 6th,” Sanchez said. “A president who has been impeached twice does not deserve the honors bestowed on a former president. We should never glorify the hatred Donald Trump personified as president. This bill ensures that there is no glory for hate – not a building, statue, or even a park bench.”
If perhaps you were skeptical of attempts by Congress to pass legislation targeting an individual for punishment and wondered if such were permissible under the U.S. Constitution, you’d be on to something.
Art. I, Section IX, Clause 3 simply states: “No Bill of Attainder … shall be passed.”
So what is a bill of attainder? According to the National Constitution Center:
“The concept of ‘attainder’ by legislation dates back at least to 16th Century England. Traditionally, it was used by Parliament to single out and punish – often, by death — the political enemies of the crown. Some of America’s pre-constitutional colonies followed the practice to punish individuals loyal to the English crown, but those who wrote the Constitution in Philadelphia in 1787 were determined to forbid the practice and did so as part of Article I.”
The Framers intended to include not just legislative punishments doling out death penalties, but all lesser forms of punishment as well, also known as “bills of pains and penalties.” In a 1977 case involving former President Richard Nixon, the U.S. Supreme Court explained that the clause was meant to apply to a legislative measure that (1) singled out an identified individual or group, (2) imposed a form of punishment, and (3) barred any trial in court of that individual or group for the alleged wrongdoing.
By those standards, the “No Glory for Hate Act” is likely unconstitutional. It’s also likely that other members of Congress will undoubtedly recognize that defect and not let the bill go very far.
We’ll be following this bill and keep you apprised of any developments.
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