Saturday, July 3, 2010

House Approves Martial Law Rule?


Yesterday, the first item on the Daily Schedule of the House of Representatives for July 1, 2010, was a vote on the adoption of the Martial Law Rule for H.R. 5618 – Restoration of Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act.

I tried to find information on the net, but could only find this on House Minority Leader John Boehner (R)’s website, The Republican Cloakroom:

H.R. 5618 – Restoration of Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act (Rep. McDermott – Ways and Means)

Closed rule, One hour of debate (also includes martial law rule for certain resolutions reported from the Rules Committee)

Rule Y 231 N 189

I did a Google search for “‘martial law rule’ ‘HR 5618′” but all I got was Boehner’s Republican Cloakroom. I searched the Library of Congress’ Thomas website for “martial law rule HR 5618″ and “martial law rule,” but was told that ”No items were found for the search.”

When I searched Thomas for “HR 5618,” I found that HR 5618 not only failed to pass on June 29, 2010, a motion introduced the same day to suspend the rules and pass the bill also failed. Given that, why was HR 5618 again on the House agenda yesterday? Furthermore, on June 30, Thomas has HR 5618 as “Bill is closed to amendments.” So how can the House tack on a “martial law rule” to HR 5618 yesterday? (See HERE.)

Here’s what Wikipedia says about Martial Law:

Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis—usually only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively (e.g., maintain order and security, and provide essential services), when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the law becomes widespread. In most cases, military forces are deployed to quiet the crowds, to secure government buildings and key or sensitive locations, and to maintain order. Generally, military personnel replace civil authorities and perform some or all of their functions. The constitution could be suspended, and in full-scale martial law, the highest ranking military General would take over, or be installed, as the military governor or as head of the government, thus removing all power from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the federal government.

Martial law can be used by governments to enforce their rule over the public. Such incidents may occur after a coup d’état (Thailand 2006); when threatened by popular protest (China, Tiananmen Square protests of 1989); to suppress political opposition (Poland in 1981); to stabilize insurrections or perceived insurrections (Canada, The October Crisis of 1970). Martial law may be declared in cases of major natural disasters, however most countries use a different legal construct, such as a “state of emergency”.

…Typically, the imposition of martial law accompanies curfews, the suspension of civil law, civil rights, habeas corpus, and the application or extension of military law or military justice to civilians. Civilians defying martial law may be subjected to military tribunal (court-martial).

[....] The martial law concept in the U.S. is closely tied with the right of habeas corpus, which is in essence the right to a hearing on lawful imprisonment, or more broadly, the supervision of law enforcement by the judiciary…. Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution states, “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

In United States law, martial law is limited by several court decisions that were handed down between the American Civil War and World War II. In 1878, Congress passed the Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids military involvement in domestic law enforcement without congressional approval. On October 1, 2002 United States Northern Command was established to provide command and control of Department of Defense homeland defense efforts and to coordinate defense support of civil authorities.

…The National Guard is an exception, since unless federalized, they are under the control of state governors. This was changed briefly: Public Law 109-364, or the “John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007” (H.R.5122), was signed by President Bush on October 17, 2006, and allowed the President to declare a “public emergency” and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities. Title V, Subtitle B, Part II, Section 525(a) of the JWDAA of 2007 reads “The [military] Secretary [of the Army, Navy or Air Force] concerned may order a member of a reserve component under the Secretary’s jurisdiction to active duty…The training or duty ordered to be performed…may include…support of operations or missions undertaken by the member’s unit at the request of the President or Secretary of Defense.” The President signed the Defense Authorization Act of 2008 on January 13, 2008. However, Section 1068 in the enacted 2008 defense authorization bill (H.R. 4986: “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008″) repealed this section of PL 109-364.

Contrary to many media reports at the time, martial law was not declared in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, because no such term exists in Louisiana state law. However, a State of Emergency was declared, which does give unique powers to the state government similar to those of martial law. On the evening of August 31, 2005, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin nominally declared “martial law” and said that officers didn’t have to observe civil rights and Miranda rights in stopping the looters. Federal troops were a common sight in New Orleans after Katrina. At one point, as many as 15,000 federal troops and National Guardsmen patrolled the city. Additionally it has been reported that armed contractors from Blackwater USA assisted in policing the city.

I apologize for the sketchiness of this report. But I was alarmed by what I saw in the House’s Daily Schedule and Boehner’s Republican Cloakroom and thought this should be publicized.

Our Founding Fathers, again and again, emphasized the importance of an informed citizenry. John Adams wrote in 1765: “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know….” Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1787: “If once they [the people] become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, Judges, and Governors, shall all become wolves.”

If you have information on what the House did yesterday on the “martial law rule to HR 5618,” please let us know by posting a comment. Thank you.

A big h/t to beloved Fellow Tina!

UPDATE (7/2/10): The Library of Congress’ Thomas website today (July 2) says that yesterday, 7/1/2010, H.R. 5618 was “Passed/agreed to in House: On passage Passed by recorded vote: 270 – 153 (Roll no. 423).” No mention of the mysterious ”martial law rule.”

Please note that the vote count (270 – 153) for passage of H.R. 5618 is different than the vote count (231Y – 189N) for the “martial law rule” which also took place yesterday, July 1 — as stated on Rep. Boehner’s website, The Republican Cloakroom. The martial law rule, therefore, is not the same as H.R. 5618. Despite that, there is no mention of the martial law rule vote on Thomas.

UPDATE #2 (7/3/10): It appears that the “martial law rule” invoked by the House on July 1 refers to a parliamentary procedure, instead of Martial Law (the imposition of a state of emergency).

The Martial Law Rule parliamentary procedure (until now unknown to me and probably to most Americans) is used by Congress to force a vote by dispensing with a longstanding House rule (Rule XIII(6a)) intended to give U.S. Representatives and the public enough time to understand significant legislation. That House rule requires that there be at least one day between a bill’s unveiling and the House floor vote, and can only be suspended if two-thirds of the House agrees. The curiously-named Martial Law Rule dispenses with Rule XIII(6a). Critics on both the left and the right have denounced the tactic, saying it empowers the majority party’s leadership to act in an authoritarian manner and endangers democratic self-government by forcing members to vote blindly on measures demanded by their leaders. [Source]

This martial law parliamentary rule is so obscure, not even Wikipedia has an entry on it. So I don’t know the rule’s origin or if it’s contained in the Jefferson’s Manual – the first American book on parliamentary procedure, written by Thomas Jefferson in 1801, which was adopted by both the House and Senate as their respective procedures.

Why such a parliamentary procedure is called a “martial law” rule escapes me. The expression “martial law” should not be used and taken so lightly. I think they do that just for their own amusement — when The People get all freaked out and think they just passed Martial Law.



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