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Posted at 9:39 PM ET, 01/24/2011

Scalia's closed-door session with lawmakers proves light on politics, attendees say

By Felicia Sonmez

When Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) announced that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia would visit the Capitol to discuss the Constitution, at a closed-door meeting sponsored by the House Tea Party Caucus, some argued that the conservative justice had crossed too far into the world of politics and had abandoned his neutrality by aligning himself with a group of right-leaning lawmakers.

But when the reviews came in Monday night, the three-dozen or so House attendees -- including a handful of liberal members -- said that the hour-long talk was less a political powwow and more an intellectual discussion about the Constitution and the separation of powers.

"This was pretty dry, actually," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), one of several liberal House members who attended the talk.

Schakowsky called the event, which was open to lawmakers of both parties, "fascinating" and said that it was conducted "at a very, very high level," with "lots of Latin phrases from lawyers."

"I didn't sense at all ... that it was skewed in a particular [political] direction," she added, noting that as one might expect, Scalia "suggested that we all get a hard copy of the Federalist Papers and read them and underline them and dog-ear them."

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), another liberal member who attended the event, also gave a positive review of the event, held in a Capitol Visitors Center meeting room. Nadler noted that Scalia fielded questions on issues ranging from earmarks to constitutional conventions.

Nadler himself asked Scalia a question about the issue of state secrets, engaging in a collegial give and take with the conservative justice that was "probably the most entertaining exchange" of the evening, according to Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.).

For all the controversy leading up to the event, those in attendance said that politically charged issues such as health care reform and the Citizens United case were not raised.

Rather, Scalia focused his remarks on the importance of the legislative branch, telling members that Congress is "the 900-pound gorilla" of the three branches, said Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.).

When one questioner asked Scalia about the potentially contentious issues of presidential czars and recess appointments, the justice began to answer but then stopped, noting that the court might one day have to deal with those matters, according to Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.).

And on another potentially hot topic -- congressional earmarks -- Nadler said that Scalia's answer wasn't a surprise to him, saying that the justice essentially "took it for granted that they were constitutional."

Rather, it was Scalia's response on the history of earmarks that was unexpected, Nadler said. He said the justice told lawmakers that in the early days of the republic, Congress would pass earmarks giving the president much wider latitude on spending federal dollars than those granted today.

"He said, to my surprise -- I wasn't aware of this -- that that was the way it was done in the first few years of the republic," Nadler said. "He said [President Thomas] Jefferson spent half the federal budget in dealing with the Barbary pirates, paying ransom" for captured American sailors.

With a chuckle, Nadler added: "I don't know that Congress had a line-item, 'Barbary pirates bribery.' "

By Felicia Sonmez  | January 24, 2011; 9:39 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Comments

According to Scalia "We the People...", has been replaced by "We the Multi-National Coprorations..."

Posted by: lynnlm | January 25, 2011 7:29 PM | Report abuse

According to Scalia "We the People...", has been replaced by "We the Multi-National Coprorations..."

Posted by: lynnlm | January 25, 2011 7:28 PM | Report abuse

According to Scalia "We the People...", has been replaced by "We the Multi-National Coprorations..."

Posted by: lynnlm | January 25, 2011 7:27 PM | Report abuse

The chatterers of the Left had their undies in a knot over the prospect of this meeting. Yet, even Rep. Jan Schakowsky had nothing bad to say about the event. Just goes to prove that the much-maligned Scalia and Bachmann have more integrity than their enemies are willing to admit.

Posted by: HalfNorsk1 | January 25, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Antonin Scalia is America's Roland Freisler.

Posted by: gkam | January 25, 2011 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Corporations are essentially a creature of Congress... Congress sets out the legal parameters for their establishment and continued existence... Congress created the legal fiction that corporations are, for some purposes under the law, "persons".

Nothing in the Constitution should be read to authorize Congress to create entities that share all the POLITICAL rights of ACTUAL persons, citizens of our Republic (especially the right to vote)... if it could do that, Congressmen could in effect re-elect themselves.

Corporations exercising a "right" to donate money to political campaigns, and flood the airways with the political views of their controlling officers is only different in degree, and not in kind, from actually permitting the corporation itself to vote.

Corporations are not people... they are properly deemed "legal persons" only for limited purposes such as owning property, executing contracts and fixing liability. There is NO good reason to permit corporate Boards and CEOs to advance THEIR OWN political interests, with all the assets of the corporations they run (purportedly as a trust on behalf of stockholders and the public).

Congress can fix this. It will, if the American people demand it.

Posted by: Iconoblaster | January 25, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Corporations are essentially a creature of Congress... Congress sets out the legal parameters for their establishment and continued existence... Congress created the legal fiction that corporations are, for some purposes under the law, "persons".

Nothing in the Constitution should be read to authorize Congress to create entities that share all the POLITICAL rights of ACTUAL persons, citizens of our Republic (especially the right to vote)... if it could do that, Congressmen could in effect re-elect themselves.

Corporations exercising a "right" to donate money to political campaigns, and flood the airways with the political views of their controlling officers is only different in degree, and not in kind, from actually permitting the corporation itself to vote.

Corporations are not people... they are properly deemed "legal persons" only for limited purposes such as owning property, executing contracts and fixing liability. There is NO good reason to permit corporate Boards and CEOs to advance THEIR OWN political interests, with all the assets of the corporations they run (purportedly as a trust on behalf of stockholders and the public).

Congress can fix this. It will, if the American people demand it.

Posted by: Iconoblaster | January 25, 2011 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Citizens United did not create first amendment rights for corporations. That was done years ago. The doctrine was so well established that not one party to the case thought to raise the issue of whether the prior rulings were in error. It is amazing that people are so infuriated by a decision they do not understand (and probably did not read). It is even more amazing that they argue for a law limiting campaigns in the face of a first amendment that begins "Congress shall make no law". What is so difficult about "no law"?

Posted by: Ashland | January 25, 2011 8:53 AM | Report abuse

The Supreme Court was designed for Protestants and Deists by Protestants and Deists and not one Protestant serves on the Court designed by and for them! Thus the decline of our Democracy and our Supreme Court!

America voted for Al Gore and got George Bush. The Supreme Court, consisting of only one Protestant for whom and by whom the the court was designed, stopped the counting in Florida and gave the presidency to the candidate of their choice, Bush! (two Italians on the court are first-generation Americans). Also, the current court has replaced government of, by and for the people
with government of, by and for corporations. They have no shame! At long last, they have no decency
When Alexis de Tocqueville wrote DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA , translated into English in 1835, he wrote about a democracy created by Protestants and Deists for Protestant and Deists. He would weep to see the contempt for our Democracy by insidious ingrates!

Posted by: Chagrined | January 25, 2011 4:13 AM | Report abuse

This clown had been tilting the scales of justice since Bush vs. Gore and will not rest until America is a totalitarian Christian nation - where all the poor work in forced labor camps. If ever second amendment remedies were appropriate is it now.

Posted by: echoparkla | January 25, 2011 12:06 AM | Report abuse

The odious pig Scalia and his sidekick, the plug stupid and perjuring Thomas have no ethics and, in the case of Thomas, a fraud who has been on the payroll of right-wing institutions for years (using his ditzy wife as the front-hag) while lying about it on required disclosures. He lied for twenty years as his take amounted to nearly a million bucks!

These two are corrupt and have no business hearing any cases that touch on healthcare or any other topic of interest to the extreme, hard-case right wing. They have brought shame to the Supreme Court and to the nation.


Posted by: Casey1 | January 24, 2011 11:01 PM | Report abuse

Scalia gutted the McCain-Feingold Act so his corporate sponsors could buy elections and further distort the electoral process. He is the perfect spokesperson for the Tea Party since they have no respect for the Constitution and have demonstrated themselves to be a bunch of violent hooligans. Scalia is definitely their man. His impeachment should be on everyone's mind.

Posted by: jeffl240 | January 24, 2011 10:29 PM | Report abuse

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