Rep. Bob Goodlatte — Congress’ Gatekeeper for the Tenth Amendment

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Republicans like to pledge support for the Constitution but some turn into convenient constitutionalists when pressed with certain issues.

Some claim to support the Fourth Amendment right to privacy but will often turn the other way when confronted with evidence that the government is spying on American citizens without a warrant.

Others love the Second Amendment but will support “exceptions” during times of tragedy.

Still others claim to support the Tenth Amendment and the right of the states to decide their own affairs but when states do things they personally don’t support, they are willing to trample on the Constitution — substituting their own personal preferences from those of the Founders. Billionaire Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson is seeking those Republicans and will leave no stone unturned until he finds enough to pass a crony bill designed to overturn state law and prevent legalized online gaming.

Known as the “Restore Our Wire Act” (RAWA) bill, Adelson wants to prohibit states from legalizing online gaming for their residents.  The legislation, introduced in the Senate by Lindsey Graham (R-SC), would overturn the laws in a half dozen states that allow online gambling and the sale of online lottery tickets within their borders.  In addition, it would bar other states from passing similar laws in the future.  The bill has been the subject of two hearings in the House of Representatives and advocates of limited government fear it could be attached to a larger spending bill at the end of the year in an effort to placate Adelson, one of the biggest donors to the Republican Party.

Most Republicans don’t support gambling.  That is especially true of Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia).  Throughout his career, Goodlatte has opposed expansion of gambling wherever and whenever it was presented.  However, Mr. Goodlatte has also been Congress’ most stalwart champion of the Tenth Amendment.  As the Chairman of the Committee designed to protect the Constitution, the House Judiciary Committee, he has refused to one of those convenient constitutionalists.  That presents a problem for the billionaire.

  • In 2011, Goodlatte chose to read the 10th Amendment on the floor of the House of Representatives during the daily reading of the constitution.
  • In March 1995, Goodlatte voted for the conference report for S 1, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995, which sought to curb unfunded mandates often imposed on states.
  • In 2010, in an interview with the The News Virginian, Goodlatte said that he was in support of H.R. 5034, the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act of 2010, which would have allowed the sale of alcohol to be an exception to the interstate commerce clause, and said he was “a pretty strong believer in the right of states to regulate.”
  • In 2014, Goodlatte criticized federal legislation, called the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would allow states to collect sales tax on internet purchases. He claimed it would infringe on states’ rights be allowing a state’s citizens to be taxed by other states.
  • Most critically, in 1997, when he introduced his bill, the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act of 1997, Goodlatte said the bill would “protect the right of citizens in each state” to decide “if they want to allow gambling within their borders.” He said: “The legislation I am introducing today will protect the right of citizens in each State to decide through their State legislatures if they want to allow gambling within their borders and not have that right taken away by offshore, fly-by-night operator.”
  • In 2006, when introducing the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act of 2006, Goodlatte argued the legislation would “return control to the states” as to whether they want intrastate gambling.

There is little doubt, however, in the coming weeks and months as Congress tried to push forth major omnibus legislation, someone in the Leadership will appeal to Goodlatte on behalf of the billionaire casino owner. Goodlatte has never turned his back on the Tenth Amendment.  Placating the monied interests of a casino owner would certainly not be a good place to start doing so.  My money is on Goodlatte sticking to constitutional principles.cand1559

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