In an apparent attempt to deprive the GOP of a club to beat them with, House Democrats have re-defunded ACORN in a resolution that hits the House floor Friday. The bill, a continuing resolution, funds the federal government through October 31st.
"None of the funds made available by this joint resolution or any prior Act may be provided to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN ), or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, or allied organizations," reads section 163 in HR 2918.
No money would have been available to ACORN, a community organizing group, in the resolution anyway. A GOP aide noted, however, that including the language doesn't prevent House Republicans from offering repetitive amendments or motions that would also re-re-defund ACORN. They will also continue to demand a vote on a stand-alone bill to defund the group and make as much noise about it as possible, he added.
The GOP, despite the Democratic appeasement, has no intention of letting up on ACORN. "Particularly given what Chairman [Barney] Frank said on television the night before last, and the vote last week, I think you're going to continue to see House Republicans and many Democrats seize every opportunity to deny funding to this discredited organization," Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), a conservative GOP leader.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) has argued that the bill is a "bill of attainder," which is specifically barred by the Constitution. No bill can specifically target an individual or a single organization for punishment, a clause inserted into the Constitution by the founders who had been so targeted by the British parliament.
"The constitution prohibits Congress from passing a bill of attainder," Nader said on the House floor Friday. "A bill that no matter what its form punishes an unnamed individual or an easily ascertainable people. Last week to the great shame of this House, we passed a bill of attainder, a bill stating that no federal funds should go through a specifically named organization, ACORN. Now, in this conference report, we are about to do it again, and why?
"Because of a desire to punish ACORN. And yet as ACORN's lawyer wrote to us recently, this is, quote, to my research unprecedented in congressional history. Never before has one corporation or entity has been the subject of such broad-reaching punishment by congressional mandate. The punishment here did not follow some criminal or administrative process to basic due process protections. It flowed out of a Fox-News-Network-report-led call for a public lynching. There was no statement of charges and no reference to a judicial or administrative finding of wrongdoing by ACORN. All that occurred was a member of congress making a motion supported with a speech full of negative and largely inaccurate observations about ACORN followed by a vote. And the fact is ACORN has never been convicted of anything. Lots of charges. So far no proof in any court or administrative proceeding. But some charges may be true. And they may or may not, I think not, and that's a personal opinion, indicates malfeasance.
"But that's why we have courts and administrative agencies and congressional investigating committees. It may be that ACORN is guilty of various infractions. And if so it ought to be vetted or sanctioned by the appropriate administrative agency or by the judiciary. But Congress must not be in the business of punishing individual organizations or people without trial. And that is what the provision in this conference report does. It prohibits any federal funds from going to ACORN for any purpose. Clearly is a punishment for alleged misdeeds.
"This is a classic bill of attainder, and as such it's flatly prohibited by the Constitution. We must not ignore the Constitution. Whatever one may think of the subject matter or the organization, the Constitution and the ban on bills of attainder are there for the protection of all our liberties and we ignore the constitutional provisions at our peril. This bill of attainder should not be in this conference report. I will, therefore, vote against the conference report. I thank you and yield back the balance of my time."
The Congressional Research Service produced a report this week that backed Nadler up. But Pence called the argument, in his opinion, "a bit of a stretch."
Appropriations Committee chair Dave Obey (D-Wisc.) declined to comment.