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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Cantwell Votes to Uphold First Amendment. NYT Says She’s in Trouble.

Posted by on June 28 at 1:25 AM

A proposed Constitutional amendment to outlaw flag burning failed by just one vote in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday. The Senate needed 67 votes (two-thirds majority) to send the proposed amendment to the states for ratification. The vote—to overrule a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said flag burning was protected by the First Amendment—failed 66-34.

The NYT article, about the close vote, name-checked Maria Cantwell as one of the senators against the amendment that’s “facing [a] potentially difficult race” this year.

Here’s what they wrote:

Eleven senators facing re-election this year opposed the amendment and several are facing potentially difficult races, including Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, a Republican, and the Democrats Daniel K. Akaka of Hawaii, Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, Maria Cantwell of Washington and Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut.

(I’ve cut & pasted the NYT’s article in below in case the link doesn’t work.)

And here’s the roll call on the vote.

Sen. Patty Murray voted with Cantwell to uphold your First Amendment rights.

Of course, this is all symbolic. Proponents of the amendment don’t seriously contend that flag burning is common…or even a problem. And opponents don’t contend that people will be oppressed (literally) if they can’t go out and burn a flag.

It seems to me, though, that opponents like Cantwell win the argument over symbolism here. The flag represents our freedom—particularly our freedom to dissent. King George (of England) and all that. Passing a rule to squash dissent in the name of the very flag that represents that freedom is just plain dumb. Or backwards. Or Orwellian…or whatever you will.

Flag Amendment Narrowly Fails in Senate Vote
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Published: June 28, 2006
WASHINGTON, June 27 — A proposed Constitutional amendment to allow Congress to prohibit desecration of the flag fell a single vote short of approval by the Senate on Tuesday, an excruciatingly close vote that left unresolved a long-running debate over whether the flag is a unique national symbol deserving of special legal standing.

The 66-to-34 vote on the amendment was one vote short of the 67 required to send the amendment to the states for potential ratification as the 28th Amendment. It was the closest proponents of the initiative have come in four Senate votes since the Supreme Court first ruled in 1989 that flag burning was a protected form of free speech.

The opponents — 30 Democrats, 3 Republicans and an independent — asserted that the amendment would amount to tampering with the Bill of Rights in an effort to eliminate relatively rare incidents of burning the flag. They said it violated the very freedoms guaranteed by the symbolism of the flag.

"This objectionable expression is obscene, it is painful, it is unpatriotic," said Senator Daniel Inouye, a Hawaii Democrat who won the Medal of Honor for his service in World War II. "But I believe Americans gave their lives in many wars to make certain all Americans have a right to express themselves, even those who harbor hateful thoughts."

Proponents of the amendment, which was backed by 52 Republicans and 14 Democrats, disputed the assertion that burning the flag was a form of speech. They said the amendment was simply an effort to reassert Congressional authority after a misguided court ruling. They said it was particularly appropriate to act now when American troops are at risk.

"Old Glory lost today," said Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, who scheduled the debate and vote in the week before Congress broke for its Fourth of July recess.

The full text of the proposed amendment is, "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."

The vote is likely to be an issue in the Congressional elections in November, and Senator Orrin G. Hatch, the Utah Republican who was the chief sponsor of the amendment, predicted the minority who opposed it would be held accountable by the voters.

"I think this is getting to where they are not going to be able to escape the wrath of the voters," Mr. Hatch said.

Eleven senators facing re-election this year opposed the amendment and several are facing potentially difficult races, including Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, a Republican, and the Democrats Daniel K. Akaka of Hawaii, Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, Maria Cantwell of Washington and Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut.

The leader of the Citizens Flag Alliance, which had been running newspaper advertisements on the issue in selected states, said it would continue to press the issue and make sure voters know where their senators stand on the amendment.

"I think this is the right thing to do, and I am going to keep at it until we run out of money or they tell me to stop," said Daniel S. Wheeler, an American Legion official who leads the advocacy group.

Prior to the vote on the amendment itself, the Senate voted 64 to 36 against a proposed bill that would have criminalized flag desecration. Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second ranking Senate Democrat, said his plan had been written to avoid Supreme Court objections, but backers of the constitutional approach dismissed that idea.

President Bush, whose father was president when the flag fight initially erupted in the aftermath of two high court rulings, said he was disappointed in the outcome. "I commend the senators from both parties who voted to allow the amendment ratification process to protect our flag to go forward, and continue to believe that the American people deserve the opportunity to express their views on this important issue."

The House has routinely approved the flag amendment on bipartisan votes and did so last year. Had the Senate passed the amendment, it would have been likely to win ratification from the required 38 states since, supporters say, all states have endorsed the amendment in some form.

While the amendment gained three votes since it was last considered in 2000, its future prospects are uncertain. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, is in line to become the Republican leader in the next Congress, and he opposes the initiative on free speech grounds. In addition, most analysts expect Republicans to lose Senate seats in the November election.

"This would have been the easiest time to get it through," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who opposed it.

The vote, which came after the Senate earlier this month defeated a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, will not be the last ideologically charged vote in the run-up to the midterm elections. The House Republican leadership announced Tuesday that it plans votes this summer on social issues, including a same-sex marriage amendment, abortion rights, Internet gambling, property rights and the Pledge of Allegiance.

"The American Values Agenda will defend America's founding principles," Speaker J. Dennis Hastert said. "Through this agenda, we will work to protect the faith of our people, the sanctity of life and freedoms outlined by our founding fathers."

And the House on Tuesday approved on a voice vote a proposal that would prohibit condominium associations and other homeowner groups from preventing residents from displaying the flag.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has been deeply involved in opposing the amendment for years, credited the senators who took a potentially politically tough vote to block it.

"The Senate came close to torching our Constitution, but luckily it came through unscathed," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the organization's Washington legislative office. "We applaud those brave senators who stood up for the First Amendment and rejected this damaging and needless amendment."

Besides senators up for re-election, the issue also divided lawmakers considered possible presidential candidates in 2008. Those voting yes included Mr. Frist, George Allen of Virginia, John McCain of Arizona, Sam Brownback of Kansas and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, all Republicans, and Evan Bayh of Indiana, a Democrat. Voting no on the Democratic side were Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin and John Kerry of Massachusetts.

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I sent an e-mail request to both Murray and Cantwell last week asking them to please vote no on the amendment. They both, as usual, sent a cordial response stating their position which was the same as their vote today.

The vote might have been symbolic but I'll take it any day.

Instead of amending the Constitution to prohibit flag burning, how about a law that all U.S. flags be made of flame-resistant material and not be imported from China or any other foreign country?

I'd support some kind of ban on that moronic American flag dress that Mean Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) wore when she pompously called ex-Marine Jack Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) a cut-and-run coward during a session of the U.S. House.

Also, let's outlaw the flag lapel pins worn by Bush and his chickenhawk cronies who've NEVER risked their lives in defense of America or its flag?

nice. a vote that makes me happy to vote for cantwell this fall.

There are two things I will always hold against my parents' generation: circumcision and the pledge of allegiance.
The history of flags is a military one: to help distinguish friend and foe on the battlefield or at sea.
The history of circumsision is oddly analogous. It helps define those who are with us (the hygeneinic circumsised americans) from those who are against us (the non-showing hordes that flaunt their foreskin in european pornography). Thus real Americans wave the flag and only put circumsized cocks in their mouths.

Miss Cantwell, meet Mike McGavick. See you later - maybe.

I'll support the flag-burning amendment only if it also mandates the destruction of all Confederate flags and makes flying one an act of treason punishable by death.

I just can't even believe this is an issue, and that it was this close. What a pack of spineless jerks.

I love how Hastert laid out his strategy for scheduling a bunch of divisive hot-button bullshit votes for the summer before the election, too. "Internet gambling"? How about bringing ourselves back from the precipice of environmental destruction? Or attempting to fix our economic problems? Or anything of substance?

HOORAY, the right to dissent is still an a value in the USA. The repubs have failed to take that freedom, dare say, right away from all who live in the USA.

TO THE BUSH REDS: HA HA HA, you lost before and you lost again. LOSERS with a big L on your heads. HA HA HA

I like to think that Washington state's Republicans lean toward Libertarianism. True Libertarians will burn anything. If McGavick proves to be an anti-burner, I don't think the issue will help him much.

Doug, Libertarianism is not the GOP here.

Stop dreaming, and wake up and smell the inefficient ineffective incompetent GOP government in action - House, Senate, Supreme Court, and White House.

Will.. If WA state Repubs don't tend toward Libertarian, then please explain to me why Reichert did the right thing on Schiavo.

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