Back in 1999, as a Member of Congress, I cast one of 42 votes against a proposed federal law that would ban the depiction of animal cruelty. The bill passed overwhelmingly, and was signed into law by then-President Clinton. I voted against the measure not because I endorsed or favored the activity proposed to be federally banned — so-called “crush videos” of animals being killed, generally by women’s feet in high heels. I had never heard that such a disgusting and ridiculous fetish even existed, before the measure was presented to us in the House that year. I voted against it — as I suspect did all other 41 “nay” votes — because there was simply no need or constitutional basis for a federal law criminalizing such behavior. Animal cruelty laws in every state already addressed the problem.
This past April, more than a decade after the 1999 law went into effect, the Supreme Court struck it down, as being impermissibly vague and overly broad; and specifically violative of the First Amendment.
California Republican Rep. Elton Gallegly, the prime mover of the 1999 legislation, and apparently still of the mind that the federal government just must act to protect small animals already protected under state law, quickly redrafted the bill in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, and presented it to the full House for a vote late last month. In a revealing glimpse of just how much more supportive generally this Congress is of federal government power than that in 1999, there were only three House members this time who voted against the measure on July 22nd.
I am glad to report that two of the three “nay” votes in support of constitutional federalism, hailed from my home state of Georgia — Reps. Tom Graves and Paul Broun (Texan Ron Paul was the third vote). Even some of the more conservative members of the Georgia delegation, who had voted against this unnecessary expansion of federal power in 1999, voted in favor this latest go-round; Republican Reps. Jack Kingston and John Linder apaprently have developed a more benign view of enhanced federal power in the past decade.
Clearly, proponents of limited federal government power have their work cut out for them, when it comes to convincing Members of Congress to respect principles of federalism and limited government power, especially in an election year.