Oh, this is awesome. Anthony Weiner challenged HR 358 (The Protect Life Act) on a point of order because the authors failed to cite the appropriate constitutional authority to permit its introduction. Then Frank Pallone chimes in with the answer: Republicans can't cite Constitutional reason for the bill because there IS no constitutional authority.
The statement produced which Republicans claim is in compliance with the rule reads this way:
Mr. Weiner then read from the statement submitted by Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts, the sponsor of the legislation, which stated in full: “Congress has the power to enact this legislation pursuant to the following: The Protect Life Act would overturn an unconstitutional mandate regarding abortion in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”
As Weiner points out, the challenge isn't whether it's constitutional or not, but that the rules require that all bills introduced must cite Constitutional authority for its introduction. Democrats have sent a formal request (PDF) for the bill to be withdrawn until such authority is added:
Chairman Pitts' bill is an assault on a woman's access to abortion services. Its apparent objective is to make it impossible for women to choose an abortion by effectively eliminating coverage for the necessary medical services. It also calls into question the obligation of health care providers to provide the emergency services needed to save the l i fe of a pregnant woman. Because the bill represents a federal intrusion into the most intimate personal decisions of women and fanlilies, it is exactly the type of legislation that most needs a clear statement of Congress's constitutional authority.
While we do not dispute that you have the right to bring H.R. 358 before the full Committee, we respectfully suggest that you use your discretion not to do so. You should ask Mr. Pitts to introduce a new bill with a valid statement of constitutional authority and use the new bill, not H.R. 358, as the vehicle for any further consideration of this matter in the Committee. That would send a strong signal that the Committee is serious about the requirement that the constitutional basis of legislation be clearly stated before legislation can be considered in Committee.
The end is particularly delicious, where Joe Barton cites the section of the Constitution that authorizes Congress to pass legislation. I'm certain that's what the Tea Party had in mind when they pushed for that constitutional authority rule, aren't you?
Of course, they'll find an excuse to introduce the bill without the required constitutional authority, but this whole argument just highlights how ridiculous the entire notion of limiting legislation to that which has cited constitutional authority.
I'm glad Anthony Weiner is on our side of the House. He is a formidable opponent.