Sorry, sorry, sorry - more about Kelo
Actually, more about the reactions to Kelo v. New London, CT. First, John Cornyn's bill has picked up 15 cosponsors in the last couple of days, including Floridian Democrat, Bill Nelson. Meanwhile, the House has voted, 231-189, to amend an appropriations bill to withhold federal funds from state projects that use eminent domain for private development.
In the title to my last post, I referred to Kelo reactions as "hysteria" and "position taking" and this Washington Post story illustrates why I did. The comments of activists, Tom Delay and James Sensenbrenner, blaming this action on "an unaccountable judiciary" and referring to it as "the Dred Scott decision of the 21st century" are just ludicrous. The 1981 Michigan SC Poletown decision is only the highest profile case of eminent domain use for private development before this. Several states have decided through legislative, constitutional or judicial processes to exclude private development from the definition of public use (and several have explicitly chosen to include it, as Connecticut did.) Interestingly, the Michigan SC has since reversed their Poletown decision, setting Michigan state law against the use of public taking for private development.
That said, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's comment is less ridiculous than irrelevant. She accuses the sponsors of the spending measure of violating separation of powers by withholding funds to enforce a Supreme Court decision, but the Court didn't order state and local governments to take property for private development. It just said they could do so if they chose. I can understand conservative Republicans blowing the decision out of proportion to energize activists for whatever nominations fights are coming, but Pelosi sounds like she doesn't even know what the case is about.
Even the reporter mischaracterizes the decision, writing that Kelo "greatly broadened the types of projects for which the government may seize property to include not only bridges and highways but also slum clearance and land redistribution," as if the Court hadn't already approved of such takings decades ago.
As with O'Connor's vote in the case itself, the federalism dimension is missing here. Devolution conservatives of the Reagan era who were anxious to return substantial authority to state and local policymakers are curiously silent. Of course, it makes more sense to nationalize political issues when you control both houses of Congress and the Presidency, so I shouldn't be surprised.