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One Louisiana Senator Knows the Constitution

October 31, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger




Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.

From the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the U.S.


On October 28, Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana sent a strongly-worded letter to the junior Senator from her state, David Vitter.  The letter was in response to Senator Vitter’s request to join him in his effort to filibuster the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill unless his amendment to include in the Census a question about citizenship and immigration status.


If we are to believe him, Senator Vitter, a staunch defender of the broken status quo in our immigration system, wants to exclude the count of non-citizens for the purposes of Congressional apportionment.  


Aside from the billions of wasted taxpayer dollars that would result from scrapping much of the work the Census Bureau has done in the two years since the deadline passed for Congress to comment on the content of the Census form, there is a more fundamental problem with the Vitter amendment.  As Senator Landrieu pointed out in her letter to Vitter,


“…it is a fact that the Constitution, as amended by the Fourteenth Amendment, does require that ‘the whole number of persons’ in the United States be counted, and that this data be used to apportion House seats and direct taxes among the states.  To correct this, Congress would need to pass a Constitutional Amendment and have it ratified by the prerequisite number of states.”


Senator Vitter’s amendment to an appropriations bill, Landrieu continues, would not amend the Constitution.


Although Louisiana rejected the 14th amendment in 1867, it is now a part of our Constitution, and thus the law of the land.  Senator Vitter from Louisiana should stop acting like it isn’t.


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