Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

The Constitution This Week: Filibusters, the defense bill, and church and state

May 20, 2012 by Holly Munson


News headlines, politicians, and hot-button issues come and go, but one 225-year-old document continues to emerge in our conversations about our nation’s most important questions and challenges: the Constitution. The Constitution is a big buzzword for Election 2012, and more than ever, citizens, pundits, and politicians are turning to the Constitution for answers–and sometimes ammunition, as they try to prove the Constitution is on their side.

Here’s a brief look at the top constitutional news stories and commentaries from this week.

The Constitution and... the filibuster

On Monday, a nonprofit group filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Senate challenging its filibuster rule, arguing that the filibuster is inconsistent with the intent of the Founding Fathers and the Constitution.

This idea has appealed to some, particularly for its potential to lessen government gridlock, but others have questioned the substance of the legal challenge. In Constitution Daily this week, Lyle Denniston discussed the probability of the case actually succeeding in court.

Just last week, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who had previously defended the use of the filibuster, spoke out in favor of reversing the rule: “The rest of us were wrong,” he said. “If there were anything that ever needed changing in this body, it’s the filibuster rule, because it’s been abused, abused and abused.”

The Constitution and... the House defense bill

On Wednesday a federal judge ruled against a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that allows the military to indefinitely detain, without trial, American citizens suspected of terrorism. The ruling said the provision violated the First and Fifth Amendments.

A proposal to amend the contested provision was rejected by the House on Friday.

The Constitution and... church and state

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that a town in upstate New York violated the First Amendment by allowing a majority of town meetings to be opened by a Christian-oriented prayer. Read the full decision here (PDF).

But wait, there’s more

Check out the curated links to news and commentary on constitutional issues around the web at Delicious or on the sidebar of Constitution Daily.

Join the conversation! Catch up on this week’s news, subscribe to the Constitution Daily RSS, or sign up for the email newsletter.

Holly Munson is a programs coordinator at the National Constitution Center and the assistant editor of Constitution Daily.

Sign up for our email newsletter