GOP Clears Way For Retreat From Civil, Human Rights With Quiet Subcommittee Name Change

The Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights has a new name. Republicans quietly removed the terms “civil rights” and “human rights” from the subcommittee’s name, so now it’s just the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution. Civil rights and human rights apparently aren’t important enough to Republicans to keep in the name.

A spokeswoman for Senator John Cornyn, the chairman of this subcommittee, confirmed the change to The Huffington Post. She said that Cornyn believes the name was redundant:

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We changed the name because the Constitution covers our most basic rights, including civil and human rights. We will focus on these rights, along with other issues that fall under the broader umbrella of the Constitution.

Right. Cornyn’s press release on his appointment to the position of chairman says nothing whatsoever about civil rights or human rights. All he talks about is government overreach:

Senators swear an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution, and I take that sacred responsibility seriously. The Constitution is the foundation of the freedoms and values we hold dear, yet for six years President Obama has treated it as an afterthought. It is the highest of laws and must be defended as such.

He said he and his committee will act as watchdogs against such overreach. Yes, there are guarantees in the Constitution, and all its amendments, for civil rights and human rights. What’s not guaranteed is the definitions of those two things, or to whom they actually apply. Civil rights and human rights are supposed to apply to everyone equally, and yet, even here, in the allegedly freest country in the world, they don’t.

The new Republican Congressional majority has made it clear that taking away everyone’s authority is their top priority. If it wasn’t, they would never have created the Regulatory Accountability Act, which would hamstring every federal agency’s ability to make and change rules and regulations without facing huge legal challenges. Republicans call that streamlining the government and keeping it in check. It’s really usurping authority.

The HuffPo article says that civil rights groups noticed the name change, and called it “discouraging.” Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said that “names matter,” and that she hopes “this troubling name change doesn’t foretell a heedless retreat on civil and human rights.”

Unfortunately, today’s GOP believes that talking about civil rights and human rights abuses only serves to prolong the problem. Not talking about it, and just letting our existing laws do their work on their own, is the obvious way to ensure that nobody violates anybody’s rights. We can hope that the name change was just a superficial move, but it’s not likely, not with these Republicans in charge.


Featured image by Gage Skidmore. Licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr

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