January 23 2012

Executive Branch v. Legislative Branch: Round Two

Anna Rittgers

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was detained by the TSA at the Nashville International Airport in on his way back to Washington today.  He refused a grope-down pat-down from TSA officers after his initial X-ray body scan detected an abnormality.  Officers made him wait for two hours, and refused to let him use his cell phone to call his attorney or his office.

TSA spokesman said that officers were following procedure, and “When an irregularity is found during the TSA screening process, it must be resolved . . . [p]assengers who refuse to complete the screening process cannot be granted access to the secure area in order to ensure the safety of others traveling.”

Setting aside the notion that a US Senator (with access to confidential briefings and state secrets) is a threat to the traveling public, this also presents an interesting constitutional issue.

Sen. Paul was traveling to Washington DC for the National Right to Life march as well as today’s Senate session, and by detaining him—even if only for a couple of hours--the TSA (and therefore, the Obama Administration) violated the Speech or Debate clause.  

The Constitution specifically prevents the executive branch from intimidating or otherwise inhibiting the business of the legislative branch.  Article I, Section 6 reads:

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States. They shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.

Was Sen. Paul targeted by the Administration because he is an outspoken opponent of the TSA and its ineffective and unconstitutional screening procedures? Or was this just a coincidence? 

According to the Daily Caller:

Paul has dueled with TSA administrator John Pistole during Senate hearings about why travelers are required to consent to mandatory full body pat downs if scanners beep when they walk through. Paul argues that passengers should be allowed to choose to go through the scanners again rather than being forced to undergo a physical pat-down.


The Obama administration has not hidden its disdain for the coequal branches of government, and has certainly ignored the Constitution whenever it is more convenient to do so.   First by engaging in so-called recess appointments even though the Senate was not in recess, and now by detaining a US Senator on his way back to the Senate.

Will they circumvent the judiciary if the Supreme Court finds the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional?

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