Hostettler for Senate

Another user has written a fine overview of John Hostettler’s positions and why he is an ideal Senate candidate for conservatives.

I would like to second that endorsement and offer some addition points that set him apart as uniquely fit for the job, namely his unwavering commitment to the 10th Amendment, and his proven ability to stand up to the leadership of his own party when they attempt to compel their members to support some unconstitutional government growing bill.

The Constitution has the potential to be a powerful tool against the growth of our federal government, since every member of Congress and every President swear to uphold it, and since, if they actually kept that oath, they would not be able to support not only a great deal of the government growing policies of the current administration, but also a great deal of the laws that have driven the expansion of the federal government since its ratification. The main way that the Constitution, if observed faithfully, would limit the size, scope, and cost of the federal government is by circumscribing its powers strictly within those that it enumerates. The 10th Amendment says this explictitly:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

It has become popular over the past 2 years for Republicans to pay lip service to the 10th Amendment. However, the party as a whole seems to have done very little reflection on what it would mean for them to be consistent in their commitment to support policies that only entail the federal government exercising those powers that are enumerated in the Constitution. There seems to be a widespread belief that the party failed to live up to its promise when it controlled both Congress and the White House from 2000-2006, but little introspection on how not to let that happen again, and who in the party was and wasn’t to blame for it.

John Hostettler, who was in the House of Representatives from 1995-2007, is one of the rare exceptions of someone who wasn’t to blame. When the Republican party was charging ahead down the path of despotism, he was a leader among the vocal minority within the party opposed to that strategy. Throughout this time, the 10th Amendment was his guide. When the Republican led Congress passed Bush’s No Child Left Behind, which tremendously increased federal spending on and control over education, John Hostettler voted No. At the time of that vote Hostettler wrote the following:

“This principle, known as federalism, forms the core of the Constitution I took an oath to uphold. Some may be interested to learn that the United States Constitution does not delegate to Congress the power to legislate on every issue facing our nation. The powers of Congress are specifically listed in Article I, Section 8. There are only 18 powers, and 6 pertain to the ability to maintain a national defense. The other powers range from the power to coin money to the power to establish the federal court system.

In my view, the Constitution does not grant to the federal government the power to dictate to parents, states, and/or local education authorities, public education policy. Indeed, we did not even have a United States Department of Education until 1978.

In my opinion, the Department of Education was established as an act of political cynicism, a simple power grab by the powers that be in Washington dressed to look like a commitment to the public education system. Given the current state of public education, I am sure that parents wish that those in Washington had been a little less committed. [link]

Hostettler was one of only 33 Republicans to dissent from their party in that instance. This was no exception for Congressman Hostettler, it was the norm. He was one of only 19 Republicans to vote against Medicare Part D, the largest new entitlement past since LBJ, and roughly tied with Social Security for the largest segment of what is now a $100 Trillion debt of unfunded future liabilities for the federal government. He was one of only 11 Republicans to vote against the $52 Katrina relief package. He was one of only 15 Republicans to vote against Newt Gingrich’s agreement to end the 1996 government shutdown by accepting Clinton’s budget.

Another lesser known vote that I see as illustrative, was when he was one of only 15 Republicans to vote against the Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Act. This was a bill to fund stem cell research that does not involve harming embryos. For all the (very justifiable) objections of conservatives to giving taxpayer funding to research that involves the destruction of human embryos, something conspicuously absent from the debate has been the question of whether the federal government should even be funding any research at all. A Congressman who upholds his oath of office would be compelled to say that it should not. We see how precious few Republicans we had in Congress at that time who understood this.

Hostettler’s adherence to the 10th Amendment doesn’t only show up in his votes on bills that made it to the floor. It’s equally apparent in the bills he sponsored and introduced which never came up for a vote. These include his sponsorship along with a minority contingent of fellow Republicans of bills to eliminate completely the departments of Education, Energy, and Commerce, as well as a bill to eliminate federal income tax withholding, with a view toward ultimate elimination of the income tax completely, which empowers the federal government with the revenue required for so much of its unconstitutional spending.

It must be emphasized that all of these instances of putting his oath to uphold the Constitution before his loyalty to the Republican party were costly.  Hostettler’s courage did not go without notice. Congressman Walter Jones said, “The president was calling people as late as 1 or 2 in the morning to get them to vote for the Medicare prescription drug benefit. John voted his conscience first, not his party….I admire him so much. He knows more about the Constitution than almost anyone in Congress.” Hostettler’s Katrina vote was a major issue used against him in his 2006 defeat. His refusal to accept Clinton’s budget to end the standoff in 1996 resulted in Newt Gingrich cancelling a scheduled fund raiser for him. Gingrich later agreed to do a fund raiser after all, to which offer, Hostettler said, “No thanks.”

Hostettler’s opponents in the current Indiana Senate race don’t share his level of commitment to the 10th Amendment. His chief rival, Dan Coats made his greatest mission in his earlier stint in the Senate the advancement of a philosophy that would later come to be known as “compassionate conservatism.” He did this through a series of bills he championed, which he called “The Project for American Renewal.” This project was a forerunner to George W. Bush’s faith based initiatives. Coat’s “compassionate conservatism” was and continues to be much criticized by conservative thinkers from such groups as the Cato Institute, not in the least because of its unconstitutionality. In response to these criticisms, Coats stated, “Federalism is useful, but we need to avoid a 10th Amendment utopianism.”

Hostettler’s other main opponent, a state senator who stands little chance of winning the election, but who may play the role of a spoiler if he siphons enough conservative votes away from Hostettler, is Marlin Stutzman. Stutzman fairs little better than Coats when it comes to the 10th Amendment. On the one hand he has joined the recent chorus of Republicans in voicing their praise of it via resolutions that do not carry with them the force of law. On the other hand, when it comes to the policies he claims to support at the federal level, this sentiment appears to carry little more meaning with him than it does with most other Republicans. For example, at the state level Stutzman helped pass a variety of energy-related laws that could safely be described as central planning, in which the state of Indiana would use various means to nudge consumers towards one source of energy or another. While the Constitution does not prohibit the states from engaging in such practices, the 10th Amendment expressly prohibits the federal government from doing the same. Nevertheless, Stutzman’s campaign website indicates that he intends to carry his practice into the U.S. Senate. This is a far cry from Hostettler’s advocacy of eliminating the entire Department of Energy. He also has stated in a recent interview [sign up for free, and then look for “Marlin Stutzman Interview 3 13 10.mp3, 7.3 MB”] that he opposes an act that would require bills passed by Congress to include statements indicating where in the Constitution the powers exercised in such bills are delegated to the federal government, that he opposes ending federal loan guarantees through government sponsored enterprises, thus privatizing the secondary mortgage market, and that he would not support devolving the ownership of federal lands not authorized in the Constitution to the states.

One reason Hostettler’s opponents may be less inclined to join him in his strict adherence to the Constitution is that they don’t have that rare quality he has of being able to stand up against the majority and against his party leaders. Both Coats and Stutzman have voting records that are recognized in all quarters as being relatively conservative. However, most of their commendable votes were in instances where the Republican party as a whole voted the same way. Likewise, when the party broke from that conservative path, Coats and Stutzman could generally be counted on to follow along. A good example in the case of Coats was his vote to approve Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, which he defends as a vote that he gave pursuant not to his own convictions but to a party decision. Three Republican senators broke rank in that vote, had Hostettler been in the Senate at that time, he would have been #4 and might have brought others along with him–his record is too replete with proof of his insistence on putting the Constitution before his party to believe otherwise. It is not as clear that Stutzman would have been able to muster the courage to cast such a dissenting vote when the chips were down. For example, he has a generally strong record of opposing tax hikes, and a stated commitment to oppose them at all times. However, when the time came for him to vote on a bill to shore up a shrinking unemployment insurance trust fund, which the Indiana Chamber of Commerce described as “an unprecedented tax increase on Indiana employers,” only three Indiana state senators voted against that bill, and Stutzman didn’t join them, though he did vote to make sure the tax hike was postponed until after this election.

Stopping the damage that is being done at the level of our federal government requires a serious unprecedented governmental reformation. The Republican party as a whole has proven itself incapable to bring about that reformation. Thus, if that party is to play a role in stopping the damage that is being done by the growth of the federal government, and reversing the damage that has already been done, the Republican party too must be reformed. All of the candidates in the Indiana primary for U.S. Senate could safely be described as conservatives in one way or another. But two of them, Dan Coats and Marlin Stutzman, are establishment Republicans who have not demonstrated the commitment to reforming the party that we need, demanding strict limitation of the federal government’s powers to those enumerated in the Constitution. Only John Hostettler has.

If you live in Indiana, please vote for John Hostettler in the primary on Tuesday, May 4.