A bill which will allow homes to be searched without a warrant was passed with overwhelming support by the United States Congress. The bill was signed into law by President Trump with no media coverage.
On the surface, House Joint Resolution 76 seems harmless. The bill claims its purpose is “Granting the consent and approval of Congress for the Commonwealth of Virginia, the State of Maryland, and the District of Columbia to enter into a compact relating to the establishment of the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission.”
The proposal is for a safety commission to act as a wing of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. It may sound logical its power includes the ability to “Adopt, revise, and distribute a written State Safety Oversight Program” and to “Review, approve, oversee, and enforce the adoption and implementation of WMATA’s Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan.” The resolution states:
“Whereas the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, an interstate compact agency of the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the State of Maryland, provides transportation services to millions of people each year, the safety of whom is paramount; Whereas an effective and safe Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority system is essential to the commerce and prosperity of the National Capital region; Whereas the Tri-State Oversight Committee, created by a memorandum of understanding among these 3 jurisdictions, has provided safety oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.”
There is one major red flag within the text of the bill. The list of “powers” given to the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission violates one of the basic tenets of the U.S. Constitution. The bill goes on to say:
“In performing its duties, the Commission, through its Board or designated employees or agents, may:Enter upon the WMATA Rail System and, upon reasonable notice and a finding by the chief executive officer a need exists, upon any lands, waters, and premises adjacent to the WMATA Rail System, including, without limitation, property owned or occupied by the federal government, for the purpose of making inspections, investigations, examinations, and testing as the Commission may deem necessary to carry out the purposes of this MSC Compact, and such entry shall not be deemed a trespass.”
The text grants this Commission unlimited authority to enter property near the Metro Rail System without a warrant for the expressed purpose of “making inspections, investigations, examinations, and testing.”
The Fourth Amendment states:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Only five Congressmen from the House of Representatives voted against it: Representatives Justin Amash, a Republican from Michigan; Walter Jones, a Republican from North Carolina; Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky; Alex Mooney, a Republican from West Virginia; and Mark Sanford, a Republican from South Carolina.
This bill has overwhelming support despite the legislation being in clear violation of the Constitution. Justin Amash denoted the hypocrisy:
“Only 5 of us voted against bill allowing govt to enter/search private property in parts of VA, MD & DC w/o warrant,” He wrote on Twitter.
While it may only affect the Washington D.C. metro area for the time being, the overwhelming support for this bill in Congress, coupled with the fact its passing was completely ignored by the media, means this sort of legislation may be a blueprint for future legislation countrywide.
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