Also Not How This Works

What is the legally binding force of a bill that is approved by one committee in one house of Congress, never by the rest of the Congress, and never signed by the President?
The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill on Jan. 18 that asked the Department of Homeland Security to review Othman Adi’s case, placing a six-month stay on his deportation. ICE defied the legislation.
That sounds like a request. A request can be ignored or denied, but not 'defied.'

And what is this all about?
Facing a deport order since 2009, he was spared under President Barack Obama’s administration, thanks to a private bill passed in the House of Representatives. President Donald Trump did away with that provision...
"A private bill"? What on earth is a private bill? What does the author imagine its legal force to be?

Things are not unconstitutional just because you disapprove of them, and they aren't necessarily illegal either. Those words mean things.

UPDATE: On 'private bills,' see discussion in comments.


E Hines said...

A private bill, however questionable its existence, is fairly standard: it's aimed at an individual, not the population at large.

PuffHo appears to have read your post, Grim. They've corrected the phrase from defiance of legislation to ICE ignored the request.

The Progressive-Democrat from Ohio, though, demonstrated his own naked bias with his cynically offered highly irregular rebuke of Congressional authority by ICE nonsense.

We can debate the merits of deporting someone who's lived here for 40 years and kept his nose clean, but the manufactured hysteria of the Left over this sort of thing calls into question the utility of debating with them rather than just moving on without them.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

So, these differ from the forbidden 'writs of attainder' only in that they do something nice for the person to which they have no cause to object?

I'm still unclear on the legal status of this 'private bill.' If 'he was spared under President Barack Obama... thanks to a private bill,' that sounds like a law that President Trump could not 'do away with.' If it wasn't a law, and was just a bill approved only by the House, then it's still not the sort of thing that is legally binding. The connection between Obama's action and the 'private bill' is totally opaque.

E Hines said...

And no one else would seem to have cause to object, beyond those Congressmen who vote against the bill and, in an ideal world, some fraction of those Congressmen's constituents. An example of a private bill is H.R.960 - A bill to confer citizenship posthumously on Corporal Wladyslaw Staniszewski (Wikipedia did not have anything on this guy, and I didn't pursue it further. Presumably he was a non-citizen soldier-hero, and this was his posthumous reward). There is a companion Senate bill, S.2917 A bill to confer citizenship posthumously on Corporal Wladyslaw Staniszewski; both had to be passed and then the thing signed by the President. Private bills must follow the same legal procedures as any other bill.

Your opacity is driven by Frej's (the author of the PuffHo piece) distortion of the facts. The "private bill" was passed by the House, but it didn't get past the Senate, and so there is no Private Bill that conferred the immunity pretended to. If Adi was "spared" by Obama, it would have been by Obama's DHS Memorandum that created DACA.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

OK, well, if a 'private bill' is just a term of art for a bill that affects only one person in some positive way, then I do understand how they work. They work just like other bills. In which case, a bill passed by just one house can't be signed into law, no matter how much the President likes it. Nor can it, then, be defied by another President, as it was never the law to start with.

E Hines said...

That there's a true fact.

I don't like private bills, no matter the good intentions. Most States have banned them at their level.

Eric Hines

douglas said...

How is a Private Bill clear of equal protection issues? Even if for something positive (as in this case, presumably), it's showing a 'favoritism' that indirectly penalizes others who might feel their situation is similar, or their heirs, etc. Perhaps in this case as he was deceased, it's purely gestural, but I don't know that (pension, survivors benefits, immigration status of heirs, etc.?). Seems like doing away with the practice would be a good idea.

E Hines said...

They're clear of equal protection questions when they're not challenged. Our courts don't generally intervene on their own initiative.

Eric Hines

William Newman said...

"So, these differ from the forbidden 'writs of attainder' only in that they do something nice for the person to which they have no cause to object?"

I am not an expert, but to my knowledge (1) yes they do differ that way and (2) the difference is not just 19th or 20th century casuistry, but a terminological distinction that the Founders drafting and ratifying the Constitution would have (certainly) understood and (very very plausibly) intended to make. It might or might not be a fundamentally wise or stable distinction, but it's a definitional distinction that was "in the air" in the history of the period starting from the Stuarts-vs.-Parliament era and running up to the drafting of the Constitution.

On the bill of attainder side, there were several high-level political bills of attainder (at the level of executing or threatening to execute top governmental officials) in early part that period (before the Glorious Revolution, more or less, and esp. before the Restoration), after which as I understand it such bills not only fell out of use (along with various other practices like digging up the remains of fallen rivals and ritually dishonoring them), but also came to be seen as seriously bad policy (perhaps comparable to attitude changes over roughly the same period regarding torturing people in the course of legal investigations).

On the bill-doing-something-nice-for-an-individual side, the practice seems to have been somewhat routine throughout the period. I don't know enough incidents to guess the total numbers, but I have run across multiple historical incidents of people being given something (e.g., various one-off pension sorts of arrangements, and IIRC at least one of the payments late in the life of In all the cases I know it seems to have been treated as a routine exercise of Parliamentary power, not fundamentally controversial or corrupt or particularly unstable.

Grim said...

Thank you, Mr. Newman. I don't recall your commenting before, but I'd like to encourage you to comment more often.