Johnson City Press: Roe: Need to relook at 14th Amendment

Roe: Need to relook at 14th Amendment

Zach Vance • Nov 2, 2018 at 11:39 PM

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, said he believes the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, interpreted to grant birthright citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil, needs to be relooked at.

“I’ve said this now for 12 years. We need to relook at the 14th Amendment,” Roe said during a sit-down with the Johnson City Press Friday morning.

The 14th Amendment has made recent headlines as President Donald Trump told Axios during an interview that he was preparing an executive order that would do away with the guarantee of birthright citizenship in the United States.

Roe said he’s studied previous court rulings regarding the amendment, including the 1897 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, which established precedent for interpreting the 14th Amendment’s citizenship clause.

“It said in that 1897 court ruling that these were legal residents, not illegal residents of the country,” Roe said.

“Now, this is going to be a fascinating court decision, and the courts will ultimately work this out. It won’t be for me to do it, or the Congress to do it, it will be the courts to do it. Where (Congress) would come in is: ‘Do we want to change the Constitution?’”

While Roe did not say he outright opposed birthright citizenship, he did make the case that no European country has such requirements. The United States is one of 33 countries, including most of Central and South American, that offers citizenship to every person born on its soil.

In Italy and France, children born to foreign parents can request citizenship once they reach 18 years old. In France, those born to foreign parents have to live in the country for five years since age 11, and in Italy, the person has to continually live in the country since birth and make the request for citizenship before their 19th birthday.

Roe did warn about being “very careful” about opening up or changing the Constitution.

“The Constitution has served us well since 1789, when it was first ratified,” Roe said. “I’d be very limited on what I would look at, and I think it’s going to be fascinating with what happens (in the courts).”

However, if given the opportunity, Roe said the 14th Amendment would not be his priority, adding a balanced budget amendment would.

When posed with the question of having the chance to propose one amendment to the Constitution, Roe offered that same response on Oct. 11 during a live debate with his opponent, Democrat Marty Olsen.

Olsen used Roe’s response to say, if Congress was doing its job, a Constitutional amendment would not be required.

“We can’t in an amendment make sure we take care of every possible variable that might occur in the future. What happens if we’re at war? What happens if we have another depression? So it worries me to have a balanced budget amendment,” Olsen said.

As Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Roe also responded to criticism about a $10 billion no-bid contract that was awarded to Cerner for a new VA electronic health record system.

Currently, Roe said electronic health record platforms used by the VA and Department of Defense cannot share information, an issue the federal government has been trying to solve for a while.

“I got lit up about this about five or six years ago. The taxpayers spent $1 billion ... to try to make the DOD’s and VA’s electronic health systems talk to each other,” Roe said. “I went to Great Lakes, Illinois, and they showed me how it was going to work, and I was underwhelmed. We finally had a hearing, they came in and said, ‘We can’t do it.’ I don’t know where the $1 billion went, but they couldn’t do it.”

This time around, Roe said the Department of Defense initiated the Cerner contract, effectively leaving the VA with no other option but to choose Cerner.

“When the DOD initiated the Cerner contract, it really sort of locked the VA into that because interoperability is absolutely critical to be able to hand off (health records from) the DOD to VA,” Roe said. “So that’s why it happened. Actually, DOD forced the VA’s hand.”

Olsen has criticized Roe for the Cerner contract, citing three contributions the company made to Roe’s political action committee, the Healthcare Freedom Fund.

At the debate, Olsen challenged Roe on the Cerner contract, saying it looked like a move toward privatization of the VA. Roe said Olsen’s comment was nonsense, considering the VA’s budget was $208 billion this year.

“If you watch my campaign, I have not said one thing negative about my opponent. Not one, nor am I going to. I’m going to tell you what I’m for, and you can support that or not,” Roe said. “I know Marty. He’s a friend of mine. I’m going to be a friend of his when it’s over. I’m not going to say negative things about him.”

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