A petition posted online at MoveOn.org is calling for the arrest of prominent House Republicans on sedition charges for their role in engineering a 16-day government shutdown.
“I call on the Justice Department of the United States of America to arrest Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Speaker of the House John Boehner, and other decision-making House Republican leaders for the crime of seditious conspiracy against the United States of America,” the petition says.
The petition had attracted nearly 36,000 digital signatures by Friday morning.
“Arrest and try all those who were a party to deliberately trying to destroy the American Economy,” said one signer.
The petition’s author, Mark Belisle, said GOP lawmakers bent the rules to prevent the Democratic minority from bringing measures to the floor that could have allowed a so-called clean funding resolution to be brought to a vote.
“The House GOP leadership’s use of the Hastert Rule and H. Res 368 to shut down the government and threaten the U.S. economy with default is an attempt to extort the United States government into altering or abolishing the Affordable Care Act, and thus, is self-evidently a seditious conspiracy,” the petition claims. “Arrest the perpetrators in Congress immediately and bring them to justice.”
MoveOn Civic Action notes at the bottom of each petition that the group does not necessarily endorse the contents of petitions posted on the site, which is offered as an open tool to allow anyone to post petitions advocating any point of view that does not violate terms of service.
According to the U.S. code, a seditious conspiracy is part of any conspiracy to “oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States.”
A conviction could carry a possible 20-year prison term and unspecified fines, although First Amendment guarantees of free speech make proving sedition pretty difficult.
An Albuquerque Veterans Administration nurse was investigated on sedition charges after she wrote a letter to a local newspaper denouncing the Bush administration for its response to Hurricane Katrina and for its actions in the Iraq War.
“We need to wake up and get real here, and act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit,” wrote Laura Berg in 2005, but all charges against her were dropped the following year.
Seven members of the Hutaree militia group in Michigan were acquitted in 2012 of conspiracy and sedition charges, although two members were convicted on weapons charges in the case.
“The court is aware that protected speech and mere words can be sufficient to show a conspiracy,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Victoria Roberts in her decision. “In this case, however, they do not rise to that level.”
Omar Abdel-Rahman, known as “The Blind Sheikh,” and nine others were the last to be convicted of seditious conspiracy in the U.S. for their roles in planning the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and other terrorist plots.
Watch this video showing the House voting on H.Res. 368:
[Image via Agence France-Presse]