By Kelly Sloan
Back on January 5th of this year the current House of Representatives, soon after its commencement, drafted and adopted a new rule, directing that any bill or resolution introduced into the people’s chamber have appended to it a statement of constitutional authority, i.e. it had to explicitly point out which part of the constitution was responsible for its genesis. This was, of course, immediately derided by the left as an histrionic political gimmick, confirming for many the left’s contemptuous regard for the constitution as an archaic roadblock to progress.
But a House rule it became, nevertheless. Since that time, staff of the Republican Study Committee have been dutifully collecting and sorting the Constitutional Statements for all the bills introduced into the House up until September 16 – some 3042 for those keeping score. Among their more piquant findings :
· 3 bills cite only the Preamble to the Constitution.
· 84 bills cite only Article 1, which creates the Legislative Branch.
· 58 bills cite only Article 1, Section 1, which grants all legislative powers to Congress.
· 470 bills cite only Article 1, Section 8, which is the list of specific powers of Congress, without citing any specific clause.
· 539 bills cite Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1, which grants Congress its taxing power and contains the “general welfare” and “common defense” language.
· 567 bills cite Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3, the commerce clause.
· 247 bills cite Article 1, Section 8, Clause 18, the “necessary and proper” clause, without citing a “foregoing power” as required by clause 18.
· 309 bills cite two or more of the “general welfare” clause, commerce clause, or the “necessary and proper” clause.
· 87 bills cite Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7, which provides that no money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law.
· 210 bills cite Article 4, Section 3, which provides that Congress shall have the power to make rules and regulations respecting the territory or property of the United States.
· 252 bills cite an amendment to the Constitution. For example, 54 cite the 10th Amendment (powers not delegated to the federal government), 30 cite the 14th Amendment (“equal protection, etc.”), and 64 cite the 16th Amendment (income tax).
A couple observations:I think most would agree that the first four points listed suggest nothing less than cheating. This would be on the order of coming up with a law outlawing dogs, or mandating every American citizen to stop what they are doing at noon each day and publically recite ancient Sanskrit chants, citing as legal authority the fact that the constitution says a government exists and that it creates laws.
It is interesting that the second highest number of bills on this list cite the clause granting Congress power to collect taxes for the “General Welfare”. One suspects that A) not a lot of time was spent dissecting that particular clause because B) that would deny a handy constitutional blank check.
It is similarly not surprising that the Commerce Clause would enjoy the greatest amount of traction in this regard. Since Chief Justice John Marshall, in Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), essentially told congress that the clause meant whatever they wanted it to mean, it has been used to justify all sorts of mischief. No reason to expect that to end now.
All in all, I think this provides a pretty clear snapshot of how the constitution can be manipulated or bypassed by those who lack a respect for its authority. It will take more than a well-intentioned House rule to reestablish the republic as intended.