Enumerated Powers Act
Rep. John Shadegg yesterday introduced The Enumerated Powers Act, which would “require Members of Congress to include an explicit statement of Constitutional authority into each bill that is introduced.”
The antecedents for such legislation are strong. Indeed, it really just reinforces the 10th Amendment which states, in its entirety, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Shadegg cites the father of modern American conservatism, Barry Goldwater, as his model:
I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed in their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is ‘needed’ before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ interests, I shall reply that I was informed their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.
Marshall Manson calls this “a great idea” and observes, “If nothing else, it might remind Congress that the Constitution is a limiting document — a blueprint that puts strict boundaries on the federal government’s power and authority to interfere with our lives.” True enough.
Unfortunately, we so long ago moved away from governing according to the Constitution that a return to the 1789 model is inconceivable. Further, the Framers themselves left a gapping loophole in the concept of enumerated powers-only governance in the very section where said powers are enumerated, Article I, Section 8: “To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.” So, really, all Congress would need to do is claim that any bill it signed was “necessary and proper” and that it related to those “other powers.” Better yet, in the age on the giant federal bureaucracy, the “any department or officer thereof” rationale is vast, indeed.