Update: The piece of legislation (H.R. 450) discussed in this article now has 20 co-sponsors. All Republican. This of course also means 158 Republicans don't see the value of the bill, furthering the argument the difference in the two parties is nuance only.
Legislator to colleagues: 'Your laws not authorized by Constitution'
April 09, 2009
By Chelsea Schilling
As a reminder of the federal government's limited powers, 20 representatives want to ensure that every single piece of legislation passing through Congress includes a statement citing specific constitutional authority for enacting it.
Sponsored by Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., H.R. 450, or the Enumerated Powers Act, states, "Each Act of Congress shall contain a concise and definite statement of the constitutional authority relied upon for the enactment of each portion of that Act. The failure to comply with this section shall give rise to a point of order in either House of Congress. …"
When he introduced the proposal Jan. 9, Shadegg gave a House floor speech reminding his colleagues of limited authority granted in the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
It states, "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."
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"What that means is that the Founding Fathers intended our national government to be a limited government, a government of limited powers that cannot expand its legislative authority into areas reserved to the states or to the people," Shadegg said. "As the final amendment in the 10 Bill of Rights, it is clear that the Constitution establishes a Federal Government of specifically enumerated and limited powers."
For that reason, Shadegg said he has introduced the Enumerated Powers Act each year that he's been in Congress.
"This measure would enforce a constant and ongoing re-examination of the role of our national government," he said. "… It is simply intended to require a scrutiny that we should look at what we enact and that, by doing so, we can slow the growth and reach of the Federal Government, and leave to the states or the people, those functions that were reserved to them by the Constitution."
Shadegg said the act would perform three important functions:
1. It would encourage members of Congress to consider whether their proposed legislation belongs in the federal level in the allocation of powers or whether it belongs with the states or the people.
2. It would force lawmakers to include statements explaining by what authority they are acting.
3. It would give the U.S. Supreme Court the ability to scrutinize constitutional justification for every piece of legislation. If the justification does not hold up, the courts and the people could hold Congress accountable and eliminate acts that reach beyond the scope of the Constitution.
He said the Founding Fathers granted specific, limited powers to the national government to protect the people's freedom.
"As a result, the Constitution gives the Federal Government only 18 specific enumerated powers, just 18 powers," Shadegg noted.
Beginning with President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, he said, Congress has ignored the 10th Amendment and greatly expanded federal government.
"Let me be clear," he said. "Virtually all the measures which go beyond the scope of the powers granted to the Federal Government by the 10th amendment are well-intentioned. But unfortunately, many of them are not authorized by the Constitution. The Federal Government has ignored the Constitution and expanded its authority into every aspect of human conduct, and quite sadly, it is not doing many of those things very well."
While many believe government "can do anything," that is not what the Founding Fathers intended for the nation, Shadegg contends.
WND columnist Henry Lamb has been urging voters to contact representatives and ask directly if they will co-sponsor and vote for the Enumerated Powers Act, or explain why not – in writing.
The legislation has 19 co-sponsors – all Republicans.
Lamb suggested the act become the theme song of the tea parties taking place around the nation.
"Nothing short of massive public pressure will force congressmen to take a position on this important bill." Lamb wrote. "Nothing short of a return to the Constitution can save this great nation."
Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., chairs the House Rules Committee, and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairs the House Judiciary Committee – where the act was referred Jan. 9 and remains today.
"Both of these committee chairs should be bombarded with phone calls and e-mails asking that H.R. 450 be brought to the House floor for a recorded vote," Lamb wrote.
Shadegg said the federal government has acted too long without constitutional restraint and has blatantly ignored principles of federalism.
He urged his colleagues to join him in "supporting a review and a criticism and an evaluation of the proper role of the Federal Government in order to empower the American people and to distribute power as the Constitution contemplated it."