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Congress and the Constitution
The powers entrusted to Congress are contained in the Constitution of the United States and whether all the actions of Congress are in agreement has been a battle since the beginning of our country. Article 10 of the Constitution specifically states those powers not granted to the federal government is retained by the states. This is a well-known fact but do we as a general rule really know what powers the federal government has and what powers the states have. Determining the separation of these powers has become blurred in recent years with all the legislation being passed by Congress along with the regulations.
A congressional action in many cases either makes sense or is well within their authority to generate. It is also a well-known fact that much of the decisions being made by Congress are political in nature. Both political parties should look out for their constituents and the country but this may not always be the case. Individuals we elect appear in many instances to vote along party lines when the issue is not in the best interest of the country.
Those we elect to serve us in Congress take an oath to support and defend the Constitution but many decisions and actions or inactions raises questions whether they are honoring the oath they have taken. Before going further I want to state that there are some new individuals who take their oath seriously and the actions they have taken support that conclusion. These individuals are a breath of fresh air for standing up for what they believe and supporting their constituents. This they do even when their own party does not agree with the positions they have taken and the methods they have used.
The Constitution is the law of the land and while there are times that legislative actions appear to be in violation of the rule of law/powers granted to Congress they continue to find their way into becoming law. The language of legislations being generated to put it bluntly is vague and is open to broad interpretation by the departments and agencies tasked with monitoring and enforcing them. We as voters should be able to read any legislation without needing an interpreter to tell us what it says. This is not likely to happen in the near future if at all as it depends on individuals being elected to change the culture of Congress to make the actions more transparent to the public they are supposed to represent.
The word transparency is the key word. Any legislation or for that matter any amendment to proposed legislation should clearly identify the authority provided in the Constitution on which the legislation is based. This would amount to legislation if it were signed into law being considered constitutional law. This term and its meaning is something which Congress needs to understand and apply to all legislation being proposed. The definition of constitutional law according to businessdictionary.com is: “Body of law derived from a country’s written constitution. It lays down and guides the duties and powers of the government, and the duties and rights of its citizens and residents.”
The definition of constitutional law with its content identifies a unique concept in creating legislation which from reading several legislative actions or proposals is missing in action. Legislation should identify the duties and powers of the government in proposed legislation but also the rights of citizens and residents. Too often legislation dictates requirements but does not identify the rights of citizens and residents affected by the legislation being proposed or enacted into law.
Connecting the current culture in Congress to our Constitution is a difficult task if it ever can be accomplished. Section 8 under Article I identifies the powers and rights of the government in terms or legislation they have the authority to generate. The list is clearly defined and contains 18 topics. The 18th topic clearly states the government has the power and authority “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”
Clearly the last topic sums it up quite nicely that the government has the power and authority to enact laws for the execution of the powers and responsibilities contained in the previous 17 topics and no other. General topics are listed below:
Lay and collect taxes
Pay the debt for the common defense
Rules for citizenship and bankruptcies
Punishment for forgery
Establishing Post offices
Promote progress of Science and useful arts
Constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court
Define and punish piracies
Raise and support armies
Provide for and maintain a Navy
Make rules for the government and regulation of the land and Naval forces
Calling up the militia for executing the laws of the Union
Organizing, arming and disciplining the militia
Erection of forts, arsenals and other needful buildings
The list above should be compared by those individuals generating legislation in Congress to determine if it fits into one of the categories. There are many legislative actions and even some departments and agencies which do not fall within the list of topics provided above. Granted some of these may well be providing some benefit but if it is not within their constitutional authority they should be a resource for the states not a source dictating requirements.