The Enumerated Powers Act: A Simple Test

Our Constitution was constructed as an intentionally sparse document, with the intention that most matters would be settled locally, or within the states, through the normal course of a healthy body politic. At the same time, our founding document was clearly grounded with respect to timeless and absolute truths -- indisputable principles guaranteeing individual liberty and warning of the dangers of excessive centralized power.

For those with eyes to see, the extent to which a growing central government has swallowed up personal rights and responsibilities is evident, and it fully vindicates the fears of our Founders. Because of these fears, the Founders ensured the Constitution would speak loudly, and with great specificity, with regard to the absolute necessity of limited federal power. The enumeration of powers allowed by Congress in Article I, Section 8 was designed to bind the legislature within its own clear and non-negotiable realm of authority and responsibility.

Today, perhaps nothing else trumpets the degree to which our current representative bodies ignore these articulated limits as does their perennial failure to pass any bill designed to reign in their own power. Legislation entitled the "Enumerated Powers Act" has been introduced in this Congress, both in the House (H.R. 450) and Senate (S. 1319). The bill is a simple, one-page proposal, summed up by the following language: "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 bill fulfills its own demand, in that it includes this clause as Constitutional justification: "This Act is enacted pursuant to the power granted Congress under article I, section 8, clause 18, of the United States Constitution and the power granted to each House of Congress under article I, section 5, clause 2, of the United States Constitution."

These bills, with refreshing clarity and brevity, simply codify the essence of what the Constitution requires for the enacting of legislation. There seems little to which one may reasonably object...one would think.

But the bill languishes in committee. This is expected with the Democrat majority. But amazingly, this same legislation has been introduced into the House of Representatives in seven successive Congresses, beginning in 1995 (H.R.s 2270, 292, 1018, 175, 384, 2458, and now 450). Not one made it out of committee. Since a number of these Congresses comprised Republican majorities, this issue appears to be something other than party politics. This seems to be yet another example of the ruling class, or the Washington elites, maintaining an iron grip on their own power, even as they minimize and denigrate the U.S. Constitution.

The elections of November 2010, will be, in total, some of the most consequential in our nation's history. I believe both Houses of Congress will swing to Republican majorities to an extent much larger than is being commonly predicted (70+ House, 10+ Senate seats). This must happen -- we must halt this ruinous march! But assuming the People successfully stop the present regime, and then succeed in putting a true limited-government conservative in the White House in 2012...then what? Are we to return to business as usual, only placing our trust in a different cast of characters? Are we to only delay our own destruction just a little bit longer?

Americans now, more than any time in recent memory, possess a healthy skepticism of Washington power. Americans demand more than promises, more than words, more than speeches. Americans want proof that our representative government is truly of a mind to represent us -- We the People.

The Enumerated Powers Act offers an ideal opportunity to put every congressman and senator to the test. We must, as a People, demand these bills be offered again in the next Congress, be brought to the floor for full votes, and finally sent to the president. We must not accept a promise of a vote, or even an actual "Yes" vote on the floor. No! We must demand passage in both houses.

These are not times for the timid. If we care to pass along to our posterity a nation that values individual liberty and limited government, as the United States Constitution provides, then we must require more of those whom we elect. At this moment in time, the Enumerated Powers Act provides a simple test of the real motives and true determination of our congressmen and senators.

Michael Fraley is a former USAF pilot who considers his oath "to support and defend the Constitution of the United States" a lifelong commitment. He blogs at blog.keepingtherepublic.org as time allows.
Our Constitution was constructed as an intentionally sparse document, with the intention that most matters would be settled locally, or within the states, through the normal course of a healthy body politic. At the same time, our founding document was clearly grounded with respect to timeless and absolute truths -- indisputable principles guaranteeing individual liberty and warning of the dangers of excessive centralized power.

For those with eyes to see, the extent to which a growing central government has swallowed up personal rights and responsibilities is evident, and it fully vindicates the fears of our Founders. Because of these fears, the Founders ensured the Constitution would speak loudly, and with great specificity, with regard to the absolute necessity of limited federal power. The enumeration of powers allowed by Congress in Article I, Section 8 was designed to bind the legislature within its own clear and non-negotiable realm of authority and responsibility.

Today, perhaps nothing else trumpets the degree to which our current representative bodies ignore these articulated limits as does their perennial failure to pass any bill designed to reign in their own power. Legislation entitled the "Enumerated Powers Act" has been introduced in this Congress, both in the House (H.R. 450) and Senate (S. 1319). The bill is a simple, one-page proposal, summed up by the following language: "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 bill fulfills its own demand, in that it includes this clause as Constitutional justification: "This Act is enacted pursuant to the power granted Congress under article I, section 8, clause 18, of the United States Constitution and the power granted to each House of Congress under article I, section 5, clause 2, of the United States Constitution."

These bills, with refreshing clarity and brevity, simply codify the essence of what the Constitution requires for the enacting of legislation. There seems little to which one may reasonably object...one would think.

But the bill languishes in committee. This is expected with the Democrat majority. But amazingly, this same legislation has been introduced into the House of Representatives in seven successive Congresses, beginning in 1995 (H.R.s 2270, 292, 1018, 175, 384, 2458, and now 450). Not one made it out of committee. Since a number of these Congresses comprised Republican majorities, this issue appears to be something other than party politics. This seems to be yet another example of the ruling class, or the Washington elites, maintaining an iron grip on their own power, even as they minimize and denigrate the U.S. Constitution.

The elections of November 2010, will be, in total, some of the most consequential in our nation's history. I believe both Houses of Congress will swing to Republican majorities to an extent much larger than is being commonly predicted (70+ House, 10+ Senate seats). This must happen -- we must halt this ruinous march! But assuming the People successfully stop the present regime, and then succeed in putting a true limited-government conservative in the White House in 2012...then what? Are we to return to business as usual, only placing our trust in a different cast of characters? Are we to only delay our own destruction just a little bit longer?

Americans now, more than any time in recent memory, possess a healthy skepticism of Washington power. Americans demand more than promises, more than words, more than speeches. Americans want proof that our representative government is truly of a mind to represent us -- We the People.

The Enumerated Powers Act offers an ideal opportunity to put every congressman and senator to the test. We must, as a People, demand these bills be offered again in the next Congress, be brought to the floor for full votes, and finally sent to the president. We must not accept a promise of a vote, or even an actual "Yes" vote on the floor. No! We must demand passage in both houses.

These are not times for the timid. If we care to pass along to our posterity a nation that values individual liberty and limited government, as the United States Constitution provides, then we must require more of those whom we elect. At this moment in time, the Enumerated Powers Act provides a simple test of the real motives and true determination of our congressmen and senators.

Michael Fraley is a former USAF pilot who considers his oath "to support and defend the Constitution of the United States" a lifelong commitment. He blogs at blog.keepingtherepublic.org as time allows.

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