A Constitutional Congress?

I’ve been spending a lot of time over at Downsize DC, reading through their various campaigns, and several have focused upon Congress; specifically, Downsize DC supports the passage of several bills which, if they are made into law, would provide important groundwork for reforming Congress, returning it to a more constitutional state.

For instance, Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution lays out the various powers granted to the Congress. I believe every American should know what these powers are, if only to know whether their elected officials are acting unconstitutionally (and thus, illegally) or are keeping their oath to uphold and protect the Constitution.

The delegated powers are as follows:

  1. To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States, provided that all duties, imposts, and excises be uniform nationwide.
  2. To borrow money on the United State’s credit.
  3. To regulate commerce with not only foreign nations, but also between the States themselves and with American Indian tribes.
  4. To regulate naturalization and bankruptcy laws uniformly nationwide.
  5. To coin and regulate the value of money as well as to regulate standard weights and measures.
  6. To punish counterfeiters.
  7. To establish post offices and post roads.
  8. To promote science and the arts via the securing of patents and copyrights.
  9. To create federal courts.
  10. To define and punish piracy.
  11. To raise and support armies (provided that no appropriation of money to do so lasts longer than two years).
  12. To provide and maintain a navy.
  13. To create rules for governing and regulating the army and navy forces.
  14. To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the nation’s laws, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions.
  15. To provide for the organization, arming, and disciplining of the militia.
  16. To exercise exclusive legislation over the nation’s capital city.
  17. To create laws which may be necessary and proper in order to carry out any of the above powers as well as any other power granted by the Constitution to the United States government, its departments, and any officers thereof.

As a random for instance, the creation of the Federal Communications Commission cited within its legislation that it was to help in regulating interstate commerce (point #3 above).

However, on the same token, what does broadcast decency have to do with interstate commerce? Yet it is the same Federal Communications Commission which was set up to fulfill a constitutional role that has now become an unconstitutional judge, jury, and executioner of fines for racy broadcasts and other such things. ((It is my opinion that such things should be regulated by the States; after all, one state may be filled to the brim with conservatives who would in turn elect conservatives who would, again, in turn create conservative state-level laws which, should they desire, could “protect” against indecent broadcasts. Meanwhile, another state, filled with the more liberal-minded crowd, would have much more freedom with what could be broadcasted.))

I still confess to being overly ignorant of politics and naive of how things work in the real world, but based upon what I know thus far, the Constitution is not a document to be taken lightly, and every member of Congress (not to mention the President and probably numerous other government officials) are required to take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.

Passing unconstitutional laws, meddling in affairs which do not constitutionally concern Congress (such as the Major League Baseball steroids scandal), and so on need to stop.

And if you agree, I urge you to voice your opinion to your representatives in Congress. Downsize DC has several campaigns set up which will allow you to do just that.

First, check out the Enumerated Powers Act. If this bill is passed, each bill would be required to enumerate, or list out, what in the constitution allows for such a bill to be passed. For instance, a bill designed to borrow money from another nation would cite the second power in the above list. Simple, right? There will certainly be unconstitutional bills which slip through, but by being forced to enumerate precise justification for the bill, quite a few may be abandoned.

Second, consider the Read the Bills Act. Quite simply, this bill would require Congress to read or to hear the entirety of any bill before they vote on it. You don’t honestly think you’re being properly represented if bills are being passed by people who haven’t even read it, do you? Encourage your representatives to support this bill!

Third, give a look-see to the One Subject at a Time Act. If it upsets you that the Real ID Act was streamlined through Congress on the coattails of a larger, no-chance-of-failure bill, then this bill is for you; One Subject at a Time would require that each bill be about one subject only and that the title of the bill would be an accurate reflection of what it contains. This bill fits nicely with the Read the Bills Act.

There are other bills which concern Congress that can be acted upon at Downsize DC, and I encourage you to check them out.

4 thoughts on “A Constitutional Congress?”

  1. Regarding your footnote…

    A large chunk of northwest Indiana gets nearly all their television broadcasts from Chicago, Illinois. There are counties in Ohio that get their broadcast television from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

    I’m sure the complete list of examples is quite long.

    Hawaii and (probably) Alaska are the only states that get no broadcast television from another state and whose broadcast television isn’t viewed in another state.

    Which is why it is interstate commerce.

  2. Rick,

    “I still confess to being overly ignorant of politics and naive of how things work in the real world, but based upon what I know thus far, the Constitution is not a document to be taken lightly, and every member of Congress (not to mention the President and probably numerous other government officials) are required to take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.”

    It’s bad enough that the President and Congresswo/men fail to uphold the Constitution, but what makes it worse is that it is every American citizen’s duty to hold our President and Congresswo/men accountable to the Constitution, and we fail to do that. The reason DC is getting away with what it does is because we let it get away, and then we complain as if we couldn’t do anything about it.

  3. Dad: I get why regulating broadcast media would be an interstate issue; what I don’t get is how regulating decency is a federal issue. Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce, not countrywide decency. My point was that what State A finds inappropriate, State B may be fine with it. And so broadcasts originating in State A would be restricted by state government, while State B would have a bit more freedom in that regard.

    Yes, the signals would overlap, but as it isn’t a matter of commerce, I guess I fail to see what makes it a federal matter.

    I’ll likely make a follow-up post clarifying something I forgot to mention in this post, related to organizations such as the FCC.

    Justin: If I might play the conspiracy theorist for the moment: The government unconstitutionally has stuck its hand into education via such as the Department of Education, the No Child Left Behind Act, and so on. Yet the same schools which are wrapped around the government’s finger are the same schools which are failing to teach constitutional government. I still distinctly remember my high school government class; we learned the Preamble of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the basics behind the three branches of the government. Emphasis on what powers the government actually has was nowhere to be found. And thinking as a conspiracy theorist, it’s easy to see why the government wouldn’t want such an emphasis given to the Constitution, when so much of what they do is simply unconstitutional. The ignorance of the masses allows the government to continue, unabated, unchallenged, and unaccountable.

    There are, however, likely a wide range of legitimate reasons why people are not holding their government responsible, and it most likely boils down to a failure to having read and understood the Constitution, something every American should do. (This isn’t too surprising: After all, most problems within Christianity today stem from the fact too many Christians fail to read and understand their “constitution,” the Bible.) The Constitution is a whole lot shorter than the Bible, too — I have it printed out on about 8.5 pages, a full page of which are the signatories.

  4. “Yes, the signals would overlap, but as it isn’t a matter of commerce, I guess I fail to see what makes it a federal matter.”

    But it IS commerce.

    And since the broadcasts often cross state lines, it is interstate commerce.

    If decency rules were a state manner, then people in northwest Indiana would have no say so regarding the broadcast decency standards they were exposed to.

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