November 23, 2009

Steve Pomper

It’s Past Time to Pass the Enumerated Powers Act

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It’s well past time to finally enact the Enumerated Powers Act (H.R. 1359, S. 3159). What is it? Well, in a nutshell, Arizona Republican Congressman John Shadegg has been introducing this legislation since 1995 (unsuccessfully with both Rs and Ds in charge), which would require members of congress who offer bills to cite the Constitutional authority to enact the proposed legislation. While certainly not a cure-all, it would certainly put the Constitution in the forefront of member’s minds—where it belongs.


More recently Senator Tom Coburn, Republican from Oklahoma, introduced the Senate version of the bill. Although the bill hasn’t found much success in either Republican or Democrat congresses, aside from both the Senate and House bill sponsors, all of the co-sponsors are Republicans with zero Democrat support.


Judging by how Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branch progressives have been shredding our Constitution over at least the past century, America is, sadly, desperately in need of this legislation. If the authority to enact any bill is not among the Constitution’s enumerated powers then the bill may not proceed without parliamentary procedure.


From the disregard shown the Constitution by so many members of congress, not to mention the Executive and Judicial branches, one would never know that each of these members takes an oath, solemnly promising the American people to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution—not any person or political party—against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to that magnificent document.


How many members can claim fidelity to their oath, or to even having truly read or understood the words, or certainly to taking those words into their hearts—how many times have they “cheated” on the Constitution? How many times have our elected and appointed leaders checked into some cheap motel room with some sleazy legislation, while their loyal Constitution remains faithfully at home trying to care for individual liberty.


“Could you please tell me where in the Constitution you get the authority to force Americans to purchase health insurance?” Precious few in the media sometimes ask of some congressmen and senators, who sprout a dear-in-the-headlights expressions and then with nothing substantive to say reply, “Are you serious? Come on; are you really serious?”


Well, Senator, Congresswoman yes we are serious. This isn’t some far out whacko question. To ask our elected representatives to provide us with the Constitutional citation for the authority to enact a particular edict, when our Founders went far to limit the government by restricting it to only specific enumerated powers, seems quite reasonable indeed. In fact, it’s too bad that wasn’t made an original requirement; I suppose they didn’t feel it would be necessary.


In my job as a police officer I also swear an oath. And before I take any police action I must go through my mental “law” rolodex, which incidentally, includes the Constitution, in order to be sure I have the authority to take a specific action. Later in court you can be sure the defense will challenge what I’ve done and will require me to cite my authority for the actions I took, and certainly smite me if I lacked it. Just think of what society would look like if the police acted like congress does routinely, constantly flouting authority and disregarding rules, and assuming some “inherent” general powers, which change with the officer’s mood or agenda.


Defense attorney: “Officer, what gave you the authority to take my client into custody?”


Officer: “Are you serious, Counselor? No, really…come on; are you really serious?”


Don’t think that would fly? No, me either. The officer must cite his authority. “I had the authority to arrest your client based on his statements, following my advising him of his Miranda rights, admitting to punching Ronald McDonald in the nose.” If I, a common patrol officer must cite my authority to act when it affects one person, surely it would be appropriate for a U.S. Congress member to be held to a similar standard when enacting legislation affecting hundreds of millions of people.


It would seem that our elected officials have been passing legislation with blatant disregard for its enumerated Constitutional limitations, they never question the limits of their authority, which many of them seem to feel are inherent and infinite, so they don’t see why the people they’re supposed to serve should question it—or them—either. One wonders how they can ever use the phrase limited government with a straight face.


The Founders wrote and the several states ratified the U.S. Constitution not simply to have a piece of pretty parchment to put under glass; they intended for us to care for it so it would care for us. We can no longer allow those who represent us to shout their reverence for the document, while simultaneously disregarding its principles in practice.  



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