The U.S. Constitution in a Nutshell: O’Donnell Is Right, Coons Is Wrong

October 18, 2010 09:31

The guts of it are that the federal government can lawfully exercise only those powers the Constitution grants; everything else is reserved to the states and to the people.

by Dan Miller at Pajamas Media


Over the years, the impact of federal laws on individual citizens, as well as on the states, has become engorged by minimizing or ignoring constitutional limitations. These expansions originate with the Congress and the administrative agencies the Congress creates, as well as with executive orders. No legislation should be passed, and no executive order issued, without a clear and detailed statement of its constitutional basis. The federal government should not be permitted to rely upon bases not stated if the stated basis fails.

To the contrary, Ms. O’Donnell got it about right, demonstrating a healthy regard for the Constitution and the separations of powers it created. I would extend the thought to executive orders and also to the actions of our ubiquitous and very powerful administrative agencies, which all too often pay insufficient attention to the statutes authorizing them.

Newsweek’s Ben Adler was aghast at the clause in the GOP’s Pledge to America that Republicans will provide a “citation of constitutional authority” for every proposed piece of legislation. “We have a mechanism for assessing the constitutionality of legislation, which is the independent judiciary,” Adler wrote. “An extraconstitutional attempt to limit the powers of Congress is dangerous even as a mere suggestion, and it constitutes an encroachment on the judiciary.”

A requirement that all legislation and executive orders state expressly the bases on which they are deemed constitutional would be a constant reminder of the need for constitutional compliance, and might even cause the “unwashed masses” to think more seriously about constitutional authority. These would be very good things. It should improve at least marginally the changes of laws being constitutional and should at least cause the matter to be focused on more thoughtfully.


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