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Accountability? OK, how about this?
Posted by: McQ on Friday, March 09, 2007

Any chance this act, introduced by Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ), will become law?
"'The Enumerated Powers Act' would require Members of Congress to include an explicit statement of Constitutional authority into each bill that is introduced. It would hold Congress accountable for its actions," said Shadegg.
Wow, what a concept, no? I mean I'm all for holding the executive accountable, but hey, if accountability is that good for that branch seems it should also apply to the legislative branch as well, wouldn't you say?

And making Congress ensure it is Consitutionally authorized to actually do something it is contemplating seems like a very easy way to ensure accountability.

What effect would it have? Well consider Shadegg's explanation:
"According to the Tenth Amendment, the national government cannot expand its legislative authority into areas reserved to the States or the people," said Shadegg. "It is a well-known fact that the size and scope of the federal government has exploded since the New Deal. Congress continues to operate without Constitutional restraint, creating costly and ineffective programs and blatantly ignoring the principles of federalism."
As I've noted any number of times the worst assault on the Constitution is found in the 17th Amendment which changed the selection of Senators. Instead of being selected by state legislators and representing the interests of the state in Congress, Senators are now subject to popular election. State's rights, for all intents and purposes, died on that day, as did any real opposition to the growth of the federal government. In my opinion, the 17th, in large part, is the reason we have the intrusive federal leviathan we suffer today.

What Shadegg proposes is a way to address that deficiency by reestablishing a process which heeds the 10th amendment. By requiring a Constitutional cite of authority for whatever legislation introduced in Congress, states and their rights are again factored into the legislative equation. If a Congressman or woman can't provide such a cite of authority, the legislation is assumed to be inconsistent with the 10th Amendment and can't be introduced.

Shadegg quotes Barry Goldwater:
I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed in their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is ‘needed’ before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ interests, I shall reply that I was informed their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.
All I can say to Mr. Goldwater's point is boy do we need a few Goldwaters today.

This sort of legislation would go a long way toward Constitutionally reigning in a run-away federal government and its power. It would also enhance liberty for us all.

And that, unfortunately, is precisely why it doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of ever passing into law. Pity.
 
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If the Supreme Court can reshape the Constitution to grant new powers to the Legislature where Congress has been silent up til now, I don’t see why they would be upset if Congress takes a stab at rationalization first. If the Supremes don’t like the enumerated justification, they can simply strike down that part of the law and substitute their own wisdom.

I think this measure would have little effect, but it can’t hurt. It may at least raise awareness a little.
 
Written By: CNH
URL: http://
If the Supremes don’t like the enumerated justification, they can simply strike down that part of the law and substitute their own wisdom.
Well yes, if the case is presented for the court to decide. So far I haven’t seen a rush to do that for whatever reason.

So in the absence of that sort of a check, why not institute a system which establishes validity prior to passage instead of hoping that someone will do it after passage?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
And that, unfortunately, is precisely why it doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever passing into law. Pity.
The real pity is that the Republicans didn’t pass this during the years they controlled the Congress. This idea has been around for a while, and there’s no political fallout I can see for supporting it. But the Repubs still didn’t get behind ideas such as this.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
This proposal makes sense, and you are absolutely right about the harm caused by the 17th amendment (though I’m not sure an amendment can be an assault on the constitution). In Germany they still have the Bundesrat (their upper house) chosen by state governments, and that does work to protect state interests. I’ve always tended to agree with Republicans on two major issues: 1) a need for more real federalism; and 2) an opposition to judicial activism. They’ve never really moved on the first, though I’m hopeful that Justices Roberts and Alito can avoid turning to conservative activism.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
If the Federal government of the United States is going to start living within the confines of the 9th and 10th amendments there are going to be hundreds of thousands of people out of work in the Northern Virgina/Southern Maryland area. What will they do will all those beautiful white buildings?

 
Written By: DS
URL: http://
What will they do will all those beautiful white buildings?
Government housing for all the unemployable bureaucrats!!!
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://inactivist.org/blog/keith_indy
It’s a rather good notion, although I’m sure that were it implemented some circumvention would be found, perhaps through the necessary and proper clause, although I suppose that could be mitigated by requiring thorough explanations to accompany those statements of congressional authority and in that case, well, tortured logic is hardly an unfamiliar political tool.

In the mean time, supporters of the bill could begin symbolically adding statements of congressional authority to the bills that they introduce and propose such statements as amendments to already proposed bills.

I would contest your interpretation of the effects of the seventeenth amendment. Senators were not reliable agents of their states under the old system as the constitution lacked provisions stipulating that state governments had the powers of instruction and recall. Certainly states sent orders to their senators, but without an immediate means of enforcing those instructions, they were not too effective in controlling them. The seventeenth amendment was of course deleterious to federalism and national restraint as it made the expansion of the body of the federal government an advantage to senators. I would consider World War One the beginning of the general great expansion and the New Deal only a continuation and affirmation of it, but in either case, the consequences remain.

My own preferred solution for the senate, which I have often considered (it’s perfectly normal for a young man to daydream about constitutional reform) is to make senators direct appointees of the chief executives and presiding officers of the largest houses of legislature in each state who would appoint them sextennially, as now, but be explicitly empowered to instruct them and, perhaps upon the consent of their cabinet or house of legislature, recall them if they fail comply with their instruction. I prefer direct appointment by single officers so that deadlocks over legislative appointments might be avoided and to provide some popular link through election of the appointing officers by the populations of the states. Adding the power of recall gives the instructions of state governments far more real influence over their delegates, although it might also be subject to political abuse, hence my tentative suggestion of forcing cabinet or legislative approval.

Of course what I prefer tends to change from time to time, although I have generally been reliable in thinking that the Bundesrat is a good model.

Some people write fanfiction, I write fan constitutions. (concomitant with that statement would be, "some people are crazy and I am too.")
 
Written By: Paludicola
URL: http://www.vikinghats.com

Of course what I prefer tends to change from time to time, although I have generally been reliable in thinking that the Bundesrat is a good model.
Yes, the Bundesrat works well in Germany. States have a say in federal policy, something which really doesn’t happen here.


Some people write fanfiction, I write fan constitutions. (concomitant with that statement would be, "some people are crazy and I am too.")
Well, personally I’d just as soon see the US adopt a confederal system, but I know that isn’t going to happen.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm

I seem to remember some years ago Ron Paul proposed the same thing. Congress more or less flipped out. It was great fun. But if I remember correctly it was also very soundly defeated. But then again, it was Ron Paul. Maybe Shadegg will be taken more seriously.

yours/
peter.
 
Written By: peter jackson
URL: www.liberalcapitalist.com
I’ve done a little more reading on this bill and, if the WikiPedia article can be believed, Shadegg has introduced the bill in every congress since the 104th in 1994. Unsurprisingly this bill seems trapped in a rut of being a fine symbolic proposition that can’t rise into serious consideration, which is a pity, but not a surprise.

I would like a better sense of the history of the bill, to see what the opinion of the Republican caucus is.
Well, personally I’d just as soon see the US adopt a confederal system, but I know that isn’t going to happen.


I am of a similar opinion, on the idea and the likelihood of it.
 
Written By: Paludicola
URL: http://www.vikinghats.com
Goldwater understood “states rights” as defined by the Constitution and that caused the one big mistake in his carrier. He regretted voting against the “Voting Rights Act”

More than four decades have passed and the concept to “states rights’ have been emasculated by Congress and the Judicial system. For the most parts the States have themself to blame.

If Congress adopts "’The Enumerated Powers Act” pigs will fly. No politician will agree to explain why his hand is in your pocket.

Power gravitates to the highest level. That is the nature of Government. The days of “Local Control” are long gone. The train of “Big Government” has left the station, and no power save a revolt of the populace will stop it. Unfortunately Americans would rather sit in their easy chair, a beer in one hand, and a snack in the other, watching mindless entertainment on the BOOB TUBE

Democracy will last only until the people realize they can vote them selves bread and circuses,and that time is coming closer.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
I would consider World War One the beginning of the general great expansion and the New Deal only a continuation and affirmation of it, but in either case, the consequences remain.
More than four decades have passed and the concept to “states rights’ have been emasculated by Congress and the Judicial system. For the most parts the States have themself to blame.
4 decades, try 14 decades. The States have no say in the matter. What are they going to do, seceed from the union?

This process happened much earlier than that. The Civil War and the 14th amendment were the first steps towards big government, all of the pieces were put in place, it just took a while for the leviathan to grow to its current size. The relative size of the federal government during the seconf half of the 19th century looks deceptively small on % of population or %of GDP basis simply because the population and economy were growing so fast the government couldn’t catch up. The so-called progressive era was simply the point at which population growth slowed and the mechinery of big government caught up.

The Civil War was the true beginning of big government expansion where all of the pieces were put in place. At the time the big government party, the Republicans, wanted a powerful centralized government that could enact high protectionist tariffs, monopolize the currency (by taxing private bank notes out of existence) and spend federal tax dollars on subsidies to industry. These were the life-long goals of Henry Clay and his protege Abraham Lincoln. Today these things are commonly viewed as the basic services that all governments provide, but that was not the case in before 1861.

The (never legally ratified) 14th amendment fundamentally changed the nature of the United States. This is the longest amendment to the constitution and it was mostly designed to make sure that anybody who participated in the Confederate rebellion could never vote again. But it also re-defined the relationship between the individual and the federal government. Before that time there was no such thing as a "citizen of the United States", you were a citizen of the state you lived in and the federal government had almost no direct interaction with you other than occaisionally delivering you mail. In fact the post office was the only way in which the federal govenment had to track people in the antibellum period, although then they only knew your name and address. They wouldn’t start tracking people’s income until the Civil War (even when the income tax was rescinded, the machinery for tracking income was not, so it could be easily re-instituted later).

The reason this was important was because it destroyed the most important check and balance inherent in the Constitution: Divided sovereignty. Once that was destroyed and the states became inferior to the federal government, there was no check on the expansion of the federal government. Without the right of secession the federal government and those who run it are the only judges of what is constitutional. The only REAL enforcement mechanism in the constitution was the threat of secession. After the 14th amendment the states effectively just became counties of the federal government, convenient (and sometimes inconvenient) geographical divisions of "one country under god". Where it is expedient the federal government "lets" the states take on some functions, like local law enforcement, that would be too cumbersome to administer at the federal level. But the federal governmnet reserves itself the right to over-rule this principal at any time it sees fit. Of course this is precisely the opposite state-federal relationship designed in the constitution. But nobody seems to know this or care.

Here’s some math to ponder: the federal government has somewhere near 2.6 million employees, most of them with the power in some way to take your money and tell you what to do. There are 436 elected officals in the Federal government who, if they were so inclined, could protect you from these 2.6 million people. Or you could look at it as there are 436 elected officials in the federal government who could, if they were so inclined, tell these 2.6 million people to take more of your money and tell you what to do in new and more forceful ways. OK, that’s already not a very good ratio.

All of us have a part in electing exactly 4 of those people: the president, 2 senators, and one congressman. So now we are at 4 people to control 2.6 million. Now take into account the fact that each of us compete with millions of other people in order to periodically elect one of those 4 people. Also take into account that once these people are elected, the only mechanism you have to tell this elected official what to do is that you periodically have the opportunity to send somebody else to do their job, if enough other people agree with you.

Now you have a very small part in electing officials at the local, county and state level, which is nice, to control the additional 10 million government officials at these levels. But even if they were so inclined, none of them can help you in any way in dealing with the 2.6 million federal employees. Because the states are simply subdivisions with no real power, unless granted to them by the federal government. Your local, county and state govenment has no power whatsoever to tell the federal government what to do. Becasue their interests are not represented in Washington in any way, and they have no choice but to do what the federal government tells them to do. What are they going to do, seceed from the union?

Wait a minute, that’s not what the 10th amendment says, how can that be? Because the federal government, and its 2.6 million employees simply decided that they do not have to live by the constitution and there is nobody with the will or the power to tell them differently. The constitution is just a peice of paper after all.

 
Written By: DS
URL: http://
Wonderful idea, so of course it won’t happen.

DS, no, the Civil War was not the death of or even the derogation of divided government, neither was the 14th amendment except in a good way—it’s current application solely states that what the federal government is forbidden to do in the 1st through 8th amendments, the states can’t do either.

No drawbacks there.

The growth of the federal government was all but entirely begun in WWI, enabled by the 17th amendment and the 16th, with the practical elimination of jury nullification—happened in 1895—going far towards greasing the skids.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://

 
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