Pledging to Follow the Constitution

Among the provisions in the “Pledge to America” unveiled today by House Republicans is a section entitled “Adhere to the Constitution.” Here’s the text:

For too long, Congress has ignored the proper limits imposed by the Constitution on the federal government. Further, it has too often drafted unclear and muddled laws, leaving to an unelected judiciary the power to interpret what the law means and by what authority the law stands. This lack of respect for the clear Constitutional limits and authorities has allowed Congress to create ineffective and costly programs that add to the massive deficit year after year. We will require each bill moving through Congress to include a clause citing the specific constitutional authority upon which the bill is justified.

At The Wall Street Journal’s law blog, Ashby Jones wonders “just how effective such a requirement would be in practice.” It’s a good question. Personally, I’m all for making our elected officials justify their every move. But that doesn’t mean we won’t still need “an unelected judiciary” to review suspect laws. Keep in mind that every member of Congress has already taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, yet as Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) admitted to Fox News host Andrew Napolitano, "There's nothing in the Constitution that says that the federal government has anything to do with most of the stuff we do."

And what’s to stop Congress from relying on dubious constitutional justifications? The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, for example, explicitly cites the Commerce Clause for its sweeping new authority to require every American to buy health insurance. That allows ObamaCare to pass muster under this section of the “Pledge to America,” which is probably not what the House Republicans had in mind. One way or another, controversial laws are going to end up in court.

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  • Warty||

    I thought a lot of spending bills already have some boilerplate language saying it's authorized by the General Welfare Clause or Commerce Clause. So all this would do is make all of them have it. So even if TEAM RED accomplished this, nothing would change. Where have I heard that before?

  • ||

    This comment was authorized by the Commerce Clause.

  • With support from....||

    ...General Welfare, Teh Childrenz, Living Constitution, What 10th Amendment?, I Agree When It Supports My Team, and the letter "A".

  • ||

    At The Wall Street Journal’s law blog, Ashby Jones wonders “just how effective such a requirement would be in practice.”

    I have no doubt whatsoever how "effective" it would be.

  • Nancy Pelosi||

    Are you serious? Are you serious?

  • US Supreme Court||

    Psst, just cite Wickard v. Filburn.

  • sr7||

    That is not what she said. She said, Are you Osiris? Are you Osiris?' She thought she was talking to a Egyptian God, and that would have been the only reason she would have acknowledged the existence of one of the little people in the first place.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Personally, I think this whole "Adhere to the Constitution" thing is a sly way to get Obama to plaster his birth certificate to his forehead.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Racist.

    Or something.

  • ||

    yet as Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) admitted to Fox News host Andrew Napolitano, "There's nothing in the Constitution that says that the federal government has anything to do with most of the stuff we do."

    If that doesn't validate violent revolution NOW, then nothing does.
    It is time for the Libertarian militia to arise.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Because we're Republican shills, we need to wait for our marching orders from Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity depending on which battalion we're in.

  • Almanian||

    Or Mark Levin, in a pinch.

  • Michael Savage||

    What, no love?

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    The existing oath of office taken by each and every member of congress runs

    I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.

    So....um....this means, what, exactly?

  • ||

    At a minimum, that you won't violate it. By, for example, voting for the federal government to do shit that's unconstitutional.

  • Paul||

    "Support" the constitution can have so many meanings.

  • ||

    While I do agree that citing the constitution won't change Congress a bit, the thing I like about the requirement is that there's a chance it can be used by anti-statists to simply show the joke of a system we have. Maybe after people see legislation one after another, using the same justification like:

    Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3
    Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3
    Article 1, Section 8, Clause 2
    Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3
    Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3
    Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3

    maybe then some will get it. Probably not, but what the hell...

  • ||

    The Preamble.
    The Signature Block.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Well if the requirement gets more people to start actually reading the Constitition itself and comparing what it says to what the politicans claim it allows, maybe it might increase awareness among the public that 99% of what is claimed to be "Constitutional" is anything but that.

    And even if they don't, I don't see how it could make things any worse than they are now.

  • Joe R.||

    I learned from Dahlia Lithwick yesterday that it is SCOTUS's job to determine constitutionality, not Congress's. So I don't see what the Republicans are worried about.

  • Paul||

    This lack of respect for the clear Constitutional limits and authorities has allowed Congress to create ineffective and costly programs that add to the massive deficit year after year.

    Let's begin with the Department of Homeland Security, and work our way out from there.

  • Rick Fisk||

    Funny that "libertarian" reason on one hand applauds a provision requiring constitutionality and then on the other legitimizes black-robed clerics to interpret the constitution for us.

    All of us as individuals have every right to interpret the constitution for ourselves as the 6th amendment testifies.

  • ||

    Yeah, reason briefly mentioning the courts' responsibility to strike down unconstitutional laws = reason saying only the courts can interpret the constitution.

  • Rick Fisk||

    The actual quote:

    "But that doesn’t mean we won’t still need “an unelected judiciary” to review suspect laws."

    All we really need are individual jurists informed enough to strike down laws (Not Guilty!).

    It's how Prohibition and the Fugitive slave laws were struck, not by legislatures (who acted after the people spoke not before) and certainly not by judges.

  • Jersey Patriot||

    The Constitution. lol

    Maybe we should pass a Super Duper Constitution, this time appending "we mean it!" to the end.

  • ||

    Maybe we should pass a Super Duper Constitution, this time appending "we mean it!" to the end.

    Well, the one we have has "we mean it" located in the Second Amendment . . . .

  • ||

    See the violence inherent in the system!

  • Paul||

    Win.

  • ||

    ""Well, the one we have has "we mean it" located in the Second Amendment . . . .""

    But you really, really better mean it. Becuase one of the functions of our government is domestic tranquility. And there's that whole suspend habeas in times of rebellion thing.

    So if you're fighting, you better win.

  • cynical||

    Well, an outright rebellion intended to overthrow the existing order and replace it with a new one, sure. But if you're just periodically murdering shitty officials, there isn't much to be done about it.

  • sr7||

    Article XIII -- On the first Monday of January of every year, every elected official, every appointed judge, and every senior cabinet member will volunteer to enter a gas chamber where they will be given a polygraph test where several questions will be asked, 'in the past twelve months have you knowingly ruled on, supported a law, or execute the duties of your office in such a manner that violated the Super Duper Constitution?', for legislators, 'did you knowingly support any spending measure that was frivolous and unnecessary, or at a higher amount of public funding than was necessary?' The answers to all of these questions will be publicly available. Any significant spikes in the polygraph will set off cyanide gas in the chamber, and no aid shall be allowed.

    1) People who are drawn to power will still be drawn to power no matter what disfavorable conditions are set because that disposition is based upon a genetic disorder, so no reason to be concerned that offices wont be seated.

    (As an aside there are two genetic dispositions that hold the human race back from advancement. Leaders and followers.)

    2) False positives will occur, but that is not really a problem for anyone but powermongers and the morons that love them.

  • sr7||

    And yes, will volunteer to enter a gas chamber means volunteer, as the choice would still exist for them to resign. To prevent the shit weasels from developing a merry go round culture of one year supremacy, this article will need a clause stating that those who are just entering office will be given the same test that deals with their expressed intentions, 'do you intend to violate the Super Duper constitution?', etc.

  • Wee the People||

    "There's nothing in the Constitution that says that the federal government has anything to do with most of the stuff we do."

    Oh, well.

  • ||

    If they don't abide by their oath of office, what good is the pledge they are yapping about?

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    My point.

  • Colin||

    Can't hurt. Might help. Why not?

  • Juice||

    Constitutional amendment:

    All bills passed by congress must undergo judicial review BEFORE being signed into law by the president.

    It would clear so much shit up.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    No thanks.

    It risks chiving the courts into the excitement of "having to do something now" which already infects the other branches of government.

    Not is it like the executive and legislative branches don't have lawyers they can ask. They've just made it very clear what they want to hear.

  • ||

    I'm not comfortable with giving the judicial branch veto powers.

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