Progressives Come Clean. The Constitution Means Nothing to Them

by Bill O'Connell on January 4, 2011

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The Tea Party has some major accomplishments to their credit that will be on display this week.  The first is a reading of the Constitution in the House of Representatives to open the 112th Congress, the second is the change to rules that require any bill to state where in the Constitution Congress has the authority to enact that legislation.


Members of the House and the Senate, and the President of the United States take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.  The legislative branch of the federal government, that is the Congress, is responsible for making law.  Here is how old time progressives view that function

 Henry Waxman, outgoing chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, all but dismissed any role for Congress in assessing the constitutionality of its actions: “Whether it is constitutional or not is going to be whether the Supreme Court says it is.”

That is like saying that professional baseball players don’t need to read the rulebook.  They’ll just play the game and let the umpires tell them if they are playing correctly or not.  Can you imagine what that would look like?

While it may be true that the Supreme Court can rule on the Constitutionality of any law, the first step should be for the Congress to determine if it even has the authority to make a particular law.  The function of the court is to interpret the law, that is, if there is disagreement over what a particular law means, the courts serve to interpret that meaning.  The clearer the law, the less there is for the court to interpret.  But to dismiss the Constitution out of hand or any need to even read it, mocks the very oath of office the member takes.

Consider price controls.  There is no authority in the Constitution to set prices of goods and services and the Founders would be appalled at any attempt by the federal government to do so.  But Congress passed such laws that resulted in Supreme Court cases such as Wickard v. Filburn, where a farmer was told that he couldn’t exceed  his quota for wheat production, even though it was entirely for consumption on his own farm.  That Supreme Court case is being used as a foundation for the requirement in ObamaCare to make us buy insurance or pay a fine.  Now if the Congress had read the Constitution and understood it had no such authority, the matter would have ended sixty-some odd years ago.  But now we have an expansive government and bad law built upon the foundation of prior bad law, when such laws should never have seen the light of day.  But progressives like Waxman says that Congress can take on anything it wants and just throw it over the fence and let the Supreme Court sort it out.  This has led to the contentious selection process of Supreme Court  nominees because that is where the laws are finally made.

By adopting this new process perhaps we can make members of Congress do their jobs, and the Supreme Court do theirs.  The states will become more prominent and the federal government will shrink back.  Just because someone thinks, “Hey, that’s a good idea, someone should do that,” does not mean that Congress has the power to act. 

There was a debate on the O’Reilly Factor last night about the poor job of clearing snow off the streets of New York after the recent blizzard.  There were some accusations that the unions were dragging their feet in the cleanup because of recent layoffs by the Bloomberg administration.  The host asked the question, “Should the feds step in?”  No, No, NO!  It is not a function of the federal government to oversee all state and local government and if they find incompetence, step in.  It is up to the people to throw the bums out, and put in place a local or state government that works.  The federal government has a limited number of functions.  Everything else is the responsibility of the states and the people.  It is time to get back on the course the Founders plotted.

That’s my opinion; I’d like to know yours.  Please comment below.

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  • Kevin

    Waxman’s statement violated his oath of office. But his disease is infectious and has been caught by many Republicans (If I remember correctly, I think John McCain said in an interview back when he was sponsoring it he expected the SC to overturn McCain Feingold!), underscoring the value of the Tea Party movement. If it accomplishes nothing else, the very fact that our Congress is once again considering the Constitutionality of their laws is a great triumph. The debate over the constitutionality of a law belongs on the floors of the House and Senate, not between lawyers in a chamber arguing over points of law most lay people cannot follow or understand. That is for interpretation, and then you can break out your unedited Webster’s and have at it. But if legislators have had to explain the law and its relationship with the Constitution in language the people can understand all along, many of the abominations of the Constitution would never have happened. It has become a progressive cloak for social manipulation.

    Could we possibly hope for a saner more constitutionally grounded legislature and thus media and thus constituency? I can’t get there yet. Let’s see what happens in the 112th Congress.

    • William O’Connell

      Well said, Kevin. The talk has been positive. Let’s see if they walk the talk.

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