Enumerated Powers Act

If the United States is truly a nation that is ruled by law then the Enumerated Powers Act should be a no-brainer. When the Constitution was adopted it laid out the specific powers of the various branches of government. As the supreme law of the land and the document defining what Congress is meant to do, it should be a simple thing to require that each bill cite the section of the Constitution granting authority for the bill in question. The Constitution is short enough that our congressional representatives should be able to quickly find the applicable section. If the authority is not specified in the Constitution there is a means in place to acquire that authority if it is warranted – that is the amendment process. This limitation to the codified law was so important to our founders that they specified in the Bill of Rights that any power not specified in the Constitution was to be reserved to the states.

When Congress felt it was necessary to levy an income tax the appropriate steps were taken to amend the Constitution to allow for such a tax. That is an example of the rule of law. Unfortunately, most of our Congressional leaders do not care if they have the authority to do what they are doing – they only care if doing what they are doing will jeopardize their chance for re-election. Maybe Congress should try to repeal the Tenth Amendment.

If the Enumerated Powers Act were passed it would enable people to verify the authority of Congress on any bill they passed and it would highlight any passages of the Constitution that were being used to justify excessive or undesireable legislation. If such passages were identified, the people have the ability to clarify those specific passages of the Constitution – through the amendment process.

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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8 Responses to Enumerated Powers Act

  1. Jesse Harris says:

    You’re a bit wrong on the history on the income tax. Congress tried multiple times to enact taxes on income (starting back in the Civil War) and repeatedly had their actions overruled by the Supreme Court as un-Constitutional. Then and only then did Congress go forward with the Sixteenth Amendment.

    The moral of the story: Congress will get away with whatever we, the Executive and the Supreme Court will let it get away with and it’s been doing it for a lot longer than we’d like.

  2. David says:

    Your moral is right – which is why we need the Enumerated Powers Act. My depiction of the Sixteenth Amendment should not have implied that Congress went through the proper procedure before trying to ignore the Constitution.

  3. Reach Upward says:

    I’d love to see a congressional rep or senator tell a constituent or special interest group, “I’m sorry, we can’t do that. It’s not permitted by the Constitution.” But I’m not holding my breath.

  4. David says:

    Good idea not to hold your breath. It is unfortunate that I can even wonder if many of them have read the Constitution – but I do wonder.

  5. Tom says:

    I have heard “that’s not permitted by the Constitution” on one issue … when anti-immigration groups proposed U.S. Citizenship not be granted by children of illegals born in the U.S. But it’s certainly a phrase we hear infrequently.

    Were such an act passed, the authorization section wouldn’t always make sense. For example, the interstate commerce clause has a long and interesting history that is now generally interpreted by federal courts to mean Congress can do pretty much whatever it likes so long as it connects to commerce in some way–even if only on a local level (because, the argument goes, it’s connected as part of a system to national commerce).

    Of course, I would contend constitutionality isn’t always a foremost concern of state officials either….

  6. David says:

    Perhaps if more people were aware of how the commerce clause was used to excuse legislation that Congress should not be passing then they would demand a new interpretation of that clause.

    And you are absolutely right Tom, there are officials at all levels of government who blatantly ignore the Constitution to pursue their goals.

  7. Carl says:

    I read the article you linked to, I’d like to know what kind of citation the EPA asks for. As Tom points out, Congress can do a whole lot simply by citing the Commerce Clause. David, your reply touches on the window dressing of Tom’s comment but not the substance. What does the EPA want (other than a reduction of pollution)?

  8. David says:


    Fair question. You can read the text of the bill. The short answer to your question is that the EPA requires each bill to cite the “chapter and verse” of the Constitution that grants authority for the bill. In other words a statement such as – “under the authority of Article I, Section 4, Paragraph 7 of the Constitution.”

    Section 2 of the bill serves as an example of what they are seeking from all future bills.

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