The House GOP leadership recently announced an at-best unnecessary plan to require every bill to be accompanied by “constitutional authority” statement explaining why Congress has the power to enact the bill. Yet this plan may not be enough for some of their caucus’ most conservative members. As Herb Jackson reports, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) is leading an effort to use this new constitutional authority rule to eliminate Congress’ power to do pretty much anything:
[S]pending on public education and local transportation projects are just two of the unconstitutional programs Garrett cited when asked for examples.
“I’ve asked this question to prior secretaries of education when they appeared before me in various committees, ‘What is your constitutional authority to do what you’re doing?’ And they will simply say Congress authorizes us to do so. Congress can’t authorize something that is not in the Constitution,” said Garrett, R-Wantage.
Garrett is part of a movement, cheered by the Tea Party and derided as “tenthers” by critics, who argue that a strict reading of the Tenth Amendment prohibits much of what the federal government does every day. [...] House Republicans have proposed a new rule requiring all legislation to contain a statement describing what part of the Constitution provides the authority to act. Garrett has advocated for an even tougher rule.
Garrett’s absurd claim that federal education programs violate the Constitution reveals his utter ignorance of what the Constitution actually says — and it is equally sad that Garrett’s ignorance is shared by many of his fellow GOPers.
Yet eliminating Pell Grants and federal loan assistance is just the tip of Garrett’s radicalism. The “even tougher rule” Garrett seeks would effectively write two key provisions out of the Constitution:
Garrett’s House rule resolution would require all bills and amendments to contain a statement appropriately citing a specific power granted to Congress in the Constitution. Invoking the “general welfare clause” or the “necessary and proper clause” would not be adequate constitutional citations.
The General Welfare Clause states that Congress has the power to “provide for the…general welfare of the United States,” and is the basis for virtually all federal domestic spending. So Garrett’s proposal would prevent Congress from spending money on pretty much anything except for the military (another provision of the Constitution that Garrett does not propose ignoring empowers Congress to “provide for the common defense.”) The Necessary and Proper Clause, while not quite as essential to a functioning government as Congress’ power to spend money, is the basis for Congress’ power to print legal tender.
So Garrett isn’t just prepared to declare virtually all federal spending unconstitutional; he also apparently thinks that money is also unconstitutional.