Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) spoke with FOX Business Network’s (FBN) Lou Dobbs about the deficit deal reached by Congress which includes the formation of a super committee to cut government spending. Paul said “I keep looking and I can’t find any place in the Constitution where we have the authority to create such a creature as the super Congress.” He went on to say that the formation of such a committee is “monstrous.”
“You don’t get out of the problem of having too much debt by allowing Congress to spend a lot more. It never made any sense to me; it just digs the hole much deeper and then it gets harder for us to get out. It was a very easy vote for me but it became much easier when I saw the vehicle they were using to create this super Congress. Where in the world did that come from and where is that going to lead to? That is monstrous. I keep looking and I can’t find any place in the Constitution where we have the authority to create such a creature as the super Congress,” Rep. Paul said.
I think there is one thing everyone has been overlooking. Remember the new House Rule enacted in January declaring that all new legislation must be accompanied by a document outlining the authorization within the Constitution that allows the legislation?
Well people, this is why this new Super Committee was snuck in as an attachment to the debt ceiling very similar to when the fed reserve was snuck into the U.S. in 1913. There is no document of authorization as required under the new House Rule. This is why they put on the dog and pony show for this debt ceiling. So we would overlook the fact that the Constitutionality of the Committee was never addressed.
New Constitutional Authority Requirement for Introduced Legislation
January 5, 2011
On January 5, 2011, the House adopted a new rule requiring each introduced bill or joint resolution to be accompanied by a statement of constitutional authority. This describes the requirements of the rule, along with links to materials which will be helpful to ensure compliance.
Text of the Rule
The rule is a new paragraph of clause 7 of rule XII:
“(c)(1) A bill or joint resolution may not be introduced unless the sponsor submits for printing in the Congressional Record a statement citing as specifically as practicable the power or powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact the bill or joint resolution. The statement shall appear in a portion of the Record designated for that purpose and be made publicly available in electronic form by the Clerk.
“(2) Before consideration of a Senate bill or joint resolution, the chair of a committee of jurisdiction may submit the statement required under subparagraph (1) as though the chair were the sponsor of the Senate bill or joint resolution.”.
The rule also repeals clause 3(d)(1) of rule XIII (relating to constitutional authority statements in committee reports).
Compliance with the Rule
When a Member presents a bill or joint resolution for introduction and referral (when it is dropped in the “hopper”), the bill must be accompanied by a separate sheet of paper citing the constitutional authority to enact the proposed bill or joint resolution.
The statement should include the Member’s name and signature, the title of the measure it accompanies, and a citation to the power or powers granted in the Constitution to enact the bill. Below are links to a form (in both Word and PDF format) designed by the Office of the Legislative Counsel to assist Members in complying with this requirement.
With respect to the actual citations themselves, the blanks are to be filled in by the legislation’s sponsor. Below are five illustrative examples of citations of constitutional authority:
- The constitutional authority on which this bill rests is the power of Congress to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces, as enumerated in Article I, Section 8, Clause 14 of the United States Constitution.
- This bill is enacted pursuant to Section 2 of Amendment XV of the United States Constitution.
- This bill is enacted pursuant to the power granted to Congress under Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution.
- The Congress enacts this bill pursuant to Clause 1 of Section 8 of Article I of the United States Constitution and Amendment XVI of the United States Constitution.
- This bill makes specific changes to existing law in a manner that returns power to the States and to the people, in accordance with Amendment X of the United States Constitution.
It is important to note that the sample citations above are merely examples. Further, the citation to accompany a bill is not limited to one sentence and a sponsor may provide additional explanatory details if they wish.
Determining a Bill’s Constitutional Authority
While the Office of the Legislative Counsel will assist Members by providing a properly formatted Constitutional Authority Statement form, it is the responsibility of the bill sponsor to determine what authorities they wish to cite and to provide that information to the Legislative Counsel staff.
In addition to the Constitution itself, there are a variety of resources available to Members and staff to assist them in identifying the power granted to Congress by the Constitution to enact a proposed bill. These include:
- The Federalist Papers, written mostly by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton to explain the purpose of the Constitution, are considered by many to be the primary source of authority on what the Constitution was understood to mean when it was ratified. There are various editions of the Federalist Papers that provide useful commentary, including the Clinton Rossiter edition, which contains a useful copy of the Constitution with page references to the Federalist Papers that discuss those parts of the Constitution in the margins. The Federalist Papers are also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fedpapers.html
- The Congressional Research Service’s “Annotated Guide to the Constitution” includes an outline format that allows users to select main topics, then scale down to more narrow subjects within the Constitution and relevant Supreme Court decisions. For House Members and staff, this information may be accessed through CRS’s website:http://www.crs.gov/analysis/Pages/constitutionannotated.aspx
- The Heritage Foundation has a variety of resources available for Members and staff, including the Heritage Guide to the Constitution, which provides a clause-by-clause analysis along with relevant court cases that is written for lawyers and non-lawyers alike. For more information visit:http://www.heritage.org.
- The Founder’s Constitution is an on-line version of a five-volume work first published in 1986 that includes a range of documents that help explain and place into context the specific provisions of the Constitution. Information is arranged by article, section, and clause of the U.S. Constitution, from the Preamble through Article Seven and continuing through the first twelve Amendments. It is available at: http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/.
- There are a number of think-tanks and associations from across the political spectrum that provide research and commentary on constitutional issues, including:
- The Brookings Institution: http://www.brookings.edu/topics/u-s-constitutional-issues.aspx
- CATO Institute: http://www.cato.org/constitutional-studies
- The Federalist Society: http://www.fed-soc.org/
- The American Constitution Society: http://home.acslaw.org/
The adequacy and accuracy of the citation of constitutional authority is matter for debate in the committee and in the House. The rule simply requires that the bill be accompanied by a constitutional authority statement upon introduction. The statement will be publicly available through the Congressional Record and eventually will be available in a searchable and sortable database.
With a current national debt of approximately $14.6 trillion that will escalate to about $15.4 trillion by the end of FY 2011, the United States is on a road much like that of Greece. It is time to solve our nation’s problems; we are already behind and further delay cannot be tolerated. Granted, America has had a national debt since its founding; yet, under Hamilton’s leadership, it was paid off by 1840. Now, it is out of control. Hamilton wrote in a letter to William Plumer, “I, however, place economy among the first and most important republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared.” Problems must be solved in a responsibly, and action must be taken immediately.
In an attempt to address the danger of excessive public debt, Congress passed the Budget Control Act on August 2, 2011, which includes a provision for establishing the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, or “Super Committee,” composed of twelve members from the House and Senate, six Republicans and six Democrats. Appointed by congressional leaders, they must submit a plan by November 23, 2011 to cut $1.5 trillion from the national debt over the next decade. The plan does not allow debates or amendments, and if not passed by January 15, 2012, $1.2 trillion will automatically be cut from “defense and non-defense programs.” The “all or nothing” plan gives twelve people power that surpasses that of Congress; provides for proceedings that are not open or transparent to the public; assumes that equal division of Republicans and Democrats can solve a problem; allows taxes to not originate in the House; opposes the method in which a bill becomes a law; and ultimately changes the way the Founders intended Congress to function. All of these aspects raise serious questions about the constitutionality of the Budget Control Act, and the Founding Fathers would not approve of this plan.
The first problem is that the Super Committee enhances legislative oversight and by appointing six Democrats and six Republicans, assumes that parties exist in the Constitution. Nowhere in the Constitution does it state, “There will be equal representation from both Republicans and Democrats,” or that parties even exist. Though a minority, there are Independents in Congress. It ignores not only most of Congress, but demeans the election process: Americans who voted for their members of Congress who are not represented in the Super Committee. My congressman cannot make decisions, which raises the question, “What’s the value of elections?”Adams states in Thoughts on Government that the assembly should be “an exact portrait of the people at large.” This committee is only a speck of the portrait.
Only two percent of the Congress will make decisions that impact the country. This is not representative democracy. Certain members of Congress may have been funded by interest groups, and these collective action organizations may not be considered in budget agreements due to lack of representation. This does not provide incentive for interest groups to act to achieve their common or group interests. Madison warns of factions in Fed. 10, claiming that they can be dangerous, but are also necessary for a democracy to exist. The only way to remedy factions is to either make everyone thing the same thing (impossible), or to suppress their opinions (tyrannical). The latter is occurring in our country. Ignoring the will of the people by appointing a select few officials affects the final outcome of taxes and spending cuts, impacting the entire nation, and may give the American people results they did not want and did not even vote for in the first place. One may argue that all congressmen participate by voting on the final plan, but this statement is invalid since it does not permit amendments; it is a forced, “yes or no” choice.
The Super Committee gives ample power to the eleven States who happen to have representatives on the committee. States represented in the committee include Arizona, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas, South Carolina, California, Maryland, Washington, Massachusetts, and Montana. Considering that there were originally thirteen colonies, eleven states would not have even been sufficient during America’s founding. Article I, Section II of the Constitution states, “The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative.” Article I, Section III states that there will be “two Senators from each State.” Thirty-nine other states have been left out of the process.
Even if one can accept that states can be left out of the process, the twelve appointees may have a bias toward special interest of their states. It is not hard to imagine that the twelve members represent states where the biggest military contractors are located, including Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics Corp, Raytheon Co, and Boeing Co. Although members of Congress want to best serve their country, they may not want to cut defense because that will cut jobs from their state.
The Super Committee is unlawful because the power to tax is with the House, not with a group of twelve people, half of whom are senators. Article I, Section VII of the Constitution states, “All bills for raising revenues shall originate in the House of Representatives.” his implies the entire Congress, not six representatives and six senators. The Framers intended the House to regulate taxation, not the Senate composed of 100 members. Ron Paul expressed his distress with the Super Committee via the revolutionary adage “no taxation without representation” because the Committee excludes about ninety-eight percent of Congress. Article I, Section VIII, Clause I of the Constitution states, “The Congress shall have Power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposes, and excises, to pay the Debts.”
The Super Committee defies the method in which a bill becomes a law. It does not allow for debate, amendments, provisions, or a Senate filibuster. The Constitution does not specifically permit a filibuster, but a member of the senate or group of senators may delay action by talking for as long as possible until a “cloture,” or three-fifths agreement is reached. Since filibustering is not allowed, the Super Committee imposes a time limit on legislation. A “yes or no” answer gives Congress too much authority and does not allow “Reconsideration” or “Objections.” Article I, Section VII states that after the president vetoes a bill, the House and Senate may “proceed to reconsider it,” or make provisions. Provisions are not allowed in this situation.
“Members of the Senate and members of the House have the opportunity under the Constitution to debate items that are sent to them and to modify items that are sent to them. To force them to vote just yes or no with no debate, not to follow the rules of the House, which permits amendments, not to follow the rules of the Senate, which permits a filibuster, is such a substantial removal of the authority the Constitution gave them that this legislation is treading in waters that might not be constitutional.”
A valid argument may be that Congress has the ability to act given the situation’s precedence, especially since the Elastic Clause states Congress can “make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper.” Madison heavily supports the Elastic Clause in Federalist No. 44, “No axiom is more clearly established in law, or reason, than that wherever the end is required, the means are authorized.” The Budget Control Act that contains specifics of the Super Committee was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama, making it seem permissible. Simply put, this legislation is a bill within a bill, posing the question, “Can Congress pass a bill that makes another bill – however unconstitutional – legal?” This means that Congress would be able to pass bills like this in the future that contain such extreme measures and seize power from the other two branches because it is somehow “constitutional.” After escaping the monarchial rule of King George III, the Founders certainly did not intend for this to occur.
It does not call for adequate and fair representation, and assumes the only way to fix a problem is through forced bipartisanship between Republicans and Democrats. With proceedings and negotiations going on behind closed doors, the Americans may not feel like they have a role. Moreover, the Committee’s recommendations cannot be amended and does not allow filibusters or any sort of debate to occur. It usurps power from all three institutions to not just Congress, but more specifically to twelve members. Although the Necessary and Proper Clause may justify Congress’ actions in certain situations, the intricacies of the Budget Control Act do not deem it constitutional; a law cannot be passed that changes the entire way the Founders intended Congress to operate. The Supreme Court needs to review the constitutionality of the Budget Control Act.
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