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This article has been updated on January 30, 2020. 

The Enumerated Powers Act would require all legislation introduced in Congress to "contain a concise and definite statement of the constitutional authority" empowering Congress to enact it.  The Enumerated Powers Act has been introduced in the House every year by Representative John Shadegg (R-AZ) since 1995.  Unfortunately, this bill has never been passed.  (Reference: The Heritage Foundation).

In 2008, the bill first appearance in the Senate, courtesy of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK).  Speaking of the Senate, on July 16, 1996, Senator John Glenn (D-OH) said, "Americans just want us to... not be concerned if they can be constitutionally justified... Why, if we had to do that we could not pass most of the laws we enact around here. " Another quote from the referenced link: "If I only voted for things that are constitutional I wouldn't be re-elected."

Senator John Glenn said this is response to the “Enumerated Powers Act”, which would compel Congress to cite the section of the U.S. Constitution that provides the authority for every law they pass.

At the beginning of the 105th Congress, the House of Representatives took an important first step by incorporating the substantive requirement of the Enumerated Powers Act into the House rules.  Today, the House must cite the constitutional authority for each bill in report language accompanying the legislation.

The purpose of the Enumerated Powers Act is based on the limitations set by the Constitution.  These limitations are far greater than Congress's actions today may indicate.  Put plainly, "The Constitution creates a federal government of enumerated powers," not one of general power, such as those of the states.  Whereas the states may legislate in nearly any area.  In reality, enactment of the Enumerated Powers Act is unnecessary because the Constitution itself Enumerates the powers of the Federal Government as detailed by Cheif Justice Roberts (567 U. S. ____ (2012) ): "That is, rather than granting general authority to perform all the conceivable functions of government, the Constitution lists, orenumerates, the Federal Government’s powers."

The failure of Congress to limit its power to those powers enumerated by the Constitution is the reason why inflation is so high and why this country is so deeply in debt.  If this Act were in place (and followed) when Obama became president, we would not have had:

  • Obamacare
  • GM Bailout
  • Bank Bailout
  • Lost stimulus money
  • Giving or lending money to any person, city, county, state or country
  • <I am sure that you can add more to this list>

Walter E. Williams wrote a good article on Bailouts and Bankruptcy, which helps explain why these actions are unconstitutional.  The belief that Congress poses the major threat to our liberty and well-being is why the founders gave them limited enumerated powers.  To our detriment, today's Americans have given them unlimited powers.

Take note with the 10th Amendment (Article X):  The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  This Amendment makes it clear that the powers of the federal government are limited to the enumerated powers outlined in the Constitution.

Puzzle this one out:  The 18th Amendment (1919) was enacted to prohibit the sale or use of alcohol and later repealed by the 21st Amendment (1933).  What Amendment was enacted, for instance, that prevents the use of drugs, such as marijuana that the federal government enforces?  (Note: I do not support the use of drugs, but the legalization of drugs is clearly the responsibility of the States, not the federal government). Many claim the right of Congress to pass laws in areas that are not enumerated in the Constitution are covered under the "General Welfare" clause of the Constitution. Read why the General Welfare clause does not remove their enumerated powers: General Welfare.


Enumerated Powers Act

Last bill introduced: HR450 January 09, 2009 with 70 cosponsors:

This bill was also introduced in the Senate as S1319.

This legislation seems to have stalled again.  With a majority of Republicans in Congress since January, it is time to ask our representatives to breathe some life into this bill.



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