The Federalism Amendments

by Sal on October 22, 2009

in Law,Politics

It is no secret that Congress has been overstepping its congressional authority for the better part of the last century.  The liberal philosophy has been such that Congress can essentially do anything according to the constitution.  Indeed, when asked recently what authority Congress had to mandate individuals to have health insurance, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer opined:

Well, in promoting the general welfare the Constitution obviously gives broad authority to Congress to effect that end.  The end that we’re trying to effect is to make health care affordable, so I think clearly this is within our constitutional responsibility.

Let’s face it.  Congress is broken as is our system of Federalism.  In the past, Federalism has served as a check on the power of the federal government.  Since Roosevelt’s New Deal, this cornerstone of the Constitution has been slowly eroding.  Enter The Bill of Federalism.  The Bill of Federalism is a a series of proposed amendments, backed by the Tea Party movement, that seeks to clarify the original wording of the Constitution and introduce new protections to ensure the proper relationship between the Federal Government and the States.  To Summarize, the bill proposes:

  1. Limiting Taxation to a sales tax or import/export duties, requiring 3/5 approval of both houses to raise taxes and/or duties and repealing the 16th Amendment.
  2. Defining Congress’ interstate commerce authority as only authority that actually regulates the commerce between states.
  3. Prohibiting Congress from imposing unfunded mandates and from imposing conditional funding (e.g. highway funding based on the speed limit).
  4. Prohibiting Congress from using their treaty power to enlarge the legislative power of Congress.
  5. Applying freedom of speech and press to campaign contributions and any medium of communication.
  6. Ability for states to check the power of the Federal Government by an identically-worded resolution to pass 3/4 of the states.
  7. Term limits  for members of Congress.
  8. A line-item veto for the President.
  9. Expanding the rights of the people.
  10. Requiring Judges to interpret the Constitution based on the original meaning at the time it was written.

The amendments are all good ideas.  It would certainly go a long way to fixing our broken system and would fit with the ideals that the framers intended.  Practically, it would be hard to implement.  The proponents of the Federalism Amendments propose a limited Constitutional convention (as this would never see the light of day in Congress) that would only have the authority to debate and pass these specific amendments.  While likely easier than passing amendments through Congress, it is an open question whether such a convention could be limited in this fashion.  Regardless, while a few of these amendments are debatable, some radical step such as this may be what is necessary to finally check the power of the Federal government and restore the natural balance of Federalism that our founders intended.

H/T: The Other McCain

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