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Members of Congress take a sworn oath to “support and defend the
Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and
domestic” and “bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” I’m guessing
that if congressmen actually “bore true faith and allegiance” to the
Constitution, we wouldn’t have a federal budget of $1.7 trillion, not to
mention those congressionally mandated 1.6 gallon flush toilets. Just
about every one of the 535 members of Congress have contempt for or
ignorance of our Constitution. What’s worse is, if they knew they
routinely violated their oaths of office, they wouldn’t care. Getting
elected and re-elected is what counts.

In 1997, Congressman John Shadegg, R-Ark., introduced the Enumerated
Powers Act, H.R. 292. Basically, the act says that Congress must heed
the limitations placed on it by the Constitution: The federal government
cannot do anything that the Constitution does not authorize it to do.

Two things. You’d wonder why the Enumerated Powers Act would be
necessary in the first place. After all, congressmen swore to uphold the
Constitution. Second, if we’re naive enough to think congressmen respect
our Constitution, we’d see them jumping at the opportunity to support
the Enumerated Powers Act.

Of course they didn’t, but there was a tiny step toward the goal of
getting Congress to obey the Constitution. The 105th House of
Representatives adopted the following rule: “Each report of a committee
on a bill or joint resolution of a public character shall include a
statement citing the specific powers granted to Congress in the
Constitution to enact the law proposed by the bill or joint resolution.”

The response was predictable. Congressmen cite the “general welfare”
clause in the Constitution as giving them authority to pass laws dealing
with education, farm handouts, student loans, foreign aid and fighting
street crime.

But here’s what James Madison, the father of the Constitution, said
about the “general welfare” clause: “If Congress can do whatever in
their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General
Welfare, The Government is no longer a limited one. …” Thomas
Jefferson echoed the same sentiment, saying that Congress does not
possess “unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but were
restrained to those specifically enumerated. …”

Moreover, if the Framers intended that the “general welfare” clause
have the interpretation placed on it by today’s congressmen, they could
have spared themselves considerable grief and contentiousness during
that hot, humid Philadelphia summer in 1787. They could have simply
said: Congress shall promote the general welfare. That would be our
Constitution. Forget all that business about separation of powers,
prohibitions against Congress interfering with freedom of speech,
assembly and religion, taking private property, and speedy trials.
Congress would just promote what a majority of its members saw as the
general welfare.

Let’s at least be honest with ourselves. Since neither Congress, the
president, nor our U.S. Supreme Court justices obey their oaths of
office to “bear true faith and allegiance” to the Constitution, there
are at least several alternatives. The first is to dispense with the
pretense and get rid of our 200-year-plus oath. Substitute that oath
with something like: I accept the office of congressman, or president,
or justice of the court.

The second, and more preferable alternative is for we Americans to
learn what the Constitution authorizes, and recognize that what it
doesn’t authorize is forbidden. Then we should force our representatives
to obey the Constitution. Another alternative is for Americans to ignore
acts of Congress that are constitutionally unauthorized.

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