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Does new Congress have the stomach for reform?

Posted By Jane Chastain On 01/06/2011 @ 12:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

The new Congress begins with something quite extraordinary, a reading of the U.S. Constitution. One of the new rules imposed by the new GOP leaders is also quite extraordinary: The author of every bill must submit a “statement citing, as specifically as practicable, the power or powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact” it.

Just how many of our established federal programs or agencies are constitutional?

These new Republican leaders didn’t come into power with a long list of priorities. They recognize that they were handed the keys to the lower chamber for one reason and one reason alone: to cut spending.

While it is unlikely that they can eliminate the large, entrenched, unconstitutional programs without the cooperation of the Senate and the president, they do have the ability to whittle away at their budgets and prevent any more from being establishment.

This is huge! It’s enough to give hope to weary taxpayers everywhere … but call me suspicious!

This is a marathon and not a sprint. Any seasoned athlete will tell you that it’s not so important how you began a marathon, but how you finish.

There are two major stumbling blocks that can be found in the Constitution itself: the Commerce Clause and the General Welfare Clause. The General Welfare Clause appears twice, in the Preamble and in Article I, Section 8. The Commerce Clause also can be found in Section 8. Over the years, these terms have been defined and redefined.

The Commerce Clause has been expanded to the point that it has allowed the federal government to regulate the mud puddle in your back yard. Yes, interstate commerce occurs on the nation’s navigable waterways. All water that doesn’t evaporate could eventually make its way into one of these waterways. Connect these dots and voila! That’s the kind of lame excuse liberal lawmakers and activist judges have used to allow the federal government to worm its way into matters that should be left up to individuals and states.

The federal government has used the Commerce Clause to regulate virtually anything that travels across state lines or anything touched by these products, people and, yes, even animals. And the object of said regulation doesn’t necessarily have to be “touched.” Ever heard of the “glancing goose test”?

If a migrating bird (assumed to be engaged in some form of interstate commerce) might glance over its shoulder and spot a small pond or wetland appropriate for landing, that is enough to allow the feds to regulate it.

The expansion of the Commerce Clause pales beside the shenanigans used to apply the General Welfare Clause. Conservatives believe that this clause applies only to the welfare of the country as a whole. But the game of every liberal since our founding has been to expand the clause to cover every need or want that can be imagined.

Clearly, the debate over these weighty issues is not going to be settled by simply requiring members to state the clause in the Constitution they believe justifies bills that expand the federal government or the welfare state. The courts regularly point out that the primary limitation on the unwise exercise of the Commerce Clause must be found at the ballot box. The same applies to the exercise of the General Welfare Clause.

These new leaders have to have the guts to stand on principle and say, “We are not going to allow these bills to see the light of day!” They also must have the guts to stand against the unions, entrenched bureaucrats and poverty pimps who will take to the streets when one of their fiefdoms is being cut.

Those who are affected will cry to the media about all the valuable services that are being scaled back or eliminated – services that are performed with half the manpower at a fraction of the cost by the private sector. They will cry about children starving and widows being thrown into the streets. Presently, there are 122 different federal anti-poverty programs, many of them overlapping, wasteful and counterproductive – but you will hear the wailing, so be prepared for it.

It has to happen at some point. If these new GOP leaders are really up for it, we can do it now or we can wait until there are even more coddled government workers and more people on the public dole.

The overreach of the federal government has crippled our economy, and the expansion of the welfare state is taking us over a cliff financially from which there will be no recovery.

Bring it on!


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