This post is the continuation of a weekly Constitution Revolution series that will cover the entire Constitution and many of the principles it was founded on. Click here for last week’s lesson.
Since the beginning of the year on TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo Show, we have been talking about a lot of the ideas that our Constitution was built on. Now that we have that foundation to refer back to, we’re finally ready to have some fun looking at the individual clauses of the Constitution and what they mean. Let’s get started with Article 1, Section 1:
"All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives."
At first glance, it probably seems like this clause is pretty easy to figure out. And as I explained on Chris’s show this weekend, it is:
It’s hard to imagine how this clause could be any simpler. Any regular American could read this clause and easily undertand what it means. But for our friends in Washington, D.C., not so much. Somehow, our public officials have managed to make Article 1, Section 1 one of the most manipulated and most ignored clauses in the entire Constitution.
So let’s break it down in a way that even a government bureaucrat could understand. I know this little exercise is going to seem mind-numbingly basic, but stick with me and you’ll see why it matters.
[sharequote align="center"]So let’s break it down in a way that even a government bureaucrat could understand.[/sharequote]
There are three basic words that we have to be clear about in order to understand this clause: legislative, law, and all.
Webster's Dictionary defines “legislative” as:
1. Making, or having the power to make, a law or laws; lawmaking; - distinguished from executive; as, a legislative act; a legislative body.
And just to be crystal clear (we are dealing with Washington politicians and bureaucrats here), Webster’s Dictionary defines “law” in part as:
1. In general, a rule of being or of conduct, established by an authorityable to enforce its will; a controllingregulation; the mode or orderaccording to which an agent or a poweracts.
There can be absolutely no doubt that this clause gives Congress the power to create laws or rules in our federal government. The only question left is, “How much of the federal government’s power to create laws is given to Congress?”
All of it.
Webster’s Dictionary defines “all” as:
1. The wholequantity, extent, duration, amount, quality, or degree of; the whole; the wholenumber of; any whatever; every; as, all the wheat; all the land; all the year; all the strength; allhappiness; allabundance; loss of allpower; beyondalldoubt; you will see us all
Here we are back where we started. After looking at this clause under a magnifying glass we’ve learned that this clause means exactly what you thought it did at first glance. Congress is the only part of our federal government that has any power whatsoever to create laws, without exception.
This all seems so basic; so obvious. So why am I taking the time to go through it?
Given how simple Article 1, Section 1 is, it should be easy enough to follow. But where does most of our federal rule-making take place today? Not in Congress. A huge majority of the rules that govern your life today come from executive agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Think about the ever-controversial Birth Control Mandate. That’s a pretty important rule, right? So when did Congress write this mandate? They didn’t. The Birth Control Mandate is a rule that was created in the Executive Branch by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Or what about the new Net Neutrality rules that will give the federal government control over the internet? Fundamentally changing the way the American people experience the internet is a pretty big deal. So when did Congress create those rules? They didn’t. In fact, they actually voted similar rules down. But even though Congress opposed enacting Net Neutrality rules, they were created in the Executive Branch anyway through the Federal Communications Commission.
This isn’t rocket science. Both the Birth Control Mandate and Net Neutrality are rules. And yet neither of them were created by Congress. So obviously these two rules - and all rule-making through executive agencies for that matter - are blatantly unconstitutional.
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You read that correctly. Allowing executive agencies like the FCC and the HHS to create binding regulations is unconstitutional. And no matter how much the people running Washington try to convince themselves otherwise, there are reasons why it is unconstitutional.
First of all, you might have noticed that our most ridiculous and most oppressive federal rules usually come out of executive agencies. That’s because they don’t have to worry about facing the voters. Think about it, these bureaucrats aren’t accountable to the American people so why should they care if you don’t like their rules. It’s not their problem.
Net Neutrality is a perfect example of this. Members of Congress refused to pass it because they didn’t want to face re-election having voted for this. That’s not a problem for the bureaucrats at the FCC though! Nobody even knows their names. They can impose this monstrosity on you and me knowing that they aren’t going to face any consequences whatsoever.
Second, the American people need to know that there is only one area of the government that has the authority to create rules for them; and only one process that can be used to do it. That allows us to know what laws are being passed and voice our opinion as they are being passed.
But today, we have countless executive agencies creating rules in a variety of different ways. It’s impossible for any normal American to keep track of all the new laws that are being created each year. Even the federal government admits that it has no idea how many regulations actually exist.
[sharequote align="center"]How does an incomprehensible maze of rules created by unaccountable bureaucrats benefit citizens?[/sharequote]
As Glenn Reynolds pointed out in USA Today, because there are so many agencies churning out these regulations you are probably breaking one of them right now. Unfortunately for you, just explaining that you didn’t know you were breaking a federal regulation isn’t good enough. Even though the federal government can’t even count how many regulations there are, you are expected to know them, understand them, and obey them all at all times.
How does having that kind of incomprehensible maze of rules being created by unaccountable bureaucrats benefit you as a citizen? It doesn’t. That’s why it’s unconstitutional. (I provide more reasons why the Constitution process for creating laws here and here.)
If we ever want to have any hope of getting our federal government back under control, we have to limit it to only using the process for creating laws that was outlined in the Constitution. As it stands today, there are far too many executive agencies trying to control our lives in far too many ways for us to have any realistic chance of holding them all accountable.
So how do our public officials justify all of this if it’s so clearly unconstitutional? That’s a fantastic question; and one that I will answer next week.
Chad Kent is an author and speaker with a unique style that makes the Constitution simple and fun. Listen to Chad every Saturday during The Chris Salcedo Show on TheBlaze Radio and visit his web site at www.ChadKentSpeaks.com.
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