Constitutional Limits on Congress

“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government – lest it come to dominate our lives and interests”.– Patrick Henry –

This is an edited reprint of a commentary from December 3, 2007 on my previous blog, RightOnAmerica (

A reading of Article I, Section 8 and Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution makes very clear the charge given Congress by the forefathers as well as the limitations that were simultaneously set down. It is not my intent to list each of the 18 powers and 8 prohibitions. It IS my intent to summarize each power under common headings.

Financial and Trade: The U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to tax (with specific restrictions), coin money, borrow money, to pay debt, to regulate commerce with foreign nations, states, and tribes, to fix the standard of weights and measures, and to create laws regarding bankruptcy. Congress is also responsible for the punishment of counterfeiting and for establishing what has become known as patent law.

National Defense: Congress is responsible for the “common defense and general welfare of the United States” for declaring war, for raising and supporting armies and a navy and for regulating such, and for providing the means for calling up the militia to execute law and suppress insurrections and repel invasions and for regulating such.

Immigration: Congress is responsible for establishing uniform rules of naturalization.

Infrastructure: Congress is responsible for establishing post offices and post roads and for exercising authority over all “needful buildings” purchased through legislation (including forts, magazines, arsenals, and dock yards).

Legal: Congress is responsible for establishing courts (inferior to the Supreme Court), to define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas and offenses against the law of nations. Congress is also responsible for making all laws which shall be necessary and proper for executing the powers listed.

When summarized in this manner, it can be seen that Congress really has only five broad categories of power, many of them with restrictions laid down in Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution. Some of the twenty-seven amendments to the Constitution add further complexity but in my view do not substantially change the basic powers and limitations outlined here.

So what is the purpose of this little exercise? My purpose is to once again make the point that our forefathers truly understood the limitations of government and those individuals who would come to govern our nation. Their goal was to keep it as simple as possible. Through years and years of legislation, litigation, and regulation (much of it from those on the left), this simplicity has been lost in favor of ever increasing government control over all of us. I see nothing in the Constitution about Congress being granted the power to regulate morality, healthcare, smoking, drinking, helmet use, what car I can drive, where I can drive, how far I can drive, how long I can leave the lights on in my house or business, what I can do on my own property, regulation of gun ownership or right to carry, or what I can eat or how much. I also see nothing in the Constitution giving Congress the power to ensure that citizens are not offended. Of course, we know that there is nothing in the Articles of or Amendments to the Constitution that specifies “separation of church and state”, limitations on owning and carrying guns, the ability to have a fireplace or fire pit, or any of the other infringements on personal rights listed above.

So, that is the point of this little diatribe. Unless we begin to elect more and more constructionists…people who understand the limitations of government (and the limitations of the competencies of those in government) America will move further and further toward the government control that is so tied to the tyrannical socialist, communist, and fascist governments that surround us. This is the time that we must ALL stand tall and rebuild America as our forefathers envisioned it.

About Doc

I am a Psychologist and a veteran of the Vietnam War. I work with abused children and with agencies which try to both prevent abuse and to empower those who have been abused. I feel strongly about child abuse and take every action I can to prevent it and to support the children I work with who have experienced it. I also feel strongly about politics and especially the course being taken by our nation. I believe that America is at a critical point in its development. How we answer the challenges from Islamic fascists and from our own internal enemies in the media, government, and academia will determine America’s future and the future of our children. I believe that if we don’t take the correct course now, America will go the way of Europe and that we will not reach the potential set out by our founding fathers. I believe that it is now getting serious. My gravitar is from "Darkman".
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1 Response to Constitutional Limits on Congress

  1. jocaasbe says:

    But wait King Barack Insane Obama says:

    In the 2001 interview, Obama said:

    If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court, I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it I’d be OK

    But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it’s been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can’t do to you. Says what the federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.

    And that hasn’t shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court-focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that.

    Maybe it’s time for a change!!!!!

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