Constitution Slogans Are Not Enough!

Since its inception in 2007, Illinois Conservative has been dedicated to promoting the Constitution and returning it to its rightful place as the supreme law for our government.  At the time, the Constitution was seldom mentioned in political speeches or the media, except in passing.  Since then, an awareness of the Constitution has become widespread, especially among conservatives.

Republicans running for elective office in 2010 routinely make references to the Constitution in their stump speeches.  Protesters at tea parties and town hall meetings express demands for a return to the Constitution.  These demands are usually expressed as slogans: “smaller government”, “lower taxes”, “strong national defense”, etc.  Neither protesters nor candidates define what these slogans mean.

The Tenth Amendment limits the role of the federal government to the legislative and taxing powers delegated to it by the Constitution.  The bulk of these powers are found in Article I, Section 8.  Clause one specifies the purposes for which Congress is permitted to levy taxes.  Clause 19 specifies the types of laws Congress is authorized to pass.

Clause 1: “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and  Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States;”

Clause 19: “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”

Following is an exhaustive list of all the powers and responsibilities delegated to Congress by the Constitution, including those found in Article I, Section 8 and “all other powers vested by this Constitution”.

Constitutional Responsibilities of Congress

1. Determine manner of conducting census.  Art. 1, Sec. 2, Cl. 4.

2. Issue bills of impeachment.  Art. I, Sec. 2, Cl. 9.  (House of Representatives)

3. Conduct impeachment trials. Art. I, Sec. 3, Cl. 8. (Senate)

4. Make laws concerning elections of members of Congress. Art. I, Sec. 4, Cl.  2.

5. Determine annual date on which Congress shall convene. Art. I, Sec. 4, Cl. 3.

6. Judge elections, returns and qualifications of members of each house.  Art. I, Sec.5, Cl. 1.

7. Determine rules of proceedings, punish misbehavior and expel members. Art. I, Sec. 5, Cl. 3.

8. Keep and publish journal of proceedings. Art. I, Sec. 5, Cl. 4 and 5.

9. Determine compensation of members.  Art. I, Sec. 6, Cl. 1.

10. House of Representatives originate all revenue bills. Art. I, Sec. 7, Cl. 1.

11. Lay and collect taxes, duties imposts and excises. Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 1.

  • To pay debts,
  • To provide for the common defense,
  • To provide for the general welfare.

12. Borrow money. Article I, Section 8, Clause 3.

13. Make necessary and proper laws for executing its delegated powers. Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 1 -19.

For the General Welfare:

  • Regulate international and interstate commerce. Clause 4.
  • Rules of naturalization. Clause 5.
  • Rules of bankruptcy. Clause 5.
  • Coin money and regulate value.  Clause 6.
  • Fix standard of weights and measures. Clause 6.
  • Provide for punishment for counterfeiting U.S. securities and money . Clause 7.
  • Establish Post roads and Post Offices. Clause 8.
  • Issue patents and copyrights.  Clause 9.
  • Constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court.  Clause 10.
  • Administer government of District of Columbia. Clause 18.
  • Purchase land for erection of necessary government buildings.  Clause 18.

For the Common Defense:

  • Define and punish piracy and felonies committed on the high seas.  Clause 11.
  • Define and punish offenses against the laws of nations.  Clause 11.
  • Declare war. Clause 12.
  • Make rules concerning captures on land or sea.  Clause 12.
  • Raise and support armies.  Clause 13.
  • Bi-annual appropriation of military and defense funding. Clause 13.
  • Maintain Navy.  Clause 14.
  • Make rules for governing and regulating land and naval forces.  Clause 15.
  • Provide for the calling out, organizing, arming, and disciplining of the Militia. Cl. 16

14.  Determine date for choosing presidential electors and the date of their voting.  Art. II, Sec.1, Cl. 16.
15.  Delegate appointment authority for non-constitutional offices to President, courts, or department heads.  Art. 2, Sec. 2, Cl. 4.

16.  Establish punishment for treason.  Art. 3, Sec. 3, Cl. 3.

17.  Determine how acts, records and proceedings of states are to be proved and  their effects. Art. IV, Sec. 1, Cl. 2.

18.  Admit new states into Union.  Art. IV, Sec. 3, Cl. 1.

19.  Dispose of and make rules for territories or other property of U.S.  Art. IV, Sec. 3, Cl. 4.

20.  Guarantee a Republican form of government to every state.  Art. IV, Sec. 4, Cl. 1.

21.  Protect states against  invasion.  Art. IV, Sec. 4, Cl. 2.

22.  Protect states against domestic violence, when requested to do so.  Art. IV, Sec. 4, Cl. 2.

23.  Propose Amendments to Constitution.  Art. V.

24.  Support the Constitution of the United States.  Art. VI, Cl. 5.

Nowhere in this list will you find any reference to health care, energy, education, insurance, banking, or any of the myriad issues the federal government has claimed power over during the twentieth century.  The slogan, “smaller government” means a government big enough to carry out its delegated responsibilities but no bigger.  “Lower taxes” means taxes necessary to adequately fund the delegated functions of government but not one dollar more.

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