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  • Peeling Back Congressional Overreach

    Americans are all too familiar with the federal government’s intrusion into our daily lives. It sometimes seems that the feds have their hands in nearly every aspect of our daily life: what we drive, how we educate our children, down to the very food we eat. Unfortunately, Americans are less familiar with how the federal government is able to justify such intrusions.

    They should look no further than the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which is embodied in Article I, Section 8, Clause 3:

    To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes

    The Founders included this provision in the enumerated powers of the federal government to prevent discriminatory commercial activities between the states and to secure regulation of international commerce for the federal government only. That seems reasonable enough.

    Unfortunately, the federal government has misused the Commerce Clause to regulate many activities of the states—and in fact, private citizens—of which it was never intended to regulate. Perhaps the most egregious abuse occurred in the Supreme Court case Wickard v. Filburn.

    A small-time dairy farmer was charged for growing wheat in excess of that allowed by a federal law. Importantly, the wheat was not destined for the market. Instead, the farmer used it to make flour for household consumption and as feed for his dairy cattle.

    Nonetheless, the Supreme Court ruled, “even if [his] activity be local and though it may not be regarded as commerce, it may still…be reached by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce.”

    In non-lawyer speak – the Court opened the door to Congressional regulation of nearly any activity. The Commerce Clause was no longer merely able to regulate interstate and foreign commerce by the federal government; it was how the feds shaped society for states and even individual citizens.

    This New Deal era mentality meant that the federal government was the answer to society’s ills and the Commerce Clause became the vehicle for the government’s intrusion. Last week’s Virginia ruling, on Obamacare’s individual mandate, may have signaled an end of an era

    In striking down the individual mandate, Judge Hudson noted: “Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market.”

    This ruling is important for numerous reasons. First, it represents the first successful suit striking down the constitutionality of a part of Obamacare. Second, and equally as important, it makes a strong statement against Congress’s use of the Commerce Clause to regulate choices for individual citizens.

    The Virgina ruling will most certainly be appealed, but conservatives should welcome these pending appeals since they create an opportunity to create important precedent. For nearly a century, the Commerce Clause has been misused to justify massive government intrusion into our lives.

    The Virginia ruling on Obamacare is the first step to peeling back this dangerous practice.

    James Holland  is a intern with Heritage Action for America. For information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm

    Posted in Obamacare [slideshow_deploy]

    9 Responses to Peeling Back Congressional Overreach

    1. Zachary Ludlum, Phil says:

      Almost daily, I remind myself that it is my job to pursue happiness; it is not the states, and certainly not the federal goverments, responsibility. I believe in states rights and a strictly limited federal government. A strict construction of the US Constitution; in other words, if the Constitution doesn't say the Federal government could do it, it goes to the states

      The ebb and flow power grab that we've seen over the last 75 years, accelerating these past 2, is deeply concerning. Fortunately, we are shifting the right way in Congress and things will come back into better focus these next 2 years. We need to admit that healthcare is broken, but ObamaCare is wrong on so many levels.

    2. George Pajunen, Bett says:

      Each day as I read the papers and listen to the news I see more and more of governmemts intrusion in our personal lives. Mr. Holland we can only pray that as these appeals reach the Surpreme Court that there is some awaking in there hearts and minds to see that Obamacare is a true intrusion on our indivdual rights as Americans. This is not only happening at the federal level but state and local governments too. They use statements like "It's for the chIildren" to make the public feel something is really needed for the betterment of society. In the school of community organizers the number one thing they teach is power is money. Whoever controls the money has the power. Unfortuately we as citizens have let our governments extract so much money from us that they think it is theres to spend like a drunken sailor on shore leave.Repel of Obamacare should only be a beginning of our strive to raine in the intrusion of our government iinto our lives.

    3. Lloyd Scallan (New O says:

      On November 3rd, the day after the mid-terms, I was filled with a renewed sence

      that finally after the past two years, Congress got the message through the

      American voters. A little more than a month later, I realize my hopes were shorted lived. Obama and his band of socialist Dems, along with a bunch of

      RINOs, showed that they will continue to use the courts to misinterpret

      our Constitution and the controled ABC'S of government agencies to continue to distroy our freedoms and liberties. We all know what must be done to save the

      nation. The question is do we have the guts to do it.

    4. William Person says:

      As much as I appreciate that social experiments and engineering happen over decades, "peeling back" of the Federal Govenrment is not what we need. Rather I would use the term ".shattering" as we have been bearing this "creeping socialism" for too many years. The thought that a concentration of beaurocrats in 20 square miles of an old swamp should be able to do to a resourceful and entrprenuerial country over time is absloultely unforgivable. Sadly at the same time it is our fault for letting it happen.

      NOT ANY MORE!!

    5. James S. Carter, San says:

      What we really need is to overturn the precedent of Wickard v. Filburn. If the Supreme Court doesn't do that in their ruling on Obamacare, then we need a Constitutional Convention to rewrite the Commerce Clause, restricting the Congress and the Courts from being so free to incroach on our freedoms.

      God Bless America and God Bless our troops. Merry Christmas to all.

    6. Roy S. Mallmann II says:

      We have got to stop this insidious liberal takeover of our rights and equality. We have got to get rid of "politically correct" and everything it touches. We are currently a nation that measures every issue by skin color, not merit or experience and it has to end. Affirmative action has got to end, now! If 50 years of handouts and job & educational preferences is not long enough, nothing will work. If these individuals would exhibit a strong work ethic and reliability quotient, they wouldn't need it in the first place. You do not see any other ethnic group needing to use it. This policy has cost me job opportunities, and promotions in the past and now blocks me from bidding on government contracts. Just exactly how is that equality.

    7. Ralph Roshto, Lacomb says:


      In the Supreme Court case Wickard v. Filburn, the court ruled that the activity (growing and using one's own wheat for one own's use) could be reached by Congress "if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce.” The action ruled upon could not possibly "exert a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce", so therefore should be re-examined by the court.

      This would have the effect of nullifying the Congress's use of this absurd assault of our rights of free commerce.

    8. Pingback: Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing: Arguments for Individual Mandate’s Constitutionality Don’t Hold Up | The Conservative Papers

    9. Pat says:

      How to prevent Congressional overreach is to provide Congressional oversight where expenses are audited (with receipts), and basic employment protocols are maintained as in every other business entity, including the military.

      Without that kind of administrative protocol, Congress is like a kid in a candy store doing what it wants regardless of cost, and simply dictates to the American people to pay for it. The American public had no designs for itself to be the Sugar Daddy for Congress or indirectly for its cronies on K Street.

      Congress has granted itself far too many entitlements, and far too much in entitlements, operating as brokers on commission, not as responsible leadership employed by the American people. They act as owners, not employees, and make rules to suit themselves, not the public, treating themselves as owners but paying themselves as employees complete with pensions and exceptional expenses pay that far exceeds the costs. Congress was meant to have a leash, not free reins. It dashes about like a runaway horse.

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