To that end, movement conservatives have been trying for the last 18 years to introduce legislation forcing all other laws to be made with clear constitutional roots.
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey signed on to that effort this month when he signed on as a co-sponsor of the Enumerated Powers Act of 2013. The bill is sponsored by Tea Party stars Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
“With this bill, we are returning Congress to its place under the limits of the U.S. Constitution and making government a better steward of Americans’ hard-earned dollars,” Toomey said.
The legislation is seen by its supporters as a way to defend against government overreach by requiring all acts of Congress to “contain a concise explanation of the specific authority in the Constitution” that allows the particular action.
“Many of our nation’s fiscal woes can be linked to Congress’s ignorance of, and refusal to follow, the clear Constitutional limitations on our power to legislate,” said Paul.
With only 35 co-sponsors the bill is unlikely to pass the Senate or even committee. Each are given a 2% and 5% chance respectively by Govtrack.us, a site meant to foster government transparency.
The biggest problem with the legislation? It seeks to circumvent decades of federal jurisprudence by imposing a new restriction on Congress’s use of the Constitution.
The bill: “Prohibits the use of the Commerce Clause, except for ‘the regulation of the buying and selling of goods or services, or the transporting for those purposes, across boundaries with foreign nations, across State lines, or with Indian tribes…’”
Congress has used the Commerce Clause to underpin lots of legislation, from Medicaid to labor laws. Constitutional conservatives frequently have complained that the clause is overused, but the current balance has been struck over the past century by the U.S. Supreme Court – the branch of government whose role it is to interpret the Constitution.
The move by Toomey to support the measure may be an effort to secure his right flank, after receiving some flack from supporters in April of this year for his work with Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin on gun control.