By F. J. Tamel
The Tenth Amendment states: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
The Confederacy, which was formed in 1776, was beginning to fail and a new Federal Government was in the process of being born. A new Constitution was being debated. Delegates to the Constitutional convention were concerned that any national government might ultimately try to gain powers that are not granted by a Constitution and that the states might not be able to exercise their reserved powers. 'The Tenth Amendment was added to assure that powers not granted to the Federal Government are reserved to the States or to the people. It was crafted to remove any public fears that a large government could become as oppressive as the English monarchy was before we gained our independence.
This amendment was not intended to be a benchmark for the powers given to the Federal Government or the States. Instead it allows the states to have a wide range of powers, provided they don’t usurp the specific powers granted to the Federal Government. James Madison, in the debate that took place over the formation of a national bank, said, ''If the power was not given (by the Constitution), Congress could not exercise it; if given, they might exercise it, although it should interfere with the laws, or even the Constitutions of the States.''
Historically, the Tenth Amendment has been invoked to check the powers claimed by Congress regarding the regulation of commerce or to levy and collect taxes. Today it is necessary to once again to invoke the Tenth Amendment as the government is moving toward an increase in power that goes beyond the founder’s wildest nightmares.
Currently, 20 representatives want to ensure that every single piece of legislation passing through Congress includes a statement citing specific constitutional authority for enacting it. H.R. 450, or the Enumerated Powers Act, sponsored by Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona, states, "Each Act of Congress shall contain a concise and definite statement of the constitutional authority relied upon for the enactment of each portion of that Act. The failure to comply with this section shall give rise to a point of order in either House of Congress.”
Shadegg delivered a floor speech on January 9, 2009, during which he introduced the bill that brought to the forefront the founder’s vision of limited authority granted in the 10th Amendment. A portion of the text reads,
"What that means is that the Founding Fathers intended our national government to be a limited government, a government of limited powers that cannot expand its legislative authority into areas reserved to the states or to the people. As the final amendment in the 10 Bill of Rights, it is clear that the Constitution establishes a Federal Government of specifically enumerated and limited powers."
Shadegg has introduced the Enumerated Powers Act each year that he's been in Congress. The act would perform three functions:
It would encourage members of Congress to consider whether their proposed legislation belongs in the federal level or whether it belongs with the states or the people.
It would force lawmakers to include statements explaining by what authority they are acting. It would give the Supreme Court the ability to scrutinize constitutional justification for every piece of legislation. If the justification does not hold up, the courts and the people could hold Congress accountable and eliminate acts that reach beyond the scope of the Constitution.
It is time for our representatives to take H.R. 450 seriously, and for us to demand that our representatives pass it.