What CAN Congress Do?

My newest column is up at What Would the Founding Fathers Do? Please link to it, spread it around, and please add YOUR voices, and those of our Founders to it! This is a struggle we MUST win. Here it is!

We now know that the Senate will soon vote on a national health care plan. The House has passed their bill, the Senate will begin debate on their bill after the Thanksgiving break.

The most crucial focus of this debate should be simple. Is it constitutional? Yes, it is important to debate the impact on our economy, and our taxes, and on private insurance options. Will it lead to rationing? Will it deny care based on bureaucratic decision makers? Will it increase costs, waiting times, quality of care, etc. I would argue that this bill is disastrous on all of those fronts.

The main thing, though, is that we ought to demand that the Senate examine the constitutionality of such a bill BEFORE anything else. The Founders wrote our Constitution to set barriers that would prevent government from growing too large, and becoming a master of the people, rather than their servant.

I would argue that we are, as a nation, in deep peril because that founding set of rules, the Constitution, is being largely ignored by the Congress. They have forgotten it is there apparently. Certainly, if we are to endure as a nation that honors and protects the liberties our Founders knew we were endowed with, then we must insist that Congress obeys the Constitution. Without the Constitution, we are without hope. If the boundaries our Founders set for governmental power are not respected and followed then each of our liberties will, sooner or later, be sacrificed upon the altar of Statism.

So, what powers does the Constitution grant to Congress? Here is Article I Section 8 of our Constitution.

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

Now, I am sure that Reid and his ilk would tell us that the “general welfare” would include this health care bill. But, what would the Father of the Constitution say? Here are some words from James Madison, whom I dare say knows more about the Constitution than Reid.

With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.

Section 8 of our Constitution lists the various powers of Congress, you may read them at the link, and no, Senator Reid, there is no grounds for the action you are seeking to force upon our nation.

Our Founders were very careful to constrain, through the Constitution, the powers of government, they knew how quickly government would, if left unchecked, devour our natural rights. George Washington spoke of the danger of uncontrolled centralized power

Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.

Washington also made clear where the power should lie.

The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.

Thus it is our scared duty to ensure that Congress obeys the Constituition. If we fail, then our country will fail. Congress though, as well as our president, seems to have forgotten Washington’s words. They have embarked on a course to secure all the power in their hands rather than in ours. They have forgotten where the source of our liberty lies. Consider Ben Franklin’s words.

Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature

Hmmm, no mention of Congress, or the president there at all is there? Franklin was indeed a wise man. He not only knew the source of liberty, but the dangers of forgetting that source. Jefferson also was a wise man, he understood what could happen should government be unleashed from its constitutional restraints..

We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debt, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our calling and our creeds…[we will] have no time to think, no means of calling our miss-managers to account but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers… And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for[ another]… till the bulk of society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery… And the fore-horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.

When we consider the multitude of new taxes and bureaucracies in the health care bill, we best heed Jefferson’s warnings. And we must force our government to heed them as well. Liberty and governmetal power are in a constant struggle, let us resolve to ensure liberty prevails.

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