CHERISH THE CONSTITUTION (EXCEPT FOR A FEW INCONVENIENT PARTS)…. Rep. Scott Garrett (R) of New Jersey isn’t the highest profile member of the new House GOP majority, but he does offer one of the more radical constitutional worldviews on Capitol Hill.
Garrett is allied with the extremist “Tenther” effort, which effectively argues the federal government lacks the legal authority to do much of anything outside the explicit text of the Constitution. In practical terms, this means Garrett would like to eliminate all federal spending on public schools and transportation projects, for example, since the Constitution doesn’t say federal officials have the authority to invest in education and infrastructure.
With this in mind, we know House Republicans want members to cite constitutional authority when sponsoring bills, but Garrett would like to go even further.
Garrett’s House rule resolution would require all bills and amendments to contain a statement appropriately citing a specific power granted to Congress in the Constitution. Invoking the “general welfare clause” or the “necessary and proper clause” would not be adequate constitutional citations.
This is almost hilarious. Republicans want lawmakers to reference the Constitution to justify their legislation, but Scott Garrett wants to exclude the parts of the Constitution he doesn’t like.
For all the recent talk from the right about honoring, reading, and celebrating constitutional principles, here we have one extremely conservative Republican insisting that two critical provisions of constitutional text more or less don’t count.
The General Welfare Clause states that Congress has the power to “provide for the … general welfare of the United States,” and is the basis for virtually all federal domestic spending. So Garrett’s proposal would prevent Congress from spending money on pretty much anything except for the military (another provision of the Constitution that Garrett does not propose ignoring empowers Congress to “provide for the common defense.”) The Necessary and Proper Clause, while not quite as essential to a functioning government as Congress’ power to spend money, is the basis for Congress’ power to print legal tender.
I’d feel a little better about Republicans’ alleged interest in the Constitution if they didn’t pick and choose which provisions deserve their support.