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Public Statements

The U.S. Constitution

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. BROUN of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, America is facing some very perilous times because of the joblessness, because of the poor economy, because of the outrageous spending that's been going on for the last 2 years through the last Congress.

I come tonight, Mr. Speaker, to discuss something that I think is critically important for the American people to understand, because we've gotten away from what the Constitution says and what the original intent of the Constitution might be.

I've seen Member after Member, Mr. Speaker, hold up a copy of the Constitution. I carry a copy in my pocket. And they'll hold up a copy of the Constitution and talk about this being a living and breathing document. Nothing could be further from the truth in the philosophy of our Founding Fathers.

In fact, our Founding Fathers meant this to be a very solid foundation. The Declaration of Independence expresses the philosophy of liberty in America, and the Constitution is an embodiment of those principles into a governing document.

Mr. Speaker, if we don't have a solid foundation upon which to build all of our laws, all of our society, then we're building our society and laws on shifting sand. You can ask a 6-year-old, if you build a house or a building on shifting sand, what's going to happen? It's going to fall, it's going to fail. That's exactly what's happening in our country today, because we've gotten away from the original intent of the Constitution.

In Hosea 4:6, God says, ``My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge.'' We have a tremendous lack of knowledge about the foundational principles, what our Founding Fathers meant for government to be. We have a tremendous lack of knowledge in this Nation even in Federal jurists, even in jurists sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court, about the Constitution.

In fact, I was very shocked--as I got interested in politics, I started talking to lawyers who had gone to law schools all over this country. The majority of lawyers that I've spoken with--law schools, public and private all across this country, they all have a course called constitutional law. But the American public would be absolutely shocked to understand that lawyers, even when they take constitutional law--and in a lot of law schools it's an elective even--when they take constitutional law, they don't study the Constitution. All they study is case law, what the Federal court system has said about the Constitution.

And we've got Federal jurists all the way up to the Supreme Court, but in all levels, from Federal district courts to the appellate system all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, that bring down ruling after ruling that is not based upon the Constitution in its original intent. That philosophy leads to tyranny in all possibility.

Our Founding Fathers never meant this. In fact, if people would read the Constitution and read what our Founding Fathers said about the Constitution, they would understand that.

There's a great resource that talks about what our Founding Fathers meant for the Constitution to be. The architect of the Constitution, James Madison, John Jay, the first U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice, and Alexander Hamilton, who was an ardent Federalist who believed in a strong Federal Government, wrote a series of essays. These essays were printed in the newspapers in New York State. They were written to tell New Yorkers about what government should be under the Constitution in its original intent.

They explained in minute detail what government should be not only then but 200, 400, 600 years later, because they knew very firmly, very strongly that if we didn't have that original intent and a strong, solid foundation of government, that we could lose our liberty. That's the reason they wanted us to stay with their intent in the Constitution.

They wrote these series of essays. Those essays have been bound together--this little booklet, "The Federalist Papers,'' contains these essays. These essays were written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay about the Constitution to explain the Constitution.

If people will get ``The Federalist Papers'' and read them, they will see how far off track we have gotten as a Nation. They will see that our Nation is being destroyed from within, being destroyed by a philosophy of big government, and this philosophy has been fostered upon us by Democrats and Republicans alike, by liberals and conservatives alike. We've got to change that.

Mr. Speaker, the only way that we're going to change

governing here in the United States is not here in Washington, not here in the U.S. House of Representatives, not over across the way in the U.S. Senate, not down the street on Pennsylvania Avenue in the White House. The only way we're going to change the philosophy of governance is if the grassroots, the good people across this Nation, start demanding a different kind of governance.

We've got to stop this outrageous spending. We've got to get our economy back on track. We've got to start creating jobs. What's made this country so rich, so powerful, so successful as a political experiment, the greatest political experiment in all of history, in all of mankind, is right here in the United States based on the Constitution of the United States in its original intent.

We have a tremendous lack of knowledge.

Now, "The Federalist Papers'' in the old language, it's a bit difficult to read. Their style of writing, their style of English was a bit different from ours.

We've got another resource that I highly recommend, which is ``The Federalist Papers in Modern Language.'' A person can buy this off Amazon, they can get this in Barnes and Noble bookstores around the country. If they don't have it in stock, it can be ordered.

The editor, Mary Webster, got some folks to transliterate ``The Federalist Papers'' from old-style English into modern English. What ``transliterate'' means is to change one word in the old style to another word in the new style. This is not an editorialization of ``The Federalist Papers,'' it is not a commentary on ``The Federalist Papers.''

It's strictly a transliteration. In other words, it's changed from old-style English into new-style English. And that's all it's done.

People can go and read either ``The Federalist Papers'' in its original English form or ``The Federalist Papers in Modern Language,'' and can become knowledgeable.

We've got to light grassfires all across this country to demand a different kind of governance or we're going to destroy everything that our Founding Fathers have given us.

This Nation was built on personal responsibility and accountability. It was based on freedom and liberty. I use those words separately.

Let me explain ``liberty'' for you, give you a definition. I don't know if this is my original definition or not. I don't remember ever reading it anywhere. I haven't seen it when I've gone to look it up. I'm not claiming it as my own, though I don't know who wrote it, if someone did: Liberty. Liberty is freedom bridled by morality.

Liberty is freedom bridled by morality. You see, a wild bear is free. All the wild bear's constrained by is the instincts that our Creator put in a wild bear. It can go anywhere it wants to. A male wild bear will even kill its own cubs just to try to get to the sow, to breed her. He doesn't care about anybody else but himself. That sow will protect her cubs, but other than that she's free, and she chooses to do so by her instinct.

But absolute freedom is anarchy. It's anarchy. You see, if I am totally free, if I don't like somebody, I can just kill them. In fact, we see that by dictators around the world, historically as well as in present times. But you see, freedom bridled by morality, liberty, means that my freedom stops where another person's freedom starts. And we can come together and work in concert for the greater good, for the greater good of our families, our communities, our cities, our States, as well as our Nation.

This country was founded upon liberty, personal responsibility, and accountability. It's been so successful economically because it's been based on the free enterprise system. Free enterprise. Free enterprise is the engine that pulls along the train of economic prosperity here in America. But we're destroying that.

Our President has a philosophy that I believe is totally against free enterprise. A lot of my colleagues, Democrat and Republican alike, believe the Federal Government ought to control virtually every aspect of our lives. George W. Bush was a big-spending, big-government President. He gave us No Child Left Behind, which has been a disaster. I call it Leave No Teacher Unshackled. We've got to get the shackles off teachers, let the local school boards run the education system, not by a Federal Department of Education, or I don't even think by a State Department of Education. But the States have the right to do that constitutionally.

The most powerful political force in America today is embodied in the first three words of the U.S. Constitution: ``We the people.'' And if we the people will become knowledgeable about the Constitution and about the Founding Fathers' philosophy of government, the philosophy of liberty and freedom, the philosophy of a free enterprise system, a philosophy of individual responsibility and individual accountability, then we can put this country back on the right course by the American people demanding their freedom back. We've lost a lot of it. A tremendous amount of freedom has been lost. We're losing our liberty, and we have a government that has taken away our freedoms.

The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States: ``We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our prosperity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States.''

Tonight I am going to talk about one little phrase in this Preamble. It's also in another place in the Constitution. I'm going to talk about the general welfare clause. We'll come back on another night, and I am going to talk about the commerce clause. And then we'll talk also about the elastic clause, and the Bill of Rights, and other parts of the Constitution.

But three phrases out of the Constitution have been utilized to pervert the idea behind the Constitution, to destroy its original intent, to cause us to continue to lose liberty here in America. The general welfare clause is one of those. You see, Congress has strayed from the clear-cut path, the certainty and liberty that our Founding Fathers outlined in the most basic and fundamental document to ever exist, and that's our Constitution.

The single most important part of this revered document is embodied in those first three words, because we are supposed to be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, as Abraham Lincoln said. Our government's purpose is to protect and preserve freedom and liberties of we, the people. Government is supposed to be governing at the consent of the people, not the people being dealt with at the consent of the government.

Yet nowadays it seems as though the Federal Government has inserted itself into almost every aspect of our day-to-day lives, monitoring what kind of health care we can have, bailing out the automobile industry, and regulating the education standards. Just a few examples of the Federal Government's hand's overreach into things where it should not go.

Mr. Speaker, over time it's become the norm for the Federal Government to keep expanding in both size and scope by absorbing powers and rights that were intended for the States and the people. In fact, in the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, it says if a right is not specifically given to the Federal Government by the Constitution, in other words these things that are in

article I, section 8, as well as a few others, but these are the things we can pass laws about, if it's not prohibited from the States, then those rights are reserved for the States and the people.

One of my primary goals while serving here in Washington is to send these powers back to the States and to the people and to ensure that, do everything that I can to ensure that the Constitution is applied as the Founding Fathers intended. I will work very hard to try to build those bridges, to send those powers back to the States and people. These are the powers created in article I, section 8.

The necessary and proper clause, the so-called elastic clause, allows Congress to pass laws about these other things; but this is all the Federal Government, all the House and the Senate is supposed to be passing laws about. Now, we have some say in the courts, we have some say with the executive branch, but these are the things that Congress is supposed to be passing laws about, and nothing else. Nothing else but these things.

Well, the general welfare clause is one of the most commonly abused and misapplied powers that the Federal Government has utilized to expand the size and scope of government and to destroy our liberty. Article I, section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, clause 1: "The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.'' This is the second place, I mentioned just a few minutes before, in the Preamble our Founding Fathers mentioned general welfare.

Here it is in article I, section 8, clause 1, the general welfare.

This clause generated the most debate during our Founding Fathers' period because the term ``general welfare'' is vague and leaves much room for interpretation. Now we hear judges talk about interpreting the Constitution. Judges shouldn't be interpreting the Constitution. Words make a difference. And when we use the word ``interpreting,'' that means somebody can apply their own bias what should and what should not be constitutional.

Well, you should be utilizing the word, apply the Constitution in its original intent. I am an original intent constitutionalist, as I just mentioned. I want to apply the Constitution as our Founding Fathers meant.

Alexander Hamilton and James Madison famously disagreed about the meaning of ``general welfare'' and the limits to Congress' spending. Madison wanted the clause to be very, very narrowly interpreted, and Hamilton wanted a bit broader interpretation.

Now, if Alexander Hamilton were to walk into the doors of this U.S. House today, he would be absolutely shocked and chagrined at how much liberty we have lost, because he never, as a Federalist, envisioned the size and scope of government today. I think if he knew what was going on today, a little over 200 years since the Constitution was passed, ratified, he would be arguing just like I am today.

Yet the Founders, as they laid out in the Federalist Papers, neither Madison nor Hamilton would have agreed with the modern-day view that there are no limitations whatsoever on Congress' power to spend and that ``general welfare'' means whatever Congress, the President, and the Courts say that it means, even though a sort of Federalist would not agree that we have an open invitation to have whatever kind of government that we want to have.

Today, no project seems too local or too narrow, which is a big part of why this country is buried in so much debt--$14.5 trillion. And then if you look at the finance gap, it's over $200 trillion.

The powers of Congress are not unlimited, which is why we must get back to the basics of the Constitution, and we are going to talk tonight about that original intent of the general welfare clause and highlight just how far we have moved away from it.

James Madison, number 41, in the Federalist Papers, wrote this:

"Some, who have not denied the necessity of the power of taxation, have grounded a very fierce attack against the Constitution''--well, it sounds like that today, doesn't it--``on the language in which it is defined. It has been urged and echoed, that the power `to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States' ''--

We just showed you that. That is in article 1, section 8, clause 1 of the Constitution.

As he goes on, ``amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger proof could be given of the distress under which these writers labor for objections than their stooping to such a misconstruction.''

Now, that's that old kind of language. Basically, he was saying that it is inane to think that the general welfare clause, this clause, can allow the Congress to pass laws about anything, collect taxes, et cetera, collect anything. No stronger proof could be given.

Under the distress, that means under the problems that are going to arise, under which these writers labor, the Supreme Court today, the President today, the last President, Republican and Democratic Presidents for the last many decades, labor for objections, and they are stooping to such a misconstruction.

He was very, very clear. We do not have the power to do so. We don't have the power to do so.

James Madison, Federalist 45:

"The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government are few and defined.'' They are defined. Article 1, section 8, other articles, strictly interpreted, strictly defined, strictly according to what it says, not of broadening of those powers, few and defined, ``to be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce.''

James Madison in Federalist 45 was saying basically right here what the primary purpose of the Federal Government is: It's national defense, national security, foreign affairs. And also in the Constitution we have the rights to postal roads, post offices, things like that, to establish a currency to make this one Nation.

But the principal purpose of the Federal Government and the original intent of the Constitution is national defense, national security, and foreign affairs. The

American people need to understand that firmly. That's foreign commerce.

We see over and over again the Courts defining general welfare in a different manner, much different manner. In fact, the Courts have held that anything that has to do with anybody's welfare, an individual's welfare, is okay under the Constitution, but that's not the original intent. The original intent was the general welfare, the general welfare of the Nation, not welfare of individuals.

We have developed this big welfare system in this country. It all started in earnest with Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt just exploded the size and scope of government through his New Deal--both Progressives; both had socialist beliefs.

In fact, Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent his advisers, his closely held friends, his Cabinet people, to go visit with Stalin in Communist Russia to study what he was doing, what Stalin was doing there so that FDR could replicate it here in the United States, and he did everything that he possibly could to do so. He packed the Courts because the Courts originally said the welfare clause, commerce clause, could not be expanded to include all this size and scope of government.

Thomas Jefferson: `"Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.'' Back to article I, section 8.

When my colleagues, Republican and Democrat alike, vote for things that are not enumerated in the original intent, they are violating their oath of office. Every single one of us has stood up here and has taken an oath of office.

The first I time I did that was when I was sworn in the Marine Corps, 1964; when I came to Congress in a special election in 2007, and then again in 2009, and then again this year. I stood right here in this Chamber and I held up my hand, and I swore to uphold the Constitution against powers both foreign and domestic. One of the greatest domestic powers that is anti-Constitution resides right in this House, right in this House, because we are destroying our liberty.

We are destroying it by the philosophy of big government. Thomas Jefferson said, ``They are not to do anything they please.''

Seventy years ago, in a court case called United States v. Butler, we started moving into this loosey-goosey idea about the Constitution being anything that a court says that it is, anything that a President says that it is, and anything that the Congress says that it is. And we have seen just recently where Congress passed the McCain-Feingold law. President Bush said, we will let the Supreme Court tell us whether it is constitutional or not. Well, the Supreme Court is not the final arbiter of what is constitutional. Neither is the President. Neither is Congress. We all have something to say about that, certainly. So do the States.

We the people are actually the final arbiter. We the people need to demand original intent of the Constitution by becoming knowledgeable about it. The final arbiter of what is constitutional or not is what is in the Constitution and what our Founding Fathers said about it, not what some Supreme Court ruling has said about it, because most Supreme Court justices have no clue what the original intent is and don't care. They just don't care I don't think.

United States v. Butler 70 years ago dismissed Madison's and Jefferson's narrow view of the Constitution, the original intent of the Constitution, and the Supreme Court held that the power to tax and spend is an independent power, and the general welfare clause gives Congress the power it might not derive elsewhere.

In Helvering v. Davis, the Supreme Court interpreted the clause even more expansively, conferring upon Congress a plenary power to impose taxes and to spend money for the general welfare subject almost entirely to its own discretion, our own discretion. Even more recently, the Court has included the power to indirectly coerce the States into adopting national standards by threatening to withhold Federal funds in South Dakota v. Dole.

Today, the Hamiltonian view predominates in the application of the general welfare clause, which has led to the expansion of the government to its $4.5 trillion debt. We spend up here without considering the repercussions. ObamaCare is a great example. ObamaCare is a destroyer. It's going to destroy jobs. It's going to destroy budgets, people's budgets, companies' budgets, cities' budgets, States' budgets, and the Federal budget. And it's going to destroy the quality of health care. And we have no constitutional authority, as a judge in Florida upheld.

James Madison a little later on in his life wrote a letter to James Robertson in 1831. In this letter he said, ``With respect to the words 'general welfare,' I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them.'' Connected with them. In other words, those things in article 1, section 8 and the rest of the Constitution as it was intended. ``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.'' The creators of the Constitution are those folks who wrote it and those folks who ratified it.

This literal and unlimited interpretation is destroying America. It's destroying our economy. It's destroying everything that has been good in this Nation. We need to cut our outrageous spending for the well-being of our Nation and apply the general welfare clause as James Madison originally intended.

It's got to stop. Mr. Speaker, when I come to the floor to vote or when I write legislation, my staff and I write legislation, we have a four-way test that I apply to every vote I make and everything I do here. The first question is, ``is it right?'' By that question I mean, is it morally right? Does it follow the Judeo-Christian biblical principles that this Nation was founded upon? A lot of liberals across this country who are watching this will start blogging, and some of the liberal news media will say that I want to set up a theocracy here in America. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our Founding Fathers didn't want a theocracy either. Freedom of religion in the First Amendment is very dear to me. It's very dear to all of us. But we have freedom of religion in this country so that Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, humanists, yes, even Christians, can make a personal choice of what their religion is and can celebrate and worship in their religion as long as it doesn't infringe upon somebody else's rights, because this Nation was founded upon biblical principles, the principles of freedom and liberty.

We have gotten away from it. I believe so much in these four questions that I have them printed up. If somebody comes to my office, they'll see them on the desk

of all my legislative people in my offices. There's a copy on my desk. It's on the home page of both of my Web sites. I wish every Member of Congress would apply these four principles. Is it right? Is it constitutional in it original intent? Not this perverted idea of the Constitution that Presidents, Congresses, and the Federal court systems operate under. Is it necessary? And can we afford it? Four simple questions.

You see, we've gotten away from the original intent of the Constitution. We've created this huge Federal Government that has taken our freedom away. It's killing our liberty and our Nation. And it's because of a perverted idea of the general welfare clause, as well as the commerce clause and the elastic clause, that the courts have allowed this to happen, the Presidents and the Congresses have allowed it to happen.

Mr. Speaker, we the people need to stand up and say no to taking our liberty away. Our Founding Fathers over and over again during the original period would rush to the floor with this book in hand, the holy Bible, and they would come to the floor, the House and the Senate, go to the floor of the Constitutional Convention and say, look what I found, what our Creator says. Benjamin Franklin proposed prayer in the Constitutional Convention. We pray today every day that Congress opens because of that prayer that Benjamin Franklin recommended.

In his speech, and I encourage you to go read it, he said, if our Creator notices when a bird falls to the ground, how can we build a nation without the help of Providence, of our God, our Creator?

You see, the Constitution was written on biblical principles. In fact, our Founding Fathers quoted the holy Bible more than any other source. David Barton has a ministry in Aledo, Texas, called WallBuilders. He has more original source documents than probably anybody. He wrote a book called ``Original Intent: The Courts, the Constitution, and Religion.'' I highly recommend this, too. WallBuilders is a great resource of what the original intent is and what our Founding Fathers have said about the Constitution.

But, you see, back to something I mentioned earlier, God says in Hosea 4:6: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.

I have heard that beginning line preached a number of times, but very seldom do I hear a pastor go past that line. The whole verse says, and remember, this is a promise from a holy, righteous God that can do nothing else but fulfill the promise. His promise is this when he spoke through Hosea to the Israelites, he speaks to us today, our Creator says: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for me. Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.

And I get goose bumps and shivers every time I say that, literally, because it is a promise from a holy, righteous God that can do nothing else but fulfill that promise.

You see, the future of our Nation depends upon we the people, the most powerful political force in this Nation becoming knowledgeable, becoming knowledgeable about the Constitution, getting a copy, looking at it online. In my district, people can come by my office and get a copy. We give them away by the hundreds out of my office here in Washington. Get a copy of the "Federalist Papers.'' Or if you don't want to read it in old-style English, get the "Federalist Papers'' in modern language, this document.

Read what our Founding Fathers said about the Constitution. Read the anti-Federalist Papers. Those are the guys who did not want a strong Federal Government. But you will see in the "Federalist Papers,'' those who argued for a strong central government, we have enumerated, very limited and defined powers as James Madison states, Thomas Jefferson states.

Former U.S. Senator Everett Dirksen once said when he feels the heat, he sees the light. Members of Congress in the House and the Senate, need to see the light by feeling the heat of we the people.

You see, in Psalms 11, God asked the question: If the foundations be destroyed, what are the righteous to do?

God has given us free will. He has given us freedom. He has given us liberty, unlike any society ever in history has seen, ever experienced; but we are losing it. And the only way we are going to put it back on the right course is for people to become knowledgeable about the foundational principles so that we can put this country back on a solid foundation so it is not built on shifting sand so that we can change the course of history.

The direction we are heading today is going to destroy everything that has been good about this country. It is going to destroy our liberty. We are not going to have the freedom that we have enjoyed, even in the past few decades, which is much less freedom than they experienced in this country 100 years ago.

Look at these questions. I think they are very reasonable. Is it right? Does it fit the Judeo-Christian principles the Nation was founded upon? Is it constitutional in its original intent, not this perverted idea that we are operating on today? Do we need it? And can we afford it? If we went to these questions, we wouldn't have $14.5 trillion of debt. We wouldn't have all of the unfunded liabilities of the Federal Government which are tremendous. We wouldn't have the loss of liberty and freedoms that we see going on here today. We wouldn't have a lot of the debates that we have here in Congress.

We the people need to start holding every single Member of Congress, every President, every public official, local, State, as well as Federal, because they all take that same oath, to defend the Constitution. The vast, vast majority are violating that oath; and the only way that we the people are going to change things, the only way we are going to put this country back on the right course is for we the people to demand it.

So please contact your neighbors, your friends, get them to read the Constitution. Read the ``Federalist Papers.'' Read what our Founding Fathers said about government. Understand how far we have gotten away from those original principles, how much we have lost our freedom, how much we have gotten away from liberty and how close we are to becoming a socialistic, communistic nation in this country. That is where we are headed.

The only way it is going to change is if the American people will stand up and demand something different, start throwing people out of office that violate their oath of office, and put people in office that are going to stand firm for freedom, for liberty.

I am going to stand firm for the Constitution as it was intended, and I am going to continue to fight for the Constitution as it was intended. There are precious few here in this body that will stand and even vote that way. The only way we are going to change it, the only way we are going to save America, is for we the people to stand up and demand it.

I believe we can; I believe we will. I believe we are at the beginning right now today of a new dawn in America, a dawn of liberty, a dawn of freedom, a dawn of limited government, a dawn of strong national defense and national security, a dawn where our children and grandchildren are going to grow up in an economically prosperous Nation where there are going to be jobs in the private sector, where people are going to be able to operate within their society without all of the constraints of government.

We have got to demand it. The future of this country depends upon it. Your children and your grandchildren depend upon it. Join in the fight.


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