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Dr. Coburn Introduces Bill to Restore Constitutional Limitations on Congressional Power

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Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) this week introduced the Enumerated Powers Act of 2011. This bill gives members of Congress new procedural tools to stop unconstitutional legislation. Dr. Coburn introduced the bill along with 24 cosponsors.

"America is facing a debt crisis in large part because we have abandoned the Constitution's limitations on congressional power. We have more government than ever but less freedom, less prosperity and less hope for the future. However, I'm confident in the American people's ability to correct our course. Reconnecting Congress with its limited and enumerated powers is a necessary part of that correction. A government that is affordable looks much more like one that is constitutional than most politicians care to admit," Dr. Coburn said.

The Enumerated Powers Act of 2011 does the following:

1) Allows a point of order to be raised in either House of Congress for bills that fail to cite constitutional authority.

2) 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…"

3) Requires each Act of Congress, bill, resolution, conference report and amendment to "contain a concise explanation of the specific authority in the Constitution" that is the basis for its enactment.

4) States any legislation that abolishes a Federal activity, spending or overall power may cite the 9th or 10th Amendments to the Constitution.

The bill also explains that merely stating a portion of Clause 1, the Enumerated Spending Clause, such as the Common Defense Clause, the General Welfare Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause, is not sufficient to meet the requirements of the Act.

James Madison, the father of the Constitution, said this about the "blank check" philosophy of government that dominates the modern Congress: "With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of [enumerated] 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."


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