Thursday, August 12, 2010

Article I, Section 7: How a Bill Becomes A Law; Article I, Section 8: The Powers Granted To The Federal Government

Temecula Constitution Study - The Powers Given To The Federal Government are Limited, and Few

"I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground that 'all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.' To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, not longer susceptible of any definition." --Thomas Jefferson, Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank, 1791

"The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite." --James Madison, Federalist No. 45

“Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidise it” - - Ronald Reagan

The Constitution is the Solution
Constitution Study - August 12, 2010

Study Group Leader: Douglas V. Gibbs
@ Faith Armory, 27498 Enterprise Cir. W. #2, Temecula, CA

Article I, Section 7: How A Bill Becomes A Law, Article I, Section 8: The Powers Granted To The Federal Government

Article I, Section 7 explains how a bill becomes a law. Originally, before the 17th Amendment, when the State Legislatures appointed the U.S. Senators, the process was simple: The bill would be approved by the people (House of Representatives), The States (Senate), and the Federal Government (President). If either the people or the States did not like the bill, its journey to become a law stopped. If the federal government, via the President, did not like the bill, he could veto the bill, but it would not stop the bill from becoming law if the people (House) and States (Senate) were able to overturn the veto with a two thirds vote from each house of Congress. Be it by overriding a veto, or by the president signing the bill into law, that is the process on how a bill becomes a law according to the U.S. Constitution. . . For some reason an image of a little bill sitting on the steps of Capitol Hill, singing "I am only a bill. . . " comes to mind.

Article I, Section 8 is a list of powers given to the U.S. Congress. Since Congress is the only part of the federal government that has been vested with the power to make law (Article I, Section 1), that would make Article I, Section 8 a list of the powers given to the federal government. Amendments can give the federal government additional powers, but must be ratified by 3/4 of the States first.

Except where given by amendment, Article I, Section 8 is the sole list of powers the federal government is authorized to possess. As per Amendment 10, any power not listed in Article I, Section 8 (or in an amendment), nor prohibited to the States, is a power that belongs to the States. This means that the federal government is limited to the powers listed in Article I, Section 8 (or an amendment).

You will also notice that each power listed in Article I, Section 8, has something to do with protecting, or promoting, the union. That would make since, considering the primary reason for the formation of the federal government, as listed in the Preamble, was to form a more perfect union.

Article I, Section 8, Clause 1: . . . We Will Discuss Each Clause We Can Get To In Depth Tonight!

Article I, Section 8, Clause 1:

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;

Key Words:

Tax: Money compulsorily levied by government authority on individuals, property, businesses, etc.

Duty: A tax levied by a government on the import or export of goods.

Imposts: A tax, especially an import duty, tax levied on imports or exports.

Excise: Taxes on the manufacture, sale, or consumption of goods, or upon licenses to pursue certain occupations, or upon corporate privileges. In current usage covers about everything besides income taxes.

The Founding Fathers allowed the federal government to tax just about anything they wanted, as long as they did not tax the individuals directly.

Uniform: Every tax was to be treated the same within a jurisdiction (same tax rate, etc.). Tea arriving at the port of Charleston would need to have the same rate of federal duties as tea arriving at the port of Baltimore.

Beyond that, interpretation gets very, very complex and there seem to be a lot of court cases on whether a tax violates this clause or not. I think the Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was to get around the problem of the income tax not being uniform in some persons’ eyes, i.e., it is apportioned based on income, which varies, rather than strictly on numbers of persons from the census. Also involved was the complicated issue of “direct” (applied to all instances of a good or service) versus “indirect” (applied sort of to a potential, like a licensing fee) taxes. Whether one interpreted the income tax as one or the other affected whether it violated the uniformity clause. However, all this gets into legal areas in which AP is not an expert, so you’re forbidden to quote me! You might want to check if the Law Library has an Answer Person (or perhaps a friendly reference librarian).

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