- Bill: H.R. 6014, To authorize the Attorney General to award grants for States to implement minimum and enhanced DNA collection processes.
- Introduced by: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)
- Constitutional Authority Statement: “The Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act is constitutionally authorized under Article I, Section 8, Clause 18, the Necessary and Proper Clause. The Necessary and Proper Clause supports the expansion of congressional authority beyond the explicit authorities that are directly discernible from the text. Additionally, the Preamble to the Constitution provides support of the authority to enact legislation to promote the General Welfare.”
Why this is an inadequate explanation: This statement relies first and foremost on the necessary and proper clause. This clause gives Congress the power to “make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.” That is, it gives Congress the power to pass a law if doing so is both Necessary and also Proper for executing a power granted to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution. Therefore it must be cited in conjunction with a separate and legitimate Constitutional power which it can actualize, as the language of the clause itself clearly illustrates, or else it will be meaningless. The clause does not give license for Congress to do anything it wants.
In this case, this fact presents us with a good news/bad news conundrum. The good news is that the legislation did in fact cite another clause in the Constitution along with the Necessary and Proper Clause. The bad news is that the only other clause cited is the Preamble to the Constitution—literally the only section in the entire Constitution without any legal weight. There are over 6,500 words in the entirety of the current Constitution, and this Constitutional Authority Statement somehow managed to cite the only sentence in the entire document which does not grant any sort of authority to anybody. The odds against this coincidence are so extraordinary that this failing almost seems intentional, or at best motivated by a lack of effort. It would be odd if effort were the issue, though, considering that one could easily close ones eyes and pick a more legitimate clause to justify the legislation (literally: any other clause in the Constitution) by choosing one which actually granted any legal authority to somebody for something.
How to fix this statement: This Constitutional Authority Statement can still legitimately cite the Necessary and Proper Clause. It simply needs to include a legitimate power of Congress, granted by the Constitution, for which this legislation would be both necessary and also proper to fulfill. Then, once such a clause is chosen and cited, the statement should include a few sentences explaining why the selected clauses grant the Congress the authority to pass the legislation.
**Disclaimer: The RSC does not necessarily support or oppose the bills listed in these weekly emails;
rather, the bills are selected strictly based on the structure and seriousness of their Constitutional Authority Statements**
-To read the current House Rule on Constitutional Authority Statements, click here, and find Rule XII, Section 7(c).
-The Heritage Foundation has created an online guide to the Constitution, which provides an explanation and discussion of every clause. To see this online guide, go here.
-To see previous “Questionable Constitutional Authority Statements,” as well as advice for drafting your office’s Constitutional Authority Statements, go here.
RSC Staff Contacts for these weekly emails: Rick.Eberstadt@mail.house.gov and Paul.Teller@mail.house.gov.