- Bill: H.R. 6061, WIPA and PABSS Continuation of Services Act of 2012
- Introduced by: Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA)
- Constitutional Authority Statement: “Article II, Section 8”
Why this is an inadequate explanation: If this section existed in the U.S. Constitution, this would still be an inadequate statement of constitutional authority. Even ignoring the fact that Article II deals with executive powers rather than congressional powers, the statement has enormous problems. The statement does not cite any specific clause or power authorized to the Congress. It does not explain the selection at all. If this section did exist, and if the statement referenced an imaginary clause within this imaginary section, then an explanation about why the imaginary clause provided constitutional authority to the Congress to pass the proposed legislation would still be necessary in order to make this an adequate explanation of constitutionality.
Some might suggest that this error indicates that the incorrect Article and Section were mistakenly referenced due to some sort of oversight. However this seems unlikely, and rude to assume; a mistake of this type would constitute such an egregious and careless error, indicating such a troubling lack of seriousness about the rule of law and our highest legal document, that in the interests of fairness it cannot be assumed to have been an oversight. Given that this constitutional authority statement cannot be assumed to be a reference to another section (say for instance, Article 1, Section 8) of the United States Constitution, then, it is reasonable to assume that the Article and Section are correctly referenced, but the Constitution in question was not the United States’ 1789 version.
As a result, it appears the statement might be attempting to exploit a seemingly clever loophole in the rules: namely, that the House Rule on Constitutional Authority Statements doesn’t actually specify which Constitution it intends for the statement to reference. There are two problems with this possibility: first, it is difficult to imagine that other constitutions reasonably grant Congress the power to pass legislation. However, ignoring this technicality, there is still the point that the statement fails to specify to which constitution it was indeed referring. There is—of course—the California State Constitution, but Article 2 Section 8 of this document only refers to the ability of California state electors to propose statutes and amendments to the California Constitution. As the legislation referenced above is presumably intended to apply nationally, it is unlikely that the statement intended to justify a national law with a reference to a California elector’s power. One might also assume that the statement intended to reference the Utah State Democratic Party Constitution. Unfortunately, Article 2 Section 8 of this document only reads “Each County Democratic Party shall be entitled to a number of State Delegates by rule of the State Central Committee.” Given that several of the other possible candidates for the title of “constitution referenced by this statement” did not actually have eight sections under Article 2 (if they even had an Article 2), this leaves the ultimate meaning of the constitutional authority statement unclear.
In either event, whether this was an incorrect reference to a different section of the United States Constitution or a correct reference to a different constitution, a simple explanation included in the statement would have cleared up any confusion. Either way, however, the statement does not adequately justify the legislation under the powers of Congress in the United States Constitution.
How to fix this statement: A solid first step towards fixing this statement would be carefully reading the legal embodiment of our democratic republic and selecting a specific clause which a) exists and b) justifies Congress’ authority to pass the legislation in question. Upon selection of such a clause or clauses, the constitutional authority statement should additionally seek to explain why the selection legally justifies the proposal in question.
**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.