- Bill: H.R. 1381, Keeping All Students Safe Act
- Introduced by: Rep. George Miller (D-CA)
- Constitutional Authority Statement:
“Art. 1 sec. 1
Art. 1 sec. 3
Art. 1 sec. 8”
Why this is an inadequate explanation: This scattershot justification offers several hopeful attempts at explaining the constitutional basis of the bill. Though citing three different sections of the Constitution might indicate a valiant effort at explaining the legal basis of the proposed bill, a glance at the sections noted above actually indicates a nearly intentional avoidance of the issue.
First, the statement references Article 1, Section 1, which grants the Congress the power to legislate. This does not give Congress any specific powers per se; rather, it says that all legislative powers that the Constitution creates are vested in the Congress. Granting the Legislature (as opposed to the Executive or Judicial branches) all legislative powers is not the same thing as granting them the power to pass all possibly imaginable legislation. Clearly Article 1, Section 1 does not provide serious justification for the legislation above. However, while this referenced clause does nothing to constitutionally justify the legislation above, it may actually be a more legitimate explanation than the attempt which follows.
The statement cites Article 1, Section 3 as providing a constitutional basis for the proposed legislation. This is odd, because Article 1, Section 3 deals exclusively with the United States Senate. Specifically, the section provides rules for the selection of Senators, allows the Senate to appoint its own officers, and gives the Senate impeachment power. A reference to this section from a House of Representatives bill is, to say the least, unexpected. It is possible that the statement, in its haste to avoid the Constitution, became disoriented and forgot that it was actually introduced in the House of Representatives. However, whatever the explanation for this ambitious and illegitimate assertion of senatorial authority, it should be fairly clear that the constitutional rules for electing Senators do not justify the “Keeping All Students Safe Act.”
Finally, the statement cites the entirety of Article 1, Section 8. This reference actually constitutes the closest attempt to a legitimate citation of constitutional authority here, but it still does not adequately perform the job. Citing the entirety of Article 1, Section 8 (granting numerous powers to the Congress) is the constitutional equivalent to attempting to bury somebody in paperwork. The legitimate basis of the law may be in this section, and it may not be, but the fact that it leaves an enormous window of uncertainty means that the statement has thoroughly failed in its purpose. The purpose of the statement is to provide an explanation of the constitutional authority granted to the Congress which allows it to pass this legislation; it is not a request to provide a possible area in which the reader, if lucky, can hope to find the secret legal basis of the proposed law.
This Constitutional Authority Statement, which manages to cite three different sections of the Constitution without actually explaining a legitimate basis for the bill, is thoroughly inadequate.
How to fix this statement: Rather than citing the rules for the other chamber or the general existence of the Legislature, this statement could cite a specific clause in the Constitution which provides the constitutional basis for the proposed law. Once such a statement is chosen, the Constitutional Authority Statement should then provide its own language to explain why the cited section of the Constitution justifies the passage of this particular bill.
**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.