by Thomas Grady
The “Mighty” 10th and the Enumerated Powers Acts
When it was written, the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment was the last line drawn in the sand against an oppressive central government. It was the Bill of Rights’ final amendment, as if our Founding Fathers said, “By the grace of God, if the first nine amendments don’t prevent tyranny, the 10th will do so.” Here’s what the Mighty 10th tells us:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Our Founding Fathers – specifically Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Patrick Henry – demanded the original Constitution provide for a legal means of bringing finality of any government’s legitimacy directly back into the hands of the people at large whenever the people so desired. The framers broke the Mighty 10th into two actionable lines of defense against a King George government:
1) the states (“powers…are reserved to the States respectively…”), and
2) the people (“powers…are reserved…to the people.”)
Number one is systematic and orderly. Number two, unfortunately, could get ugly, especially if the 2nd Amendment is put into play. Let’s stick with number one for now.
Though the 10th Amendment is entrenched in the Constitution, forcing its application has become a burden of the states themselves. Clearly the federal government has not only ignored the Mighty 10th, it will undoubtedly fight vehemently any attempt to enforce it. After all, most politicians have massive egos and aren’t inclined to voluntarily shed themselves of power; this includes most federal judges.
So the battle that is now just commencing will be long and hard. Any legal foundational help will be welcome. That help could come from what is referred to as the Enumerated Powers Acts (HR450 and S1319) currently in congressional committee. The House bill was introduced by Arizona’s John Shadegg and the Senate sister by Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
Here’s what the Acts require:
“…each Act of Congress to contain a concise and definite statement of the constitutional authority relied upon for the enactment of each portion of that Act.”
This means any Congressman who wants to introduce a bill must first flip through the Constitution and find the provision “enumerated” in its pages that gives the Congressman the right to introduce all elements of the bill. Without the identified “power,” guess what?
The Heritage Foundation points out what happens if the Enumerated Powers Acts were adopted. “Every bill would be an opportunity for Americans to think seriously about our constitutional order, the wisdom of its design, and the consequences of departing from its strictures.”
Granted, S1319 and HR450 are stuck in committee in this liberal current Congress and will never see the light of the floor. However, the mere existence of the Acts awaiting a vote could well provide a huge leverage on whether politicians agree with it in concept and significance.
Thus the underpinning of the Pincer Movement: from the state (the Mighty 10th) and from federal (the Acts).
The Missouri Sovereignty Project, for example, is engaged in this strategy right now. The Project is contacting elected officials, both state and Missouri congressional, and asking them to sign pledges to agree in principle and to uphold and abide by both the 10th Amendment and the Enumerated Powers Acts.
Forcing current and campaigning public officials to take a principled and public stand (yea or nay) on the 10th Amendment and the Enumerated Powers Act will flush officials out into the open about their dedication to the very document they swore to uphold. The Project believes politicians will be sweaty around the collar about the notion of thumbing their noses at to the Constitution, on either front.
As one might expect, the Missouri Sovereignty Project will compile lists, which will become part of the public domain through blogs, prints and broadcast media inside the state.
The Missouri Sovereignty Project is only a month old and already has a growing number of dedicated members. Unlike many movements across the country, the Project is not a social group. It has an explicit charter, has already sent out two press releases, and has a membership group that is organized, by each member’s choice, on three levels:
1) those who spread the word,
2) those who monitor, call and write public officials,
3) those who organize and manage.
The geographic grassroots goal of the Missouri Sovereignty Project is to have a Level 2 or Level 3 member in each of the 163 state House districts, which would overlap the state Senate districts and the Congressional districts.
The group expects to be completely in place, up and running across all state districts by March of 2010, just in time for elections. This network will continually monitor and contact any public official that strays from their pledge.
Thomas Grady is the founder of the Missouri Sovereignty Project.