“I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” This oath will echo through the Capitol today as members are sworn in for the 112th Congress. The question is: Do we really mean it? Are we truly committed to abide by the U.S. Constitution as it was originally intended and explained by the Framers of our governing document in the Federalist Papers? Or are we going to continue to govern as a federal roadblock to American ingenuity, freedom and the entrepreneurial spirit?
“We the people” showed unequivocally in the recent election that they expect Congress to take its oath to heart. The people must demand that their representatives read, study, understand and follow the Constitution as detailed in the writings of our Founders, such as the Federalist Papers. They must insist that their members of Congress craft, evaluate and vote on legislation based on the original intent of these brilliantly inspired founding documents.
Americans will be watching for Congress to fiercely defend this country against enemies, both foreign and domestic. Our foreign enemies may be easily identified and grab national headlines, but we must remain vigilant of our domestic enemies who ignore the original intent of the Constitution. They wrap themselves in black robes and adopt roles of legislating rather than applying the Constitution. Their judicial activism is completely outside the realm of the powers granted to the judiciary by the Constitution. They must be reined in.
Additionally, Congress must cease abdicating its obligation of oversight in cases in which there is judicial overreach violating the separation of powers. Congress has developed a bad habit of pushing through legislation and allowing the courts to decide whether it is constitutional or not. In fact, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, recently dismissed the notion of Congress ensuring legislation is constitutional when he said, “Whether it is constitutional or not is going to be whether the Supreme Court says it is.” Federal courts should not be the only branch of government weighing the constitutional merit of each bill. Instead, the high courts should be used as a last resort.
There is great temptation in Washington to view the federal government as the ultimate solution to every challenge, dispute, debate and problem. This Congress must resist the inclination to usurp the rights of the states and the people. The 10th Amendment, where any right not explicitly given to the federal government or the states is reserved to the American people, must be respected and followed. The genius of our Constitution is that it set up 13 states as independent experiments to improvise, invent, perfect and develop different, and indeed, competing ways of dealing with powers not designated as functions of the federal government and not forbidden from the states and the people.
Congress simply must release our citizens from the shackles of cumbersome and unconstitutional federal mandates, taxation and regulation. The result of restoring lost liberty would be a most welcome unleashing of the creative spirit of the American free-enterprise system. Then America – at its best – will be on display for the world to see how this exceptional democratic republic has lasted and thrived longer than any other form of government in history.
It is incumbent on the press and the American people, armed with the knowledge of our Constitution, to keep the federal government within its limited scope of power. When the helping hand of government morphs into the heavy hand of government, it must be stopped. We must resist the temptation to overstep constitutional boundaries and trample on states’ rights.
As members of Congress begin doing the people’s business, may we be ever vigilant to fulfill the desire of the people to be faithful to our oath and not stray from the limited powers of government granted to us by the Constitution.
The people have spoken. The question is: Will we in Congress listen to the American people?
Rep. Paul Broun, M.D., is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia.