On this day in 1787, the representatives at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the Constitution. It was ratified by the states and went into effect on March 4, 1789.
You remember the Constitution don’t you?
That’s the document that says the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed …” Not waive, delay or ignore parts of laws the president doesn’t like. Not tell the attorney general to not defend laws such as the Defense of Marriage Act in court. Not use his phone and pen.
You know, the piece of paper that says, “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives …”
It’s those four-handwritten pages that give Congress the power “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States …” Not to force people to engage in commerce or pay a fine or a tax for not doing so.
They later added the Bill of Rights, which says such things as “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
It also gave Congress the power to “declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.”
The instrument also says the “President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.” Not decide for himself when the Senate is in session. At least the court slapped his wrist on that one.
The First Amendment of those Bill of Rights says Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” That probably means Congress can’t order a religion to pay for contraceptions, abortifacients and sterilization against its beliefs.
I’m pretty sure the document did not envision a president’s administration creating by regulation laws the Congress refused to pass — think immigration enforcement, EPA, FEC, HHS, HUD, USDA.
As James Madison said, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
Happy Constitution Day.
First posted on this day in 2014.