Posts Tagged ‘enumerated powers’
May 17th, 2010 at 6:08 pm
Sidestepping Constitution is Convenient, but Wrong

Today, in an opinion written by Justice Stephen Breyer, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case of US v. Comstock, which held that Congress has the power to civilly commit sex offenders beyond the period of the sentence received for their crime.  As Cato’s Dr. Roger Pilon points out:

The problem, as Breyer grants, is that Congress has only certain enumerated powers, and the only power it has to criminalize conduct, beyond the three crimes mentioned in the Constitution, is pursuant to one of those enumerated powers — in particular, through the last of its 18 enumerated powers, its power to enact laws that are “necessary and proper” for “carrying into execution” one of the previous 17 enumerated powers or ends. In other words, Congress can criminalize conduct only if doing so is necessary and proper for carrying out one of its other constitutionally authorized powers.

The issue of enumerated powers is at the core of our rapidly declining liberty.  Today’s decision is merely the latest in a long line of rulings that concedes to Congress powers that cannot be found in the text of the Constitution.  In dissent, Justice Thomas joined by Justice Scalia notes:

No enumerated power in Article I, §8, expressly delegates to Congress the power to enact a civil-commitment regime for sexually dangerous persons, nor does any other provision in the Constitution vest Congress or the other branches of the Federal Government with such a power.

Free from constitutional restraint, there is seemingly no end to Washington’s reach.  Sure, today they’re locking up sex offenders, but maybe the next decision validates ObamaCare, which also lacks a constitutional basis for congressional action.

There are a variety of other constitutional ways in which states can ensure the public is protected from dangerous criminals.  So while many might be inclined to cheer a court decision that extends the lockup of some of the country’s most despicable and habitually dangerous criminals, the endless expansion of federal power is a crime against our freedom.