In a cartoonishly anti-progressive, anti-democratic move, Senators Rand Paul and Tom Coburn have introduced a bill that would effectively nullify Congress’s power to regulate large swaths of the economy.
via Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress
More than three-quarters of the Senate Republican caucus signed onto legislation introduced Wednesday by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Rand Paul (R-KY) that could render it virtually impossible for Congress to enact any legislation intended to improve working conditions or otherwise regulate the workplace. Had their bill been in effect during the Twentieth Century, for example, there would likely be no nationwide minimum wage, no national ban on workplace discrimination, no national labor law and no overtime in most industries.
Like many Tea Party proposals to neuter the federal government, Coburn and Paul’s bill is marketed as an effort to bring America back in line with a long-ago discarded vision of the Constitution. It’s named the “Enumerated Powers Act of 2013,” a reference to the provisions of the Constitution outlining Congress’ specific powers, and it claims to require all federal legislation to “’contain a concise explanation of the specific authority in the Constitution’ that is the basis for its enactment.”
The key provision in this bill, however, would revive a discredited interpretation of the Constitution that America abandoned nearly eight decades ago. Although the text of the bill is not yet available online, a press release from Coburn’s office explains that it “[p]rohibits the use of the Commerce Clause, except for ‘the regulation of the buying and selling of goods or services, or the transporting for those purposes, across boundaries with foreign nations, across State lines, or with Indian tribes.’”
Translated into layman’s terms, this means Rand Paul’s bill would render federal regulation of production and labor standards unconstitutional because the Commerce Clause would no longer grant the federal government that power. The Commerce Clause would only grant the federal government the power to regulate the sale or transport of goods, not the production of goods.
Regulation of production and labor would apparently be left up to each state, and if your state chooses not to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and chooses not to adopt a minimum wage, no one else will have the power to help you.
It’s libertarian states’ rights fetishism co-sponsored by a majority of Senate Republicans including future presidential hopefuls Macro Rubio and Ted Cruz. And who knows? The existence of minimum wage and the merits of workplace discrimination could become campaign issues in 2016. Anything is possible with today’s GOP.
The “Enumerated Powers Act of 2013″ is obviously dead on arrival, but it’s good to know where certain people stand. Do you stand with Rand?