If anyone were to take the time to read the Federal Register of Laws, in which all laws passed by Congress are recorded since its first session in 1789, and they read an average of 700 pages per week, it would take them over 25,000 years to read them all. This number becomes even more daunting every two years, since Congress passes an average of 2,000 bills during each session. In light of this impossible task, the old adage “ignorance of the law is no excuse” is completely unreasonable. As a matter of fact, this quantity of laws makes unwitting lawbreakers out of every person living in America. Consequently, to claim all these laws are necessary is either a gross exaggeration or an outright lie, because in many cases Congress has exceeded their constitutional authority in passing them.
Many of these extraneous laws have been passed with the idea Congress has the constitutional authority “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper.” At first glance, this clause seems to give Congress unlimited authority to pass nearly anything they choose, but the remainder of the clause states “for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.” This means Congress only has authority to make laws necessary and proper for executing the powers defined in the Constitution.
Although, Congress has a few other powers delegated to it in other sections and articles, most of its powers are defined in Article I Section Eight. Generally, these powers include collecting taxes, spending, borrowing, regulating commerce, establishing rules for citizenship, establishing bankruptcy laws, coining and regulating the value of money, standardizing weights and measures, punishing counterfeiters, establishing post offices and post roads, passing copyright and patent laws, establishing inferior federal courts, defining and punishing crimes on the high seas, declaring war, raising and supporting Armies and providing and maintaining a Navy, establishing rules for the armed forces, calling forth the militia, administering the seat of government (Washington DC), and administering federal property.
It is important for citizens to understand the powers delegated to Congress to know when Congress has exceeded them. If Congress is attempting to pass laws not directly connected to a delegated power expressly written in the Constitution, they have exceeded their authority and need to be held accountable. This concept is unambiguously evident by the founders granting Congress the power to pay debts, because if they had only granted them the power to collect taxes without the authority to spend the collected revenue, Congress would not have spending power. One might assume this is implied, but the constitutional delegates left nothing to anyone’s imagination by including the power to pay the debts of the United States. Accordingly, interpreters of the Constitution must use extreme caution when assuming an implied power exists in the absence of a specified one.
Many of the delegated powers are also limited by specified uses connected to them. For example, outside of a declaration of war, Congress can only call “forth the [armed forces] to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;” and Congress has exclusive legislative authority over property for the “Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards and other needful Buildings.” These purposes restrict Congress from calling forth the armed forces, without a declaration of war, to only when they are upholding the Constitution or defending the nation from an invasion. Congress also only has exclusive legislative authority over property, outside of the District of Colombia, when the property is for national defense purposes. Any laws executing delegated powers for purposes other than those defined are unauthorized.
Additional limitations on Congress’s legislative powers are found in the original intent and definitions of the words used in the Constitution. The meaning of words in society may change over time, but the meaning of words in a contract cannot; they must be defined according to those who agreed upon them at the time of the agreement. Any interpretation, other than original intent, is a breach of our national contract, because it changes the Constitution without going through the constitutionally mandated amendment process from Article V. For example, the definition of ‘establish’ in the Constitution means to “to set up or make firm,” therefore based on original intent Congress is only authorized to set up post offices, not to run them.
Some may wonder why the Supreme Court does not restrain Congress if it routinely exceeds its constitutional authority. Although, the Supreme Court is a check and balance to the authority of the other two branches at the national level, it was not created to be the watchdog of Congress. That was the responsibility of the State legislatures and the electorate prior to the 17th Amendment. Now it is solely the responsibility of the electorate since both Congressmen and Senators are elected via popular vote. Additionally, the Supreme Court generally only gets involved if there is a contentious law passed in which lawsuits challenge the constitutionality of the law, like the Affordable Care Act.
With more laws than any one person can read in multiple lifetimes, it is fair to say America is over-regulated. A solution to this could entail engaging Congress in reviewing all laws in the Federal Register to ensure each one passes strict original intent criteria and repealing those that do not meet such a standard. In the short run, this would keep them from passing more unnecessary and improper laws. In the long run, Congress could be restricted from passing unnecessary laws by a constitutional amendment requiring them to debate and vote on every clause of every bill on the floor of both the House and the Senate prior to sending the bill to the President. In addition to slowing down the legislative process, which would hopefully limit Congress to focusing on constitutional requirements, the public would also have a better record on where their Congressman or Senators stand on every aspect of bills, including earmarks, passed through Congress to ensure that all laws passed are necessary and proper.
 US Constitution Article I Section 8