Does Congress Have Too Much Power Over Commerce?
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Narrow construction is not found in the Constitution, but the powers granted to Congress to regulate commerce are found. Exactly stated, “Congress shall have power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.” This clause has no definite interpretation, but has included many aspects of regulating. The word “commerce” is defined as the exchange or buying and selling of commodities on a large scale involving transportation from place to place (Webster 264). Congress has exercised this delegated power in many cases. The nature and basic guidelines of Congress’ power over commerce is first laid out in the case of Gibbons v. Ogden. In addition, the case United States v. Lopez is a prime example of Congress’ ability to carry out the Commerce Clause to the furthest extent. Lastly, the case National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation brings to light the Wagner Act of 1935. Through a review of these three cases, it can be concluded that there are no real limitations on Congress when regulating commerce.
The Constitution of the United States explicates the enumerated powers that the people have granted to their public administration. A narrow interpretation of the Constitution would mean denying the government the powers granted to them to keep order, equality, and fairness. An expanded interpretation would “extend words beyond their natural and obvious import, and we might question the application of the term…” (244). It is the government’s responsibility to exercise powers that cannot be exercised by its governed people. There are no guidelines in the Constitution’s composition that discloses how to interpret the language; therefore, it is in the hands of three federal branches of government to decipher the Constitutions meaning.
A historical case that first outlined Congress’ commerce power was Gibbons v. Ogden. The courts acted here, in view of commerce, to stretch the interpretation of what was considered to be within its limits. In 1807, steam navigation became productive way of doing things. Robert Fulton was the first to make the voyage from New York to Albany by steamboat. Fulton and his partner, Robert R. Livingston, were granted special operating rights and a “five-year extension to his monopoly, which was not to exceed thirty years.” Without receiving a license from Fulton and Livingston, no one was allowed to travel New York waters by steam. A controversy arose between Ogden, who had obtained the license from Fulton and Livingston, and Gibbons, who had obtained his license through the United States government. Ogden petitioned the New York Court to “enjoin” Gibbons, his formal partner, from continuing with this business in that state. The Court favored Ogden and granted the injunction and Gibbons appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld the right for Congress to have...