Constitutional Authority Statements in Congress
Hanah M. Volokh
Emory University School of Law
March 22, 2012
Florida Law Review, Forthcoming
Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-201
At the opening of the 112th Congress in January of 2011, the House of Representatives created a new rule that requires each bill or resolution introduced in the House to include a constitutional authority statement. This statement must identify 'the power or powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact the bill or resolution.' This is the first time that either house of Congress has required formal statements of constitutional authority for every bill that is introduced.
Constitutional authority statements are a practical example of constitutional interpretation in Congress, a subject much discussed by constitutional theorists. In this Article, I situate these statements within the debates over congressional constitutional interpretation and examine some questions about the substantive content of the statements. I argue that as the rule is currently structured, the statements are useful mainly as an internal deliberative tool for Congress, not as an interpretive guide for courts. Finally, I suggest modifications to the House rule that would strengthen the statements for use both by Congress and later interpreters.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 53
Keywords: constitutional interpretation, Congress, legislation, judicial review, statutory interpretation, legislative history
Date posted: March 25, 2012 ; Last revised: June 22, 2012