The federal government's powers supposedly are limited because they are enumerated. . . . For seven decades, however, Congress has treated the commerce clause ("Congress shall have power . . . to regulate commerce . . . among the several states") as a license to do what it wants to do. But in 1995 the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 was unconstitutional because what the act criminalized -- possession of a firearm in or near a school -- was purely intrastate in nature and its effect, if any, on interstate commerce was negligible. The principal dissent, by Justice Stephen Breyer, argued that a gun might produce violence that would affect the economy by, among other things, injuring the learning environment, resulting in a less productive citizenry. Do you, Sen. Schumer, support that reasoning? If so, does not Congress have the power to promote a healthy and productive citizenry by requiring flossing and regulating homework? Does it matter to you that the original intent of the commerce clause was to ensure the free movement of goods and services among the states?
My question to you Mr. Will is -- are you an idiot? Do you propose this as a serious question? Let us consider the discussion of the Commerce power in the 2005 case Gonzales v. Raich:
In assessing the validity of congressional regulation, none of our Commerce Clause cases can be viewed in isolation. As charted in considerable detail in United States v. Lopez, our understanding of the reach of the Commerce Clause, as well as Congress' assertion of authority thereunder, has evolved over time. The Commerce Clause emerged as the Framers' response to the central problem giving rise to the Constitution itself: the absence of any federal commerce power under the Articles of Confederation. . . . [I]n response to rapid industrial development and an increasingly interdependent national economy, Congress "ushered in a new era of federal regulation under the commerce power," beginning with the enactment of the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887, 24 Stat. 379, and the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890, 26 Stat. 209, as amended, 15 U. S. C. §2 et seq.27
Cases decided during that "new era," which now spans more than a century, have identified three general categories of regulation in which Congress is authorized to engage under its commerce power. First, Congress can regulate the channels of interstate commerce. Perez v. United States, 402 U. S. 146, 150 (1971). Second, Congress has authority to regulate and protect the instrumentalities of interstate commerce, and persons or things in interstate commerce. Ibid. Third, Congress has the power to regulate activities that substantially affect interstate commerce.
And so it was, in theory, affirmed in U.S. v. Lopez. But the real question Mr. Will is, do you believe the Commerce power supports, minimum wage, environmental, drug enforcement, hurricane relief, educational funding programs, Social Security, etc. as proper exercise of the Commerce power? As Justice Souter wrote in dissent in Lopez, what you propose is a turning back of the clock to 1937:
In judicial review under the Commerce Clause, it reflects our respect for the institutional competence of the Congress on a subject expressly assigned to it by the Constitution and our appreciation of the legitimacy that comes from Congress's political accountability in dealing with matters open to a wide range of possible choices. [cites omitted]
It was not ever thus, however, as even a brief overview of Commerce Clause history during the past century reminds us. The modern respect for the competence and primacy of Congress in matters affecting commerce developed only after one of this Court's most chastening experiences, when it perforce repudiated an earlier and untenably expansive conception of judicial review in derogation of congressional commerce power. A look at history's sequence will serve to show how today's decision tugs the Court off course, leading it to suggest opportunities for further developments that would be at odds with the rule of restraint to which the Court still wisely states adherence.
Please read more of Justice Souter's excellent dissent in Lopez in extended text. It demolishes the nonsense that is the Constitution in Exile movement, of which George Will appears to be a card carrying member.
Notwithstanding the Court's recognition of a broad commerce power in Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 196-197 (1824) (Marshall, C. J.), Congress saw few occasions to exercise that power prior to Reconstruction, see generally 2 C. Warren, The Supreme Court in United States History 729-739 (rev. ed. 1935), and it was really the passage of the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 that opened a new age of congressional reliance on the Commerce Clause for authority to exercise [ UNITED STATES v. LOPEZ, _ U.S. _ (1995) , 3] general police powers at the national level, see id., at 729-730. Although the Court upheld a fair amount of the ensuing legislation as being within the commerce power, see, e.g., Stafford v. Wallace, 258 U.S. 495 (1922) (upholding an Act regulating trade practices in the meat packing industry); The Shreveport Rate Cases, 234 U.S. 342 (1914) (upholding ICC order to equalize inter- and intrastate rail rates); see generally Warren, supra, at 729-739, the period from the turn of the century to 1937 is better noted for a series of cases applying highly formalistic notions of "commerce" to invalidate federal social and economic legislation, see, e.g., Carter v. Carter Coal Co., 298 U.S. 238, 303-304 (1936) (striking Act prohibiting unfair labor practices in coal industry as regulation of "mining" and "production," not "commerce"); A. L. A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, 295 U.S. 495, 545-548 (1935) (striking congressional regulation of activities affecting interstate commerce only "indirectly"); Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U.S. 251 (1918) (striking Act prohibiting shipment in interstate commerce of goods manufactured at factories using child labor because the Act regulated "manufacturing," not "commerce"); Adair v. United States, 208 U.S. 161 (1908) (striking protection of labor union membership as outside "commerce").
These restrictive views of commerce subject to congressional power complemented the Court's activism in limiting the enforceable scope of state economic regulation. It is most familiar history that during this same period the Court routinely invalidated state social and economic legislation under an expansive conception of Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process. See, e.g., Louis K. Liggett Co. v. Baldridge, 278 U.S. 105 (1928) (striking state law requiring pharmacy owners to be licensed as pharmacists); Coppage v. Kansas, 236 U.S. 1 (1915) (striking state law prohibiting employers from requiring their employees to agree not to join labor [ UNITED STATES v. LOPEZ, _ U.S. _ (1995) , 4] organizations); Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45 (1905) (striking state law establishing maximum working hours for bakers). See generally L. Tribe, American Constitutional Law 568-574 (2d ed. 1988). The fulcrums of judicial review in these cases were the notions of liberty and property characteristic of laissez-faire economics, whereas the Commerce Clause cases turned on what was ostensibly a structural limit of federal power, but under each conception of judicial review the Court's character for the first third of the century showed itself in exacting judicial scrutiny of a legislature's choice of economic ends and of the legislative means selected to reach them.
It was not merely coincidental, then, that sea changes in the Court's conceptions of its authority under the Due Process and Commerce Clauses occurred virtually together, in 1937, with West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, 300 U.S. 379 and NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1 . See Stern, The Commerce Clause and the National Economy, 1933-1946, 59 Harv. L. Rev. 645, 674-682 (1946). In West Coast Hotel, the Court's rejection of a due process challenge to a state law fixing minimum wages for women and children marked the abandonment of its expansive protection of contractual freedom. Two weeks later, Jones & Laughlin affirmed congressional commerce power to authorize NLRB injunctions against unfair labor practices. The Court's finding that the regulated activity had a direct enough effect on commerce has since been seen as beginning the abandonment, for practical purposes, of the formalistic distinction between direct and indirect effects.
In the years following these decisions, deference to legislative policy judgments on commercial regulation became the powerful theme under both the Due Process and Commerce Clauses, see United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S., at 147 -148, 152; United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100, 119 -121 (1941); United States [ UNITED STATES v. LOPEZ, _ U.S. _ (1995) , 5] v. Wrightwood Dairy Co., 315 U.S. 110, 118 -119 (1942), and in due course that deference became articulate in the standard of rationality review. In due process litigation, the Court's statement of a rational basis test came quickly. See United States v. Carolene Products Co., supra, at 152; see also Williamson v. Lee Optical Co., 348 U.S., at 489 -490. The parallel formulation of the Commerce Clause test came later, only because complete elimination of the direct/indirect effects dichotomy and acceptance of the cumulative effects doctrine, Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111, 125 , 127-129 (1942); United States v. Wrightwood Dairy Co., supra, at 124-126, so far settled the pressing issues of congressional power over commerce as to leave the Court for years without any need to phrase a test explicitly deferring to rational legislative judgments. The moment came, however, with the challenge to congressional Commerce Clause authority to prohibit racial discrimination in places of public accommodation, when the Court simply made explicit what the earlier cases had implied: "where we find that the legislators, in light of the facts and testimony before them, have a rational basis for finding a chosen regulatory scheme necessary to the protection of commerce, our investigation is at an end." Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294, 303 -304 (1964), discussing United States v. Darby, supra; see Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, 379 U.S. 241, 258 -259 (1964). Thus, under commerce, as under due process, adoption of rational basis review expressed the recognition that the Court had no sustainable basis for subjecting economic regulation as such to judicial policy judgments, and for the past half-century the Court has no more turned back in the direction of formalistic Commerce Clause review (as in deciding whether regulation of commerce was sufficiently direct) than it has inclined toward reasserting the substantive authority of Lochner due process (as in the inflated protection of [ UNITED STATES v. LOPEZ, _ U.S. _ (1995) , 6] contractual autonomy). See, e.g., Maryland v. Wirtz, 392 U.S., at 190 , 198; Perez v. United States, 402 U.S. 146, 151 -157 (1971); Hodel v. Virginia Surface Mining & Reclamation Assn., Inc., 452 U.S., at 276 , 277.
There is today, however, a backward glance at both the old pitfalls, as the Court treats deference under the rationality rule as subject to gradation according to the commercial or noncommercial nature of the immediate subject of the challenged regulation. See ante, at 10-13. The distinction between what is patently commercial and what is not looks much like the old distinction between what directly affects commerce and what touches it only indirectly. And the act of calibrating the level of deference by drawing a line between what is patently commercial and what is less purely so will probably resemble the process of deciding how much interference with contractual freedom was fatal. Thus, it seems fair to ask whether the step taken by the Court today does anything but portend a return to the untenable jurisprudence from which the Court extricated itself almost 60 years ago. The answer is not reassuring. To be sure, the occasion for today's decision reflects the century's end, not its beginning. But if it seems anomalous that the Congress of the United States has taken to regulating school yards, the act in question is still probably no more remarkable than state regulation of bake shops 90 years ago. In any event, there is no reason to hope that the Court's qualification of rational basis review will be any more successful than the efforts at substantive economic review made by our predecessors as the century began. Taking the Court's opinion on its own terms, JUSTICE BREYER has explained both the hopeless porosity of "commercial" character as a ground of Commerce Clause distinction in America's highly connected economy, and the inconsistency of this [ UNITED STATES v. LOPEZ, _ U.S. _ (1995) , 7] categorization with our rational basis precedents from the last 50 years.
And the hypocrisy of the "conservatives" is patent in Raisch. How the members of the majority in Lopez are also in the majority in Raisch can be only explained one way - pure unrelenting intellectual dishonesty. There are 2 - but one stands out -- why Scalia the turd of course. From his concurrence in Raisch:
Where economic activity substantially affects interstate commerce, legislation regulating that activity will be sustained." Lopez, supra, at 560; Morrison, supra, at 610 (same). This principle is not without limitation. In Lopez and Morrison, the Court--conscious of the potential of the "substantially affects" test to " 'obliterate the distinction between what is national and what is local,' " Lopez, supra, at 566-567 (quoting A. L. A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, 295 U. S. 495, 554 (1935)); see also Morrison, supra, at 615-616--rejected the argument that Congress may regulate noneconomic activity based solely on the effect that it may have on interstate commerce through a remote chain of inferences. Lopez, supra, at 564-566; Morrison, supra, at 617-618. "[I]f we were to accept [such] arguments," the Court reasoned in Lopez, "we are hard pressed to posit any activity by an individual that Congress is without power to regulate." Lopez, supra, at 564; see also Morrison, supra, at 615-616. Thus, although Congress's authority to regulate intrastate activity that substantially affects interstate commerce is broad, it does not permit the Court to "pile inference upon inference," Lopez, supra, at 567, in order to establish that noneconomic activity has a substantial effect on interstate commerce.
As we implicitly acknowledged in Lopez, however, Congress's authority to enact laws necessary and proper for the regulation of interstate commerce is not limited to laws directed against economic activities that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce. Though the conduct in Lopez was not economic, the Court nevertheless recognized that it could be regulated as "an essential part of a larger regulation of economic activity, in which the regulatory scheme could be undercut unless the intrastate activity were regulated."
Right Antonin, that's why you struck down the law in Lopez, and upheld it here. Had nothing to do with one law regulating guns and the other regulating pot. Sheesh.
And even he knows its bullshit. Read the continued blather:
Although this power "to make ... regulation effective" commonly overlaps with the authority to regulate economic activities that substantially affect interstate commerce,2 and may in some cases have been confused with that authority, the two are distinct. The regulation of an intrastate activity may be essential to a comprehensive regulation of interstate commerce even though the intrastate activity does not itself "substantially affect" interstate commerce. Moreover, as the passage from Lopez quoted above suggests, Congress may regulate even noneconomic local activity if that regulation is a necessary part of a more general regulation of interstate commerce. See Lopez, supra, at 561. The relevant question is simply whether the means chosen are "reasonably adapted" to the attainment of a legitimate end under the commerce power. See Darby, supra, at 121.
I defy any defender of Scalia to make heads or tail of that passage.