George Will
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WASHINGTON -- New York Sen. Charles Schumer, a member of the Judiciary Committee and an author of the Democrats' catechism regarding constitutional reasoning, soon will be questioning John Roberts. Herewith some questions someone should ask Schumer:
    
Does Congress have the power to require Americans to floss after brushing their teeth? Or to regulate the amount of homework children do each night?

     The federal government's powers supposedly are limited because they are enumerated. As James Madison said in Federalist 45, ``The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined.'' 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 5-4 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 which 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 mandating 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? Do you think that Madison, the foremost Framer of the Constitution, misunderstood the Constitution?

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George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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