Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Congressional Power Grab - Athletics Edition

The United States Constitution clearly spells out the areas in which the U.S Congress is entitled to exercise authority. I don't recall college athletics as being mentioned anywhere in the actual text of the Constitution. However, this has not stopped some of the Constitutionally illiterate members of Congress from attempting to impose their authority on yet another area where they ought to leave well enough alone. According to an Associated Press report posted on today, U.S. Representative Joe Barton, a Texas Republican who really should know better, sponsored a law to force the NCAA to have a playoff. The AP reported,
A House subcommittee approved legislation Wednesday aimed at forcing college football to switch to a playoff system to determine a national champion, over the objections of some lawmakers who said Congress had more pressing matters on its plate.

The only Representative to vote No was Democrat John Barrow of Georgia.
"With all due respect, I really think we have more important things to spend our time on," Barrow said before the vote, although he stressed he didn't like the current Bowl Championship Series, either.

Barrow is right that this should have been hastily voted down, but he has his rationnale a little mixed up in my opinion. The United States Constitution's clear text on Congressional powers is pretty simple. As follows:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper 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.

I don't see anything in that text that allows Congress to regulate whether or not college football's Division One schools have a playoff system or not. It is obvious that the current system is a pathetic disgrace, the more so since every other division in college football has a playoff system. However, until the schools themselves decide to change things, Congress should focus their attention on things that are within their province. The utterly unconstitutional power grab by the EPA with their recent decision to class carbon dioxide as a pollutant - never mind that CO2 is a substance that is vital to human life on Earth - as a pollutant would be a good place to start.

It would be nice if our Congresspeople were actually cognizant that Congress - like the President and the court system - are not granted the power to do whatever they wish. There are limits on government power in the Constitution. If only our government would actually respect them!

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