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Constitutional Authority Statements and the Powers of Congress: An Overview
On January 5, 2011, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment to House Rule XII to
require that Members of the House state the constitutional basis for Congress's power to enact the
proposed legislation when introducing a bill or joint resolution.' The Constitutional Authority
Statement (CAS) rule, found at House Rule XII, clause 7(c),2 was subsequently adopted in the
113th, 114th, and 115th Congresses.3 As the CAS rule begins its seventh year, the requirement
continues to be a topic of congressional debate and inquiry, as Members of the House
contemplate how to comply with the rule prior to every submission of a bill or joint resolution.4
This report aims to aid in understanding the CAS requirement. It begins by providing a broad
overview of (1) Congress's powers under the Constitution and (2) Congress's role in interpreting
this document. The report then specifically addresses House Rule XII, clause 7(c), discussing its
key requirements and limits, the legal effect of a CAS, and the debate over the rule's value. The
report concludes by discussing trends with regard to the House's recent CAS practices and by
providing considerations for congressional personnel drafting CASs. The report contains two
tables: Table 1 identifies the constitutional provisions most commonly cited in CASs during the
last six months of the 114th Congress, and Table 2 lists suggested constitutional authorities for
various types of legislation.
Scope of Congress's Powers Under the Constitution
Understanding the purpose and logic of the CAS rule first requires an understanding of both the
powers provided to the Congress under the Constitution and Congress's role in interpreting the
Constitution. The Framers of the Constitution feared tyranny as the result of the "accumulation of
all powers" of government "in the same hands"5 and, thus, "sought to guard against it by
dispersing federal power to three interdependent branches of Government."6 Reflecting this fear,
the federal Constitution divides the government's power among the legislative, executive, and
judicial branches, with the Congress exercising the legislative power, the President exercising the
executive power, and the federal courts exercising the judicial power.7 "It is a breach of the
National fundamental law" if Congress "gives up its legislative power" to one of the other
branches or if Congress "attempts to invest itself or its members with either executive power or
1 See H.R. Res. 5, 112th Cong. (1st Sess. 2011) (adopting the rules for the 112th Congress, which included the
Constitutional Authority Statement (CAS) requirement).
2 See HOUSE RULE XII cl. 7(c)(1).
3 See H.R. Res. 5, 113th Cong. (1st Sess. 2013) (adopting the rules for the 113th Congress, which were based on the
"constituted rules of the House at the end of the" 112th Congress and did not alter the CAS requirement); H.R. Res. 5,
114th Cong. (It Sess. 2015) (adopting the rules for the 114th Congress, which were based on the "constituted rules of
the House at the end of the" 113th Congress and did not alter the CAS requirement); H.R. Res. 5, 115th Cong. (Pt Sess.
2017) (adopting the rules for the 115th Congress, which were based on the "constituted rules of the House at the end of
the" 114th Congress and did not alter the CAS requirement).
4 See infra "House Rule XII, Clause 7(c), and Constitutional Authority Statements."
5 See THE FEDERALIST No. 47, at 269 (James Madison) (Clinton Rossiter ed., 1999).
6 See Thomas v. Union Carbide Agric. Prods. Co., 473 U.S. 568, 594 (1985) (Brennan, J., concurring).
7 J. W. Hampton, Jr., & Co. v. United States, 276 U.S. 394, 406 (1928).
Congressional Research Service
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Nolan, Andrew. Constitutional Authority Statements and the Powers of Congress: An Overview, report, January 6, 2017; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc990726/m1/4/?q=%22constitution%22: accessed December 14, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.