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  1. #1
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    Question Constitution and U.S. Code

    I know this sounds like a silly question and I was not sure where else to ask this, but is the US Code also the Constitution?

    I ask because I have heard it argued that laws, for instance, that pertain to war crimes and torture in the US Code, do not apply since they are not in the Constitution.

    Can someone please help me out on this question?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Constitution and Us Code

    There are different laws that apply.

    The Constitution (COTUS) is the supreme law of the land. This document establishes our government, and protects certain rights that we are all born with, just because we are human. (This is called "Natural Rights") The only crime specifically mentioned in the COTUS is treason.

    The United States Code (USC) is the set of Federal Laws established by Congress, and signed into law by the President (POTUS)

    The Code of Federal Regualtions (CFR) is a set of regulations that have the force of law, and are set by agencies with rulemaking powers. The IRS, Postal Service, Parks Service, FDA, Federal Trade Commission, FCC, and FAA are all examples of rulemaking bodies.

    As far as how specific laws are applied, more details are needed.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Constitution and Us Code

    Thanks for the thorough response. It does raise further questions for me though.

    So its incorrect to say that a law in the US Code is Constitutional law? One doesn't have less authority than the other or is that based upon reinterpretation? Is the US Code an extended interpretation of law within the Constitution?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Constitution and Us Code

    Not really. The USC is not Constitutional law. (Which is different from saying that something is unconstitutional) Most of the USC is established by Congress using their constitutionally granted powers. The Constitution overrules any laws that are in conflict with it, as decided by the Supreme Court (SCOTUS). Treaties also supercede the USC. The heirarchy goes like this:

    COTUS, Treaties, USC, CFR

    On the one hand, strict Constitutionalists (I am among those with those beliefs) believe that Congress's power should be limited to only those duties listed in the Constitution. All other powers should be vested to the people and the state governments. The Tenth Amendment specifically says, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

    On the other hand, more liberal interpreters of the constitution allow for powers more tangential to those duties. Many individuals cite the Necessary and Proper and the Commerce clause as grounds for their argument. The overall trend has seen more power shifting to the Federal Government generally, and specifically to Congress. ( A good example of this is to ask where the Government gets the power to 'bail out' companies or even provide free money to individuals. Heck, 90% of Federal Law uses those 2 clauses for justification.)

    A good example is seen from a case that originated during the Second World War (I don't remember the name). A farmer was prosecuted for growing wheat on his own farm to feed his cattle, in violation of rationing laws. He argued that the law was unconstitutional, because his wheat was not involved in interstate commerce. The court disagreed, saying that his wheat allowed him to not buy wheat, which affected interstate commerce since he was not buying any, and thus placed his wheat within Congress' domain.

    Interpreting the Commerce clause so broadly essentially gives Congress unlimited power to regulate. Personally, I do not feel that the founders intended to give such broad powers to the Federal Government. Then again, SCOTUS has not asked for my opinion on the matter.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Constitution and Us Code

    Quote Quoting gimpster
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    Thanks for the thorough response. It does raise further questions for me though.

    So its incorrect to say that a law in the US Code is Constitutional law? One doesn't have less authority than the other or is that based upon reinterpretation? Is the US Code an extended interpretation of law within the Constitution?

    If we read some amendments, for example:

    Amendment XIII
    Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.


    Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

    You can see, as in 2, that Congress has explicit Constitutional authority to pass laws of enforcement.

    Also:

    Article IV
    Section 1. Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.


    One clear example of such is the DOMA, Defense of marriage act. Congress, by direct authority of the FFC clause itself, has outlined what FFC shall be given to any state's records concerning same sex marriages, that is, they do NOT have to honor them under the FFC, however they can choose to do so under thier own laws, either statutory or common law.

    So, yes, at times, the US Code, or enactments of Congress, can be a direct extension of the Constitution itself. Until the SC rules it is unconstitutional, it is the "law of the land" per the Supremacy clause of Article 6.

    They actually have ruled same sex marriage prohibitions do NOT violate the Constitution, however, the 1971 ruling did NOT concern DOMA.

    Here is a thread I started on the 24th, if you are interested in reading up on the Constitutional Covention of 1787.


    http://www.expertlaw.com/forums/showthread.php?t=77613

    Quote Quoting divemedic
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    On the one hand, strict Constitutionalists (I am among those with those beliefs) believe that Congress's power should be limited to only those duties listed in the Constitution. All other powers should be vested to the people and the state governments. The Tenth Amendment specifically says, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

    On the other hand, more liberal interpreters of the constitution allow for powers more tangential to those duties. Many individuals cite the Necessary and Proper and the Commerce clause as grounds for their argument. The overall trend has seen more power shifting to the Federal Government generally, and specifically to Congress. ( A good example of this is to ask where the Government gets the power to 'bail out' companies or even provide free money to individuals. Heck, 90% of Federal Law uses those 2 clauses for justification.)

    I also believe Congress has fattened up it's legislative agenda far outside what the Founding Father's envisioned, they are way too big, IMO.

    Also the "General Welfare" clause not only in the Premable, but Article 1, sec. 8 supposedly gives Congress powers not explicity set out as the others in sec. 8. as the Commerce Clause has been subjected to.

    Section 8. The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;


    Interpreting the Commerce clause so broadly essentially gives Congress unlimited power to regulate. Personally, I do not feel that the founders intended to give such broad powers to the Federal Government. Then again, SCOTUS has not asked for my opinion on the matter.

    I agree also, the CC is widely misued. The federal government is TOO big, as we see why we are 11 trillion $$$$$ in debt.

    Thanks to a bunch of idiots, this deficit will NEVER be able to lowered unless taxes are seriously raised and a balanced AM budget/Constitutional AM is passed.

    Thank you Congress, you don't care, you get your fat salaries and pensions.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Constitution and Us Code

    Quote Quoting BOR
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    Thank you Congress, you don't care, you get your fat salaries and pensions.
    Bitter, party of one . . .

    I jest, of course. In all actuality, there's no reason to thank them. Really, it's all in a day's work.

    Congress legislates using an idea my father made me aware of when I was quite young: "If you have a friend who's true blue, better **** him before he ****s you."

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Constitution and U.S. Code

    Yeah, us taxpayers have a lot of money. What was Obama's budget to Congress for fiscal 2010, I heard it was over 3 trillion???

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Constitution and U.S. Code

    Quote Quoting BOR
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    Yeah, us taxpayers have a lot of money. What was Obama's budget to Congress for fiscal 2010, I heard it was over 3 trillion???
    Sure. We taxpayers have all the money. However, it doesn't follow that we have a unified idea as to how to spend it.

    The reason that big business can do more is that they have both money and a focused agenda. Getting all the people with small amounts of money to work towards a common goal isn't a common, or easy for that matter, thing to do. /shrug

    This is easily observed when the electorate has sent up an Opposition Congress to the White House. How that works itself out in anyone's mind to be a good idea is beyond me because it logjams a process already littered with tedious people.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Constitution and U.S. Code

    This is easily observed when the electorate has sent up an Opposition Congress to the White House. How that works itself out in anyone's mind to be a good idea is beyond me because it logjams a process already littered with tedious people.
    That was the way it was intended to work. It is SUPPOSED to be difficult to pass laws. That way, only laws which were important to everyone would pass. The real damage is done when the Legislative and Executive branches are rubber stamping each other. Both wind up taking more power for themselves, and dictating to the people, rather than securing liberty.

    The whole idea was to have a small, rather powerless Federal government settling trade disputes between independent states. Sort of a unified free trade area. That idea failed during the period between 1860 (when the States lost the right to secede) and 1912 (with the passage of the 16th and 17th Amendments). What we have now is a populist, socialist oligarchy.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Constitution and U.S. Code

    Quote Quoting divemedic
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    That was the way it was intended to work. It is SUPPOSED to be difficult to pass laws. That way, only laws which were important to everyone would pass. The real damage is done when the Legislative and Executive branches are rubber stamping each other. Both wind up taking more power for themselves, and dictating to the people, rather than securing liberty.

    The whole idea was to have a small, rather powerless Federal government settling trade disputes between independent states. Sort of a unified free trade area. That idea failed during the period between 1860 (when the States lost the right to secede) and 1912 (with the passage of the 16th and 17th Amendments). What we have now is a populist, socialist oligarchy.
    I like your view of history. Indeed, I like anyone who can so blindly ignore all the countervailing evidence. It's special, and I applaud it.

    Not to point out the obvious, but the states didn't actually have the right secede. Though some thought they did, it turned out they were wrong. Moreover, the federal government wasn't designed to be rather powerless; it was designed such that what powers it required would be diffuse and disparate among three co-equal branches to avoid the pooling of power into one mere branch. That we frequently send opposing parties to the White House and the Congress tends, as I said, to frustrate the process of efficiency. But while doing so, it at least, presumably, restricts the amount of power either can hold. It isn't a perfect system, but we've somehow managed not implode yet.

    Not to take issue with your definitions, but a populist, social oligarchy. If I understand the term, it's anathema to an oligarchy. And doesn't socialism tend to distribute power of the "elite" to the greater population as a whole? I think many wouldn't disagree with the idea that in our country, money is frequently a driving force behind one's power. Redistributing that wealth would seem to cut against the power remaining in the hands of the few.

    Also, and this is a minor note, the people are free at any time to dissolve the government and start anew. That we choose not to says to me that on level, the government is working how the majority generally want it to. Since the power ultimately is in the hands of the citizenry who merely loan it to the representatives, it would seem that if we truly are an oligarchy, it's one of massive proportions - which stands in opposition to an oligarchy.

    Maybe I've missed something in your diatribe

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