Trains For America

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FLASH: Federal highways unconstitutional

Forget high speed rail. The latest from the right wing is an attack on just about everything the federal government does. The Think Progress blog is watching developments.

In a recent radio interview, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) made the seemingly-innocuous statement that the federal highway system, as well as federal laws ensuring safe drugs and safe airplanes, are constitutional. Nevertheless, Shea-Porter is now under attack by “tenther” activists who believe that virtually everything the federal government does is unconstitutional:

The humorous part of this is how these guys think they are such original thinkers. Some of you law students might recall that the constitutionality lf federal involvement goes back to the 1790s. I think it is called the Port Wardens case. It has to do with a federal issue of interstate commerce. Tell me I am wrong.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

2 Responses

  1. Allan says:

    Article I, Section Eight of the U.S. Constitution specifically authorizes Congress the enumerated power “… to establish post offices and post roads.” The U.S. Supreme Court later interpreted this clause to allow the creation of postal roads that were used for other concurrent purposes.

    Also, the Interstate System was originally the “National System of Interstate and Defense Highways”.

    In 1838, Congress passed a law requiring the Post Office to make use of railways as long as their charge was no more than 25 percent above the charge of coaches offering similar service. … Just keep putting mail on Amtrak trains!

    Not sure of your point with Cooley vs Board of Wardens.

    Cooley v. Board of Wardens of the Port of Philadelphia, 12 How. (53 U.S.) 299 (1852) – A Pennsylvania statute provided that any vessel entering or leaving the port of Philadelphia was required to pay one‐half the usual pilotage fee if its master chose not to employ a local pilot. The fee went into a fund for the relief of infirm pilots and pilots’ widows and orphans. The fee affected interstate and international commerce flowing into Philadelphia and was challenged as an interference with Congress’s power to regulate such commerce.

  2. Andrew says:

    “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States” and “To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;” would seem to be plenty of authority for the road, rail, airway, and waterway programs.

    These are one of the few obviously constitutional things the government does, as far as enumerated powers goes.

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