For many years, the United States Congress has exercised its powers to investigate controversial topics, including foreign policy, presidential power and federal spending. Often, Congress has used its legal authority to compel other authorities to provide information, as members carry out their necessary and proper power to make and execute federal laws. However, the U.S. Supreme Court continues to grapple with challenging questions on the limits of Congressional authority to compel information. The Court recently decided to dismiss a case that would have addressed a pressing question regarding Congress’ authority to demand information from an executive agency. This case represents a hallmark of separation of powers, and the Federalist debate.
The District of Columbia, commonly known as Washington, D.C., is the seat of the United States federal government and is home to around 670,000 Americans. Washington, D.C. was created by Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution, which established the District in territory appropriated from Maryland and Virginia.
Uncle Sam keeps D.C. on a leash; the federal government directly administers D.C., meaning that Congress has the unique power to override any decision made by the local government. Additionally, D.C. residents could not vote in federal elections until the ratification of the 23rd Amendment in 1961, which granted the District three Electoral College votes in presidential elections. However, D.C. residents remain unrepresented in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the primary federal law making institutions.
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
Only 24 words, strung together in a single sentence; that’s the entirety of Section 1 of the Equal Rights Amendment, or ERA, a proposed constitutional amendment that would guarantee full legal equality for all Americans regardless of their sex. Initially proposed in 1923, the ERA came close to ratification in 1972; it was passed by Congress and given seven years (later extended to 10) to be ratified by two-thirds of states, dying in 1982 just three states short of the 38-state constitutional threshold.
This is only one of the effects of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v Federal Election Commission. Rather than their constituency, campaign funds now greatly influence Congress members’ decisions. Citizens United created a democracy that no longer works for the citizens, but rather for those with the largest pockets. Consequently, for democracy to return to the hands of the people, the Citizens United decision needs to be overturned.
Most Americans are aware of the Plessy V. Ferguson Supreme Court case, however many are not familiar with the Insular cases, which were decided by the same Supreme Court justices. The Insular cases were a series of Supreme Court cases from the early 20th century which determined the constitutional rights of those who live in United States territories. Currently, the United States territories are composed of Puerto Rico, the American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S Virgin Islands. In these cases, the courts concluded that Americans living in American territories are not granted automatic citizenship and that Congress has the authority to grant citizenship to these territories. Although there have been several improvements to their conditions, these cases have yet to be overturned; in some of the American territories, citizenship continues to not be an automatic right.