The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: “The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.” This provision confirms that Congress has the right to pass the necessary laws to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment.
W. Cleon Skousen explained, “Because the Fourteenth Amendment was poorly written, it has required more legislation and judicial proceedings than any other provision in the Constitution.” (See The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 727.)
Roger Clegg of The Heritage Foundation further explained, “Following the pattern of the Necessary and Proper Clause of Article I, Section 8, the enforcement clause of the Fourteenth Amendment grants to Congress the power to pass legislation directed at effectuating the provisions of Sections 1 through 4 of the Amendment. Like the enforce clauses of the two other reconstruction amendments (the Thirteenth and the Fifteenth), as well as those found in the Nineteenth, Twenty-third, Twenty-fourth, and Twenty-sixth Amendments, Section 5 constitutes a delegated power granted to Congress in addition to those listed in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution.
“One specific purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment when it was passed in 1866 was to ensure that Congress had adequate power to adopt the Civil Rights Act of that year…. That act prohibited state legislation – specifically, the notorious `Black Codes’ – that denied black certain rights afforded to whites, including the power to make and enforce contracts.
“A significant limitation in the text of Section 5 is that Congress is authorized only to `enforce, by appropriate legislation’ the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment….” (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, pp. 407-408.)
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