Legitimate Uses of the Federal Commerce Clause Power

Remember that the federal government is only permitted to act in certain circumstances that are outlined very clearly in the U.S. Constitution. If they do not have the authority to act, the states are responsible for acting instead. As you read this week, the Commerce Clause is one mechanism by which the federal government can act. Using this clause as the basis of their actions, the government can justify certain potentially intrusive measures that force states and their citizens to comply.

Many interesting Supreme Court decisions address whether the federal government has the authority to act using the Commerce Clause as its justification. Starting with the New Deal legislation in the early 20th century, the court has generally deferred to Congress in determining what is and is not within their scope of authority. This changed briefly in the United States v. Lopez case in 1995, but has since reverted back to broad discretion.

The federal government has used its Commerce Clause authority to justify a broad range of issues. You will select one of those issue areas this week and analyze it in the scope of federalism and assess whether you believe it is a justifiable use of federal power.

To prepare for this Assignment:

Review the Supreme Court cases listed in the Learning Resources this week. Also review the video in the Learning Resources, Wheat, Weed, and ObamaCare: How the Commerce Clause Made Congress All-Powerful. Consider the policy arguments of the Supreme Court justices in these cases.

Select one case from your own research on the Commerce Clause on federalism decided from 1990 to the present.

Review the majority and dissenting opinions in the case and consider the policy arguments used to support the opinions on each side of the debate.

The Assignment: (3–4 pages)

Briefly describe the case you selected and the issue that it addresses (i.e., immigration, health care, foreign affairs).

Explain the connection between the action taken by the federal government and the basis for that action.

Provide a reasoned analysis of whether the issue should be part of the federal regulatory power, whether the court ruled correctly, and whether the Interstate Commerce Clause can be connected to this action. Be sure to provide proper sources for your research, including cases, statutes, and law or policy review articles.

Support your Assignment with specific references to all resources used in its preparation.

Submit your Assignment by Day 7.


Fandl, K. J. (2015). Putting states out of the immigration law enforcement business. Harvard Law & Policy Review, 9, 529–552. Retrieved from http://harvardlpr.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/9…

Fandl, K. J. (2016). States’ rights and refugee resettlement. Texas International Law Journal, 52, 1–31. Retrieved from http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id…


Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. 1 (1824).

Brown v. Maryland, 25 U.S. 419 (1827)

West Coast Hotel v. Parrish, 300 U.S. 379 (1937)

Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942)

Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964)

United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1995)

King v. Burwell, 576 U.S. ___ (2015).

Note: Use the LexisNexis Academic database, and search using the citation number on the Federal & State Cases page of the Legal tab for these cases.


Bragg, A. (Producer). (2010). Wheat, weed, and ObamaCare: How the Commerce Clause made Congress all-powerful [Video file]. Retrieved from http://reason.com/blog/2012/06/23/vid-wheat-wheat-…

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