What Does the Commerce Clause Mean?
The Commerce Clause is an important aspect of the United States Constitution and, in particular, a source of the scope and limits of the Federal Government’s power to regulate the economic activity of the United States. The Commerce Clause consists specifically of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the document.
In light of disagreements about the practical and philosophical approach of Presidential administration and Federal agencies toward commercial and industrial regulation, media figures, political commentators and economists often discuss the meaning and correct interpretation of the Commerce Clause in public discussions of and debates over economic policy.
According to the Commerce Clause, the U.S. Government can “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” These three listed powers tend to be divided into the Foreign Commerce Clause, the Interstate Commerce Clause, and the Indian Commerce Clause, respectively. In this regard, widely based discussion of the Commerce Clause most often turns on the second component of the Interstate Commerce Clause, less often on the first of the Foreign Commerce Clause, and very rarely of the third Foreign Commerce Clause.
In American discussions of and decisions on this element of Constitutional interpretation, the latitude granted to so-called Commerce Clause powers is often connected to the political persuasion of an individual, with the American liberal/left interpreting the Commerce Clause more permissively and the conservative right interpreting the Commerce Clause less broadly. The first tendency typified the New Deal Era in American judicial decisions, and the second the Rehnquist Court’s conservative approach to jurisprudence.