Constitutional FAQ Answer #162 – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net

Constitutional FAQ Answer #162

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Q162. “I was wondering if there is anywhere in
the Constitution that says Congress cannot pass laws that don’t pertain to
themselves. If this is some place else please let me know where to find it. I
have read the Constitution and cannot find it.”

A. There is no such provision in the Constitution. The Congress is allowed
to pass legislation that pertains only to itself or which pertains to all
but the Congress. A classic example is that Congress originally exempted itself
from Social Security taxes, meaning that members of Congress did not have to
pay into the Social Security Trust Fund. As you might imagine, exceptions like
this have a tendency to run the public the wrong way.

Though Congress can still do this, it rarely does. In fact, in the 1990’s,
there was a concerted effort to root out all such exceptions. The Social
Security exemption was removed in 1984 (the Congress exempted itself because
its members paid into a separate pension plan; some government employees are
still covered by this plan and still do not pay into the Trust Fund). The
Congressional Accountability Act of 1994, amended in 1998, removed many
exemptions to laws that Congress had given itself before, including age
discrimination laws, sexual harassment laws, and occupational safety laws.

Regardless of all this, there is a cyclical push to amend the Constitution
to disallow this sort of exemption permanently. As far as amendments go, this
one is relatively benign, and I would have no objections to it. I just wonder
how necessary it is. Below is an example of such a proposed amendment:

Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the
United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and Representatives;
and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and
Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United

Last Modified: 16 Aug 2010

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