When it comes to finding a constitutional authority to validate congressional action, the General Welfare clause is like a box without bottom: there is no project too local or too narrow not to fall under the rubric of “general welfare.”
The scope of the General Welfare clause was hotly debated in early America. Alexander Hamilton favored a more expanded reading to enable spending on internal improvements to the Union, but James Madison advocated a more limited reading. To be sure, Congress’s current practices would make both men blush (even Hamilton had limits!).
As John Eastman writes in the latest Constitutional Guidance for Lawmakers essay, vague appeals to the general welfare do not justify any project Congress desires to implement. How does the General Welfare clause limit spending? Click here to find out.