ArtI.S8.C3.6.7 Regulation of Interstate Commerce to Achieve Policy Goals

Article I, Section 8, Clause 3:

[The Congress shall have Power . . . ] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes; . . .

Congress has, at times, used its interstate Commerce Clause authority to pursue policy goals tangential or unrelated to the commercial nature of the activity being regulated. The Court has several times expressly noted that Congress’s exercise of power under the Commerce Clause is akin to the police power exercised by the states.1 Many of the 1964 public accommodations law applications have been premised on the point that large and small establishments alike may serve interstate travelers, making it permissible for Congress to regulate them under the Commerce Clause so as to prevent or deter racial discrimination.2 For example, in Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, the Court upheld a provision of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibited certain categories of business establishments that served interstate travelers from discriminating or segregating on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin.3 In that same case, the Court observed that Congress had used its authority over and interest in protecting interstate commerce to regulate gambling, criminal enterprises, deceptive sales practices, fraudulent security transactions, misbranding drugs, labor practices such as wages and hours, labor union membership, crop control, discrimination against shippers, injurious price cutting that affected small businesses, resale price maintenance, professional football, and racial discrimination in bus terminal restaurants.4

E.g., Brooks v. United States, 267 U.S. 432, 436–437 (1925); United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100, 114 (1941). See Robert Eugene Cushman, The National Police Power Under the Commerce Clause, 3 Selected Essays on Constitutional Law 62 (1938). back
Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964); Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294 (1964); Daniel v. Paul, 395 U.S. 298 (1969). back
379 U.S. 241, 245–47, 261–62 (1964). back
379 U.S. 241, 256–57 (1964) (citing Champion v. Ames, 188 U.S. 321 (1903); Brooks v. United States, 267 U.S. 432 (1925); FTC v. Mandel Bros., Inc., 359 U.S. 385 (1959); SEC v. Ralston Purina Co., 346 U.S. 119 (1953); Weeks v. United States, 245 U.S. 618 (1918); United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100 (1941); NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1 (1937); Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942); United States v. Baltimore & Ohio R. Co., 333 U.S. 169 (1948); Moore v. Mead’s Fine Bread Co., 348 U.S. 115 (1954); Hudson Distrib., Inc. v. Eli Lilly & Co., 377 U.S. 386 (1964); Schwegmann Bros. v. Calvert Distillers Corp., 341 U.S. 384 (1951); Radovich v. Nat’l Football League, 352 U.S. 445 (1957); Boynton v. Virginia, 364 U.S. 454 (1960)). back