The Washington Times studied 3,764 bills introduced in the first year and found some patterns in the authority statements: The most commonly cited authority was Article I, Section 8, Clause 1, which establishes Congress‘ power to tax and spend “for the common defense and general welfare.” Close behind, however, was the commerce clause — Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 — which has come under fire by many conservatives for being stretched well beyond the Founding Founders’ intent.

Lawmakers cited 70 authorities, including 56 bills under the 10th Amendment, which reserves powers to the states rather than to Congress, and 12 under the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms.

“The thing that jumped out is how many parts of the Constitution members of Congress seem to think grant them legislative authority,” said Doug Kendall, founder of the Constitutional Accountability Center. “I wouldn’t have thought the 10th Amendment, which is not about legislating, or the First Amendment, which says ‘Congress shall make no law,’ would be fertile ground for legislative authority.”

Like Mr. Spalding, he said the reality has fallen short of its drafters’ hopes.