Recently, several states have tried to assert their rights over the federal government because of their displeasure over certain national policies. Individual states are creating rumblings about topics not heard of since the mid 19th century -- nullification, interposition, states' rights.
Before I go any further, I have to mention how ironic it is that states will gripe about the national government oppressing the states and contorting the Constitution. Where does all the hate come from?
The federal government provides billions of dollars annually to the states in grants money for every imaginable type of project. The federal government rescued the American people during the Great Depression and instituted some of the country's most amazing projects -- i.e. the Interstate Highway System. I didn't hear states complaining about the power of the federal government then.
However, when the federal government implements a program a state doesn't benefit from, there's always a legislature willing to call the feds a bully.
The most recent example? The Affordable Health Care for America Act (better known to its critics as 'Obamacare'). The controversy generated around this piece of legislation needs no discussion.
Individual states, being irked about the federal government 'intruding' on what they believed to be their power to regulate health care, are now threatening to pass resolutions asserting their right of nullification.
This concept in politics is the idea that a state can nullify or declare void an act passed by the federal government. Its origins stem from the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions (written by Madison and Jefferson, respectively), documents that claimed states still retained their sovereignty under the Constitution.
Though individual states do retain some measure of autonomy and sovereignty, they forfeited much by entering into the federal union under the Constitution, which they did knowingly.
Under the old Articles of Confederation, each state was an entity unto itself, coining their own money, having its own militia, regulating the conduct of its people as they saw fit.
The Constitution, when introduced, changed that notion dramatically. It specifically prevents individual states from declaring war, negotiating treaties, coining money, or laying down taxes on imported goods. The states knew precisely what they were agreeing to and did so because the benefits far exceeded the sacrifice.
The states wanting to nullify the federal health care act would have the country believe such a law violates the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, which provides all powers not granted to the federal government to the states.
States' rights advocates argue since health care isn't in the Constitution, states have the power to regulate such an activity. Not so fast.
Though the Constitution does not discuss health care, it does provide two key powers that apply. The first is the elastic clause, which states Congress has the power "... To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper ..."
Perhaps creating a piece of legislation on health care wasn't what people considered to be necessary and proper. However, Congress also has the sole power to regulate interstate commerce, listed in the Constitution and reaffirmed in Gibbons v. Ogden (1824). Is there any denying the health care industry can be construed as interstate commerce?
Even if the states were correct in presuming an act of Congress were unconstitutional, they do not have the authority to declare as such. The power to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional rests with the United States Supreme Court.
Also, it is important to note that when state and national interests conflict, national interests win out. According to Article VI, the Constitution and laws made pursuant to it are the Supreme Law of the Land.
So what are states left with? Do they have no recourse? They most assuredly do have a weapon. The citizens of their state vote for their members of Congress. If a change needs to be made, a legal mechanism exists for doing so in the Constitution. States must use the legal remedy for changing policies they are unhappy with. It is unwise and inappropriate for states to attempt to merely ignore the federal government.
What happens when states refuse to comply with federal policies? State grant money is cut. Or President Dwight Eisenhower sends the army to Little Rock. President John Kennedy sends them to the University of Alabama.
Worst case scenario for states' righters? Just ask Southerners how that turns out.
Location:Walnut St,East Bank,United States