On September 13, 2016 TCCRI submitted written testimony before the House State and Federal Power and Responsibility Committee regarding the extent to which state regulation and policy are influenced by mandates attached to federal funding.
The United States Constitution was adopted by those who were fearful of tyranny, and mindful of the dangers posed by an all-powerful central government. Accordingly, the structure of the federal government, as defined in the Constitution, is one where enumerated powers are spread across three branches. All powers not granted to the federal government are left to the states and to the people, from whom it derives its authority.
In Federalist 45, James Madison wrote that “the powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined” and that those “powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”
When the Bill of Rights was ultimately adopted in 1791, the Tenth Amendment enshrined this position:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
The Tenth Amendment codifies the right of states to govern themselves with respect to all matters that are not explicitly delegated to the federal government in the Constitution, and the Supreme Court has a long history of respecting the principles of federalism enshrined by it. Justice Owen Roberts, for example, unambiguously stated in the Supreme Court’s 1931 United States v. Sprague decision that:
The Tenth Amendment was intended to confirm the understanding of the people at the time the Constitution was adopted, that powers not granted to the United States were reserved to the states or to the people.
Justice Thurgood Marshall shared the same view in a 1975 decision, stating that “[t]he Amendment expressly declares the constitutional policy that Congress may not exercise power in a fashion that impairs the States’ integrity or their ability to function effectively in a federal system.”
While there used to be broad agreement on what federalism and the Tenth Amendment mean, decades of jurisprudence and action by the federal government have blurred the distinctions between the federal and state governments, with the federal government assuming powers and authority not granted to it by the Constitution. Part of the reason lies in how the federal government uses its spending power to coerce and influence state-level policymaking. The states, too, are complicit in this process because they accept federal funding readily, often in spite of the many requirements and mandates that come with it.
The purpose of this testimony is to illustrate the types of federal funding that the state receives, what requirements the state must meet to receive this funding, and to show that the current path is not sustainable either financially or constitutionally.