Most informed citizens know the Bill of Rights has ten amendments; nowadays, though, not much attention is paid to the Tenth Amendment. You remember, the one that says,
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.
Most folks these days don’t know that’s in the Constitution—but then, to all intents and purposes, our government doesn’t either. (The same is true of the Ninth Amendment, which declares, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”)
Now, however, we have the first sign in a very long time that that might be about to change. If Congress won’t recognize the proper sphere of sovereignty of the states, some of the states are thinking about standing up to claim it for themselves.
Although Fox News and CNN are not telling you about it, a growing number of states are declaring sovereignty. Washington, New Hampshire, Arizona, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, California, and Georgia have all introduced bills and resolutions declaring sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment. Colorado, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Alaska, Kansas, Alabama, Nevada, Maine, and Illinois are considering such measures.
Here’s the payoff from the bill introduced in the state of Washington, which follows a number of “Whereas” clauses laying out the historical and constitutional justifications for the bill:
NOW, THEREFORE, Your Memorialists respectfully resolve:
(1) That the State of Washington hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States; and
(2) That this serve as a Notice and Demand to the federal government to maintain the balance of powers where the Constitution of the United States established it and to cease and desist, effective immediately, any and all mandates that are beyond the scope of its constitutionally delegated powers.
That’s just one example; go to the article and you’ll find links to all the bills that are currently pending in state legislatures. Knowing my old home state as I do, I’ll be surprised if that one passes, but some of these will. Of course, I’m sure the initial response from the Obama administration will be to dismiss or ignore these bills; but if these states have the guts to act on this language and resist (or even seek to roll back) the federal usurpation of state power, we have a shot at reviving federalism. After all, the Tenth Amendment may be treated like a dead letter, but it’s still in the Constitution; the Obama administration may succeed in buying states off, but if any of them hang in there and refuse to give up their Tenth Amendment claim, as long as they pick an issue on which they’re on firm ground, it would be hard to make a constitutional case against them.
It’s encouraging to see state governments asserting themselves as independent and responsible political entities, rather than as lapdogs of D.C.; here’s hoping it keeps up.
Crossposted at The Spyglass