It’s time to reclaim the 10th Amendment
With several governors giving serious consideration to refusing the federal stimulus package it has become apparent that individual states are preparing to challenge the federal government based on their interpretation of the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. According to the amendment, which is part of the original Bill of Rights ratified in 1791, “powers not granted to the national government, nor prohibited to the states are reserved to the states and to the people.” In other words, the government of the United States was given the power to regulate only matters delegated to it by the Constitution, while other powers were reserved to the states. Naturally, Washington interprets this to mean that the Constitution grants Congress the authority to do anything that is not explicitly prohibited by the first eight amendments. This philosophy continues to threaten the very sovereignty of the individual states and is cause for growing concern. Until the mid-19th century, the 10th Amendment was often cited by state governments to prevent federal regulation of everything from taxation to interstate commerce. But since the 1830s, various rulings have upheld the straightforward interpretation of the 10th Amendment. As a result, such matters as a federal income tax were subsequently upheld in the courts. Today, the federal government uses the 10th Amendment to perpetuate their dominance over the affairs of individual states like New Hampshire. How can the powers in Washington force states to take actions without paying for them or impose conditions on states when they accept certain federal funding? This is a clear violation of the 10th Amendment. With $800 billion in stimulus money released to the states, perhaps it is time to send Washington a message that we are cautious about accepting many parts of this package because of conditions that the federal government is likely impose on exactly how it can be spent. What other future mandates are going to be attached that will negatively impact New Hampshire and its taxpayers? It is time for this blackmail to stop. By using the 10th Amendment to assert their authority, the federal government takes money from the states and their citizens and imposes sanctions as to how we can spend the money that is being returned to us. We have been the victims of such unfunded mandates for decades. Two classic examples are the No Child Left Behind education law of 2002 and the Real ID Act of 2005 that established a national identification card through drivers’ licenses. As a result, many states are also looking to repeal federal mandates to spend money that they anticipate will come from the federal government once the president begins passing along some of the large programs promised during his campaign. Early opponents of the Constitution in the 1700s were concerned that the states would eventually become subservient to the federal government. The purpose of the 10th Amendment was to define the division of power between the federal government and state governments. Isn’t it time that Washington recognized that New Hampshire and the other states are not a branch of the federal government and acted accordingly? Prior to the Civil War, nearly every state urged a broad reading of the 10th Amendment, but following that great conflict, the 10th Amendment was virtually suspended. It has been written often that, “those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” The 10th Amendment was instituted to reassure the states that they would remain largely in charge within their own borders. But it appears that this sovereignty that began slowly eroding in the 1800s continues to disintegrate before our eyes today — perhaps it’s time for states to take action before history is repeated.
Rep. Sherman Packard of Londonderry is leader of the House Republicans.