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Development of Federalism in the US

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 1322 words Published: 18th May 2020

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From the founding of the republic, the relationship between the U.S. national government and the states has had many changes. The United States founders wanted a strong national government that would balance the powers between national and state governments. This was a change from the Articles of Confederation which gave more powers to the states. The result was the writing of the Constitution of 1787. This constitution would give the national government power to provide national security and a healthy, efficient economy. The Supremacy Clause would make the US constitution supersede any state constitution. The Tenth Amendment would be added to give the states any power not granted to the federal government but would be vague and give the federal government a way to basically step on the toes of the states with implied powers. While the Tenth Amendment looked good on paper, the power for the states has been challenged by the federal government.

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Early on in the United States, the country operated under duel federalism. Under duel federalism, the national and state governments are distinct entities providing different services. This type of federalism limits the powers of the national government to those strictly enumerated in the constitution. Several disputes over federalism were resolved in landmark Supreme Court cases. One of the first struggles between the states and the national government started in 1803 when the Supreme Court gained the right to the arbiter of disputes between national and states’ rights. This was seen as giving the federal government more power. Shortly after the Second Bank of the United States was created which many states rejected, arguing that the national government was infringing upon the states’ constitutional jurisdiction. In the case McCullough v. Maryland, the Supreme Court ruled Congress could create a national bank under the necessary and proper clause. It was basically saying the bank was appropriate to carry out enumerated powers such as taxing and regulating commerce. The ruling is considered to establish the doctrine of implied powers for Congress. In the Gibbons v Ogden, the federal government was given more power. This case gave the federal government the power to regulate interstate commerce. All these events led to a strained relationship between the national government and states that would eventually boil over leading to the Civil War. The Supreme Court would rule that the national government lacked the authority to ban slavery in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case. After the Civil War the federal government was given more power ending the right for states to secede and challenge national laws and creating the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments.  In Texas, duel federalism had effects on a couple issues. One was rules established by the Railroad Commission of Texas limiting the number of oil wells and the amount of oil that could be pumped from these wells. When the East Texas oil Field was discovered in 1930, national legislation was needed to prevent an interstate market in oil produced. Duel federalism was also used to prevent the national intervention of racial violence in Texas, because enforcement of criminal laws was a state matter.  Dual federalism lasted into the 30’s and gave way to cooperative federalism.

Cooperative federalism is when the national and state governments work together to provide services efficiently. This type of federalism was brought on by the Great Depression. Both governments coordinated to solve national problems. During this time the relationship with the national government changed. After the New Deal era, led by Franklin D. Roosevelt, established social security, unemployment insurance, protections for organizing in the workplace and other public services. President Lyndon Johnson would expand the national governments role with Medicare and Medicaid. School nutrition programs would be created. Laws were passed to protect urban renewal, public housing and affordable housing. Civil rights were promoted along with voting rights. Although government powers were broadened during this time, there was a deepening coordination between states.

New Federalism came along during the Nixon administration. New Federalism was the attempt to shift the power to the states with the use of blocks grants and giving the states funds with minimal restrictions. Ronald Reagan pledged to return the authority to the states and created the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. This would consolidate grants and reformulate them to give the states greater discretion in using these funds. Several rulings by the supreme court would promote new federalism trying to shift the powers to the states. In the case United States v. Lopez, the Court would strike down the Gun-Free School Zone Act ending a sixty-year period in which the court used a broad interpretation of the commerce clause. Also, the ruling in the Printz v United States, would strike down the provision of the Brady Act requiring states to check the background of handgun buyers.

In recent years coercive federalism has been used. This is when federal policies force states to change their policies to achieve national goals. Unfunded mandates are used which require the states to pay for federal policy changes. Preemption has also been used in coercive federalism. In recent years though states are fighting back against coercive federalism like the refusal to initiate the Affordable Care Act or expand Medicaid. Texas has filed lawsuits against the federal government as a rebellion to coercive federalism. Republicans feel the government is getting to strong and a conservative Supreme Court has shown that like in the cases of US v. Lopez and Printz v US.

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Eleven states have legalized marijuana even though it is still illegal federally. Colorado was one of the first two states to make it legal. Many other states have made medical marijuana legal and other have decriminalized it. Both the Obama and Trump administrations have left these decisions to the states. Many people have deemed this as a win for federalism and shown as the national government respecting state law and state sovereignty. This has led to marijuana reform policy by the House of Representatives which voted for an amendment to protect state pot programs from federal interference and voted on an amendment allowing federally insured banks to work with cannabis shops and related companies.



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