Restoring the 10th Amendment

April 24, 2015

One of the basic responsibilities of the executive branch is to execute the law faithfully. The Obama Administration, however, has no problem ignoring this duty to create its own rules.

Instead of working with Congress on substantive, collaborative legislation, the president has routinely opted to govern by decree, empowering bureaucrats at the expense of the democratic process. His misguided approach puts partisan politics – not the will of the people – at the forefront of decision-making in Washington.

Our reasons for introducing the “Restoring the 10th Amendment Act” stem from serious concerns about the administration’s power grabs. One of the Constitution’s most comprehensive protections is the 10th Amendment, which puts a clear limit on the federal government’s reach. Ratified on December 15, 1791, it states, “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.”

Despite these constitutional protections, our personal lives and state authority continue to be affected by federal oversteps. Like many individuals and businesses, we are frustrated by Washington’s red tape and sweeping bureaucratic authority. The president’s big-government agenda lacks transparency and accountability, intruding into our households, businesses, schools, and churches in alarming ways.

The 2,700-page health-care law is a prime example of costly government interference, prompting the rise of health-care premiums and cancellations of insurance coverage. The same is true for onerous carbon dioxide rules that hurt U.S. energy independence and ultimately Americans’ wallets.

Many of the president’s executive actions have ended up in the courts because of their overwhelming scope. Earlier this year, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction to block the president’s immigration plan until it can be settled in court. More than two-dozen states, including our home states of Mississippi and Texas, have joined the lawsuit against the administration, claiming that the immigration overhaul is a costly and burdensome violation of states’ rights.

Our Founding Fathers foresaw the danger of unchecked federal power. In the Constitution, they set forth guiding principles to protect limited government in the new republic. The Bill of Rights, which includes the 10th Amendment, was added to allay fears that individual freedoms could be curtailed by federal encroachment.

One wonders what our Founding Fathers would think of Washington today. The onslaught of regulations and executive orders from the Obama administration has chipped away at the 10th Amendment’s division of power, putting more control in bureaucratic hands than that of the people or the states. This executive overreach hardly reflects James Madison’s writings in The Federalist, which noted that the Constitution granted “few and defined” powers to the federal government and left “numerous and indefinite” power to the states.

As elected officials, members of Congress have a responsibility to challenge excessive executive action, upholding the Constitution’s time-tested system of checks and balances. We believe the 10th Amendment is integral to this responsibility and the preservation of limited power.

Our “Restoring the 10th Amendment Act” would give state government officials special standing in court to dispute regulations and executive orders proposed by a federal agency or the President. In other words, states would have the tools to push back against violations of the 10th Amendment, helping to restore individual liberty and limit the size, power, and cost of the federal government.

For the past six years, the Obama administration has used executive measures to score partisan wins on controversial issues. This tactic denies Americans the right to open and transparent debate, one of the core elements of a functioning democracy. The “Restoring the 10th Amendment Act” would be an important step toward restoring accountability, protecting the spirit and letter of the Constitution, and reining in the federal government.

This op-ed was authored by Sen. Roger Wicker,R-Miss., and Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas. It appeared on on April 24, 2015.