Returning Power to the People

On Thursday a group of House conservatives from the Republican Study Committee (RSC) announced the launch of the 10th Amendment Task Force — a project of the RSC — designed as a means for legislators to change tactics on downsizing the leviathan federal government.

With an eye toward November elections and the increasing likelihood of Republicans making great gains if not taking back Congress outright, the RSC is positioning an avenue by which conservative legislators can begin to reverse the unprecedented and unconstitutional power grabs inflicted on the states by an out-of-control Congress.

The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is simple:  “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 task force will develop and promote proposals that aim to disburse power, decision-making, and money away from Washington back to states, local governments and individuals.

You can’t stop an aircraft carrier on a dime.  Around 100 years of so-called “progressive” creeping socialism at the federal level will take some undoing, and legislating power back to the states is the legal framework within which this can be achieved.

“One of the foundational principles of our government is that federalism works,” RSC Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) told HUMAN EVENTS at the launch event.  “The power that is not explicitly given to the federal government is left and reserved to the states and to the people.  We have gotten so far away from that that people don’t even know that as a principle anymore.  Our goal here is to bring attention to that, to educate people about it — not just the public but members of Congress — and then move in a positive direction to empower the states and give them outlets to say to the federal government ‘thanks but no thanks.’”

I asked Price about the Founders’ idea of federalism as the means to empower flexible, localized representative governance, not a tyranny of the majority stemming from the sheer number of voters in America’s urban population centers.  (What works in Boston doesn’t play in Baton Rouge.)

“Tyranny of the majority or tyranny of the minority, either way tyranny is bad,” Price said.  “Remember big government, small citizens — big citizens, small government.”

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), is the founder of the new task force.

“This is not yesterday’s states’ rights argument, it’s much bigger than that,” Bishop said of the new task force tactics. “This is about better governance and breaking up big, inefficient, unresponsive government — returning power back to the people of this country.”

I asked HUMAN EVENTS favorite Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a former Texas appellate judge, about this new effort to defend the 10th amendment.

“This all came to a head with the passage of the health care ‘deform’ bill that has so many unfunded mandates on the states particularly with regard to Medicaid — the states can’t afford that,” Gohmert said.  “It was an outrageous usurpation of states’ rights in a mandate from on high in matters over which the federal government’s not even supposed to have jurisdiction.  I feel like the Supreme Court will eventually strike it down, but that is a perfect example of the kind of usurpations we’ve seen.”

The task force will also work with outside groups to develop, propose, monitor and amend legislation aimed at cutting the size and scope of the federal government.  One of those organizations is Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a group opposed to all tax increases.  ATR was represented by its president Grover Norquist at the launch event.

“Federalism — the idea that things should be done at the state level and not in Washington, D.C. — is particularly important not because local government or state governments are closer to the people or are smarter but because there are 50 of them,” Norquist said.  “When one state does something particularly silly you have a chance to move out of that state.  Truly stupid ideas can only be imposed at the national level.  You can’t do at the state level some of the silly and destructive things that have been done at the national level because people will move from Massachusetts to New Hampshire.”

Excellent point.

The 10 original members of the task force: Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah),  Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wy.), Rep. Michael Conaway (R-Texas), Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Co.) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.).