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Public Statements

Federalism

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. STUTZMAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the topic of enduring consequence. Last month, the members of the Constitution Caucus came to the floor to commend limited government as the guardian of human dignity. Tonight, we would like to continue that conversation by discussing one of the indispensable pillars of limited government. America's guarantee of limited government and her bulwark of liberty can be attributed to Federalism.

Federalism is the subject which we often forget here in Washington, D.C. I believe this is a tragic irony because our great Nation is the birthplace of this truly revolutionary political concept. Federalism is not an abstract philosophy. Simply, it is the separation of power between the Federal Government and State governments. It is one of the cornerstones of our American experiment in self-government.

It was unheard of before the American founding and unfortunately is all but forgotten today.

Until our Founding Fathers devised our unique system of government, nations around the globe were dedicated to the faulty idea that power or sovereignty was indivisible. The great wisdom of the American founding was to reject this notion and build a robust government with a system that carefully divided power on two different levels.

Yes, we are most familiar with the separation of three branches of government--legislative, executive, and judicial; but too many in Washington have forgotten that there is another division in government--the division between States and Federal Government.

Mr. Speaker, we have one of the greatest documents to govern our country that has existed for over 200 years and has been one of the documents that has guided so many Americans and people across this country into personal responsibility, to the ability to take opportunities that we have been granted in this country.

The 10th Amendment sums up this structural integrity of the Constitution and the dual sovereignty of the Federal and State governments. The 10th Amendment says this: ``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.''

As a former State legislator, I've seen this and been very frustrated at times as a State legislator in the powers that the Federal Government continues to assume and is basically overreaching the responsibilities and the powers of the State government. Federalism, as you know, was a huge debate and discussion as part of the founding of our great Nation back when our Founding Fathers were discussing what should be in the Constitution.

During the debate over States' rights and Federalism, there needs to be a balance between what the States are responsible for and what the Federal Government is responsible for. And our Constitution lays those responsibilities out and defines those responsibilities very clearly.

I believe it's very important for us, as Congress and Congressmen and Congresswomen, to refamiliarize ourselves with our Constitution and realize that the boundaries that have been laid out by our Founding Fathers are well defined. And the intent and the vision that was laid out is one that is still applicable today.

I believe that the Federal Government continues to overreach as to those boundaries--whether it's massive spending, whether it's an overreach in our health care bill that just passed last year, whether it's the stimulus package which the Federal Government is now assuming the responsibility to stimulate our economy rather than trusting in the American people.

It does not add anything to the Constitution that was not already there in its structure, but in making the principle of Federalism more explicit, the 10th Amendment underscores the importance of Federalism.

To see Federalism succeed, we must hold faith in the integrity of the Constitution. A living document is just an empty vessel. Federalism is neglected when politicians make the Constitution a blank slate for the dominant political trends.

As James Madison wrote in Federalist Number 45: ``The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.''

So, Mr. Speaker, I would like to read again the 10th Amendment of our Constitution: ``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.''

So, Mr. Speaker, I'd submit to you that many of the programs that the Federal Government currently not only operates but also is proposing under several different bills over the past several years really are overreaching into the State governments' responsibilities and also into what they are fully capable of doing.

Many times the frustration that we had of dealing with Medicaid and the mandates that were handed down to the States were tying the hands of our State governments.

Coming from the State of Indiana, I'm very proud of what has been accomplished because of those who respect not only the simple economics of balancing budgets and realizing that you can't spend more money than what you have, but as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives of 2005, I worked with our Governor and our Senate to see that Indiana passed its first balanced budget in 8 years.

As we've discussed repeatedly here in Congress already, what about balanced budgets, what about the responsibility of making sure that we do not spend more money than what we have? Our Federal Government just closed its budget with a $1.5 trillion deficit, and that's hard to imagine that we could actually spend that much more money than what we take in. Any Hoosier family knows that once that line at the bottom of the checkbook hits red, there's a problem, and we need to reevaluate what we are currently doing in our spending and our income.

Either you start cutting spending or you start increasing your income. As we all know with the difficult economic times that we're in, increasing income is not always as easy as we would like it to be. So what we need to do is control what we can control, and that is the spending.

Today, Indiana is squarely in the black because of very difficult decisions. It has a AAA credit rating, and is home to the fewest State employees per capita in the United States. The initiative was taken when times were difficult and in realizing that we were falling on tough economic times.

As we move forward in this Congress, I believe that we need to take the same principles and the same values that States have and local governments have and families have across the country, and businesses, who all realized that you cannot continue to spend more money than what you are taking in.

Progressivism has been the greatest foe of federalism. Progressivism believes in a government of, by, and for the experts, statisticians, and bureaucrats. Federalism believes in government of, by, and for the people and their unique communities. So, again, here I would argue that communities and people are much more capable, because they know their particular circumstances and how they are to manage not only their own dollars but their own lives, whether it's education or whether it's being involved in their church, in giving to their church or charity groups.

But instead, we're seeing a government that continues to intrude in taking more and more of those responsibilities, but also the rights that we all have as citizens, in taking those away from Americans and giving them to the Federal Government. We all know the Federal Government is never capable of fully meeting the needs that every individual has in our country.

Progressivism ends up elevating unelected experts to rule over the entire Nation. Rules promulgated by an alphabet soup of agencies choke out representative government, and Congress calls hearings to slow them down. We are seeing that repeatedly right now, Mr. Speaker, with hearings that we are having currently in our committees and in asking questions of the bureaucracies on the rule-making decisions that they are making every day. It continues to choke out not only our freedoms and opportunities that we enjoy as Americans, whether it's in business or whether it's as individuals, but also the bureaucracies are becoming much more powerful.

Now that the Congress is not passing overreaching legislation, we're seeing the bureaucracies taking on that role. And I believe that it is crucial for us as Americans to step forward and to remind ourselves what our Federal Government's responsibilities are. The Constitution clearly defines those responsibilities. And I believe it's important that we all become more familiar again with our Constitution and with the responsibilities that the Federal Government is responsible for.

Likewise, federalism today should not be confused with nullification, nor with the idea of secession. Federalism must be revived so that the rights of citizens might be upheld and their duties fulfilled. Federalism is the protector of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I can only imagine at the time, as our Founding Fathers were debating federalism and creating a Federal Government with the State governments that they had at the time, that they never imagined that the Federal Government would become as large and bureaucratic and bloated and irresponsible as it is today.

When the Federal Government exercises control over health care, welfare, housing, unemployment, and even the so-called stimulus of our economy, there is less incentive for citizens to act within their communities and States to fulfill the duties they once assumed. Civic virtue suffers as power flows to Washington, D.C. Ordinary Americans are neglected in this top-down solution.

Many argue that Washington knows better, that bureaucrats know better, that the experts know better. But I know, growing up as a son of a farmer in northern Indiana, that my parents, my grandparents, they all knew what was important for our family. They knew what was important to our community. Whether it was being involved in our school, whether it was being involved in our church community, whether it was being involved in our local economy or our government process. Families and individuals can make those decisions, what's important, and make those priorities, pass those priorities on to their families.

I believe that what's happening today in our country is that we're seeing less and less not only interest, but also responsibility is now being assumed by our Federal Government, because it continues to overreach and to continue to take away the responsibilities of local

governments, whether it's a school board which would make much better decisions for their local community and their school, whether it's a county council that knows the challenges that they have with their counties.

I know for us we have a lot of lakes and rivers, a lot of sandy soil, sewer systems that need to be built to keep our environment clean and better for our children and grandchildren as we pass on the resources that we have. We are starting to have our hands tied more and more because of regulations coming from Washington, D.C.

I believe that that is what our Founding Fathers intended. They believed in ordinary citizens making extraordinary decisions for their communities and that the structure of our Constitution protected that.

In short closing here, as I want to turn it over to my colleagues, I would warn those who are in Congress that we think ourselves too wise if we believe that federalism espoused in our founding documents is an antiquated relic of the past. Governments are the products of fallen men. Human nature is the same today as it was in 1787. When the Federal Government grows beyond its original purpose, when it greedily claims powers belonging to the States and local communities, it arrogantly assumes that 535 Federal legislators and hordes of bureaucrats can direct with perfect clarity the lives of over 300 million Americans.

I would be amiss to claim that I know the daily concerns of Buckeyes, or those who are in New Jersey, or from Texas, or from Oklahoma, or from California. But I know Hoosiers because I am one. I know and believe these simple truths. The rich diversity of our Nation's 50 States impels us to greatness. There are legitimate concerns which must be addressed by a well-balanced Federal Government. Yet the Federal Government ought to defer to the States in those matters that the States are best prepared for.

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Mr. STUTZMAN. Thank you.

It is probably all too common, unfortunately, because this document, I believe, as I said earlier, is one that doesn't appear to be exciting. But when you read it and when you realize what it does for our freedom and that it protects our rights as individuals of this great Nation, it is so important for us to understand, and if we don't know, to find out, to listen to others who have gone before us, whether it is our Founding Fathers or whether it is those who have served in different capacities, whether it is in schools or whether it is in government, there is a reason for it. It is the 9th and 10th Amendments, and it is the 9th and 10th points of our Bill of Rights. I think that is what of our Founding Fathers meant. They meant it to be at the end to give those responsibilities back to the State governments because they knew that the Federal Government wasn't going to be responsible. They couldn't absolutely take care of everybody with the role and the size that the Federal Government was at that time.

We are in a situation today where I believe many Americans believe and they know in their heart what is right, and that our Constitution protects those rights and that we believe in freedom. We believe in that entrepreneurial spirit and that we can go out and make something of ourselves.

As I said, I am the son of a farmer and have the opportunity to serve in Congress, which is a humbling experience, but at the same time knowing that we have a responsibility for our kids and for our grandkids, for our country, for the freedom that we have, for the opportunity we have. I believe that this is a perfect time for us to know what the Constitution says, to understand it and to apply it. Whether you are on the school board, which is one of the most important positions I believe any individual can run for, to be involved in our children's education, whether it is on the city council, town council, county council, State government, those are all such important, township government, are all so important because an engaged person involved in the community, involved in the government, can make a difference. That is what I believe to be so fascinating is that this document empowers us as Americans. It doesn't take power away. It doesn't give power strictly to the Federal Government. It is one that believes in the American people.

As I mentioned before, with the budget debates coming forward, if we continue to go down the path of higher spending, higher taxes, of more regulation, that we only take away opportunity. We take away the empowerment that was given to the American people, and that we all should be grateful that we can go back to the Constitution and have this discussion and have this dialogue about the responsibilities of the Federal Government and making that case to those of us in Congress and to our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, the responsibilities and the opportunities that State governments, local governments, not only can they do, but they can do it better because they can meet the needs of their local communities because they hear from local citizens. I believe that government that is closest to the people serves the people better.

With that, I appreciate each of my colleagues this evening being part of the Constitutional Caucus discussion here on the House floor. I am looking forward to many more. I know that each of us have great responsibilities in front of us in realizing what the Federal Government's role is, according to this document, and that we take these very seriously in the upcoming days and that we don't continue to grow the size and the scope of government.

I thank the Speaker for the time.

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