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Public Statements

Federalism

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GARRETT. I thank the gentleman from Indiana. Thank you, first of all, first and foremost, for leading this caucus tonight and leading this Special Order tonight as we speak about federalism as a safeguard of a limited government. So we come here tonight to discuss that and think about it in the larger sense, to discuss basically the revolutionary principles that federalism is and its critical role in our system of government that makes individual liberties possible in this country.

As the founder of the Constitutional Caucus, I welcome a public discussion on federalism tonight. It is such a crucial discussion, a discussion of federalism, a discussion of the role of government in our lives. And it lies at the heart of the American social contract between the government and the people. You see, it's federalism that keeps the Federal Government basically within its proper boundaries. So it is crucial to an understanding of the American commitment to liberty and to freedom and how well it will safeguard this generation and future generations as well.

When we think about these topics, it's often easy to take for granted our Federal system of government and the freedoms that it affords all of us. But such a system was, by no means, preordained.

And if you go back some 200-plus years, ordinary colonists, armed with a desire to be free, rebelled against the world's mightiest empire to achieve our independence from an obtrusive, overcentralized and a faraway government.

And what was in its place? Well, in its place our Founders established for the first time in history a national government of defined and enumerated powers that is basically prohibited from overstepping its confined jurisdictions.

So the Federal Government's powers were to be truly national in scope, and the Founders believed that because States and local governments operated closest to the citizens, elected officials who were at that lower level, or the local level, would be the ones who were most competent to make the laws that would govern daily lives.

Now, this was a message espoused by James Madison in Federalist No. 45. You know, Madison wrote back then: ``The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government are few and they are defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.''

So, you see, you have established this dual sovereignty, the sovereignty of Federal and State governments. And it's underscored then how basically in our Bill of Rights, as the 10th Amendment reads, as the gentleman from Indiana already said: ``The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectfully, or to the people.''

The beauty of the 10th Amendment is not at first easily recognizable, as some would say, on first blush that the 10th Amendment is almost redundant. Some would say it offers nothing new from what has already been written into the confines, or four corners, if you will, of the Constitution. And so it is the limited powers of the Federal Government that are articulated throughout the three sections of the Constitution.

In fact, however, the Founders, looking at the Bill of Rights, initially believed that they were really not necessary and, actually, that they could be seen as potentially dangerous. Why was this? Well, both the Federalists and the anti-Federalists understood that the Bill of Rights limited the powers of government.

But the perceived danger here of the Bill of Rights lay where? At the potential for misunderstanding by future generations. This misunderstanding basically comes about by this, by forbidding the Federal Government from acting in certain areas, which is what the Bill of Rights would do. It was argued then, what, that the Constitution implied that the Federal Government could do what? It could act in all other areas that were not expressly prohibited from engaging in.

But let's be clear, the 10th Amendment makes clear that the Constitution provides no implied powers to the Federal Government. And so it is here that we see Federalism for what it basically is. It is the cornerstone, if you will, of the Constitution and the most effective tool for the preservation of this, our liberty.

So the 10th Amendment inclusion as the final amendment in the Bill of Rights is, therefore, no accident. It is, rather, as one might say, the culmination of the Founders' vision of American democracy. It reaffirms a commitment to a government strictly defined and with those limited powers.

It is this institutionalization of armor, if you will, of liberty and the perpetual struggle against this tyrannical government. This amendment is, in short, the realization of the principles of the American revolution.

And as we come to the floor tonight and every day here in this Congress, we are heirs to that revolution. Unfortunately, today America seems to have surrendered some of its birthright. The scope and reach of the Federal Government is growing at a disturbing pace. The incessant expansion of government has led to the bailout of the banking industry and the auto industry, sweeping financial regulation, and the proposal of cap-and-trade systems that would demand that rationing of American economic prosperity and productivity.

The tentacles, if you will, of the Federal Government are tightly wrapped around housing, education, transportation, unemployment policy--you name it--in almost every aspect of our lives. The American people, when you think about it, are controlled by the Federal Government in almost every single aspect of their lives, from morning to evening, from what light bulbs we are allowed to buy to the health insurance we have to buy. It is all required under regulations by the Federal Government.

Now, as I come to the floor, today is the 268th birthday of Thomas Jefferson. If he were alive today, I doubt that he would recognize the Federal Government as one that has remained true to the revolutionary Founders of this country. Rather, I would imagine that he would see a centralized and bureaucratic form of government that resembles the one that he and the rest of the Founding Fathers rebelled against. That is exactly what the Constitution and the amendments to it and the principles of Federalism were meant to prevent.

Out-of-control spending may be the clearest sign now of where we are today in having neglected these principles of Federalism. It is the Federal meddling into the lives of the American people. What it has done is resulted in the unprecedented and also, I would add, the unsustainable level of funding that jeopardizes the very economic well-being of the United States.

Our current path, therefore, threatens the American standard of living and our prosperity, the American Dream and the American status as a superpower.

You see, by nationalizing every issue, what we do there is we deprive the American people of the benefits that Federalism would normally bring. The Founders intended the States to serve as, as has often been called, the laboratories of democracy, which would compel the States to compete against each other to attract individuals and businesses, if you will.

This competition would result in innovations and innovative solutions, the greater accountability and transparency of public servants and the diffusion of power that limits the reach of the national government. Federalism, it's the constitutional guarantee of that good government.

So we come here tonight, and we must renew our commitment to Federalism, to the Constitution. By allowing this, our Constitution to be interpreted, though, by the whims of the judicial and executive branches, we have undermined the structural integrity of this document as well as the safeguards that a limited government describes.

To conclude, at the beginning of this year, Members of this body take an oath--to do what?--basically, to support and defend this Constitution of the United States. We owe it to the people we represent to remain true to that oath. Restoring adherence to Federalism must begin where? Well, right here in this Chamber.

I hope that my colleagues will join me, as the Members are here with me tonight, in re-embracing this idea and this notion and this practice of Federalism, one of the great pillars of the American founding principles.

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