Rep. Samuel E Rohrer
The Tenth Amendment Center
March 10, 2009
The danger of being number 10 is that no one really knows who you are. George Washington was our first president; but how many can name number 10 off the top of their head? And Sir Edmund Hillary was the first person to climb Everest, but does anyone know who the tenth person was to reach the summit?
And then consider our amendments to the United States Constitution: most of us know the 1st Amendment verbatim, but do you know what the Tenth Amendment says?
“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.”
Sometimes thought of as an afterthought, to “sweep up” anything the Founders may have forgotten, the 10th Amendment today is taking on monumental importance as increasing federal intrusion into state affairs threatens to completely destroy the balance between state and federal power.
In the Federalist Papers, authors Jay, Madison, and Hamilton labored to convince a monarch-shy colonial population that they needed a strong government to preserve a free, cohesive nation. The authors took pains to outline how the Constitutional structure of the government would prohibit the federal government from becoming big enough to overwhelm the powers of both the states and the democratic process.
The 10th Amendment was foundational to this system of checks and balances, constitutionally restricting the federal government to covering issues related to commerce, national defense, the postal system, and the like.
“Power begets power,” though, as the saying goes, and the federal government slowly began expanding its powers. One of the most effective and insidious ways that the federal government has taken over control of state affairs is by first passing a mandate and then offering federal money to states with significant strings attached.
[efoods]Whether the issue is welfare, Real ID, No Child Left Behind, or health insurance programs, tantalizing packages have been dangled in front of state governors and legislators, promising to stop the budget gap or expand a politically successful program. States have taken the money and over time, the requirements and restrictions on those state funds have slowly but surely changed the direction of state policy.
Instead of developing programs to fit the needs of state citizens and altering them to best use the state resources, programs are instead clumsily built around the federal funding requirements, so the state does not lose a single available dollar. This significant paradigm shift should be a wake-up call to every citizen not only in Pennsylvania, but also across the nation.
Therefore, because the Supreme Court allowed the federal government to offer funds on conditions, states have subjected themselves to Washington. This submission completely distorts the checks and balances inherent in our Constitution, and enshrined in the 10th Amendment.
In order to raise awareness of this improper delegation of power, I have joined with representatives, senators, Democrats, and Republicans from over 30 states and introduced a resolution into the Pennsylvania General Assembly that reaffirms Pennsylvania’s constitutional powers under the 10th Amendment.
This 10th Amendment Resolution (House Resolution 95) is little more than a restatement of the last amendment to the Bill of Rights, reminding state legislatures that the federal government must no longer be allowed to commandeer our rightful authority.
As difficult as it is to believe someone could oppose a resolution as plain as reaffirming a basic tenet of our Constitution, sadly, opposition is too often the case in our state legislatures. This issue, however, is gaining traction among American citizens who are unwilling to sit back while Washington blatantly ignores their voices.
Supporting the 10th Amendment Resolution is a grassroots effort if ever there was one. I encourage you to spread the word and contact your family, friends and relatives, in and out of Pennsylvania, and encourage them to speak up. This issue will not go away—and it gives a voice to those who have grown frustrated and disillusioned with our federal government.
The 10th Amendment Resolution simply yet powerfully affirms our belief in the constitutional structure of our government. Join me today in that affirmation.
Rep. Rohrer will be holding the “10th Amendment Rally for the State of Independence” on Monday, March 16 at noon in the Rotunda of the State Capitol. Please make plans to join him there. Visit www.samrohrer.com for more information.
Samuel E. Rohrer is a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (R-Berks). To contact him, visit his website at www.samrohrer.com.