Last November, voters delivered an overwhelmingly emphatic mandate against policies that drastically affect states and their citizens. Fast forward just a few months to the present, and Congress is still choosing to expand government over freedom and to trample the powers and constitutional sovereignty of states. The recent showdown over government funding has deepened anxiety, as constituents ponder whether lawmakers can manage trillions worth of taxpayers’ money.
The people recognize the federal government’s Goliath-like power and want some constraint. Fortunately, there is a solution that would restore proper balance between states and the federal government. Today, on the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate floors, we will introduce a joint measure that is a very simple and clear amendment to the U.S. Constitution—the Repeal Amendment. It reads:
"Any provision of law or regulation of the United States may be repealed by the several states, and such repeal shall be effective when the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states approve resolutions for this purpose that particularly describe the same provision or provisions of law or regulation to be repealed."
The Constitution preserves the powers of the states and the rights of all people. This amendment provides the mechanism to ensure that these rights granted in the constitution are not infringed. In short, the legislatures of two-thirds of the states can repeal any federal law or regulation.
The sole purpose of the Repeal Amendment is to restore the balance of power in our system of government as provided in the original Constitution, reserving most of the power to the states and the people while still recognizing a federal role.
Currently, states are burdened with unfunded mandates and an ever-increasing federal debt that they are required to repay. Our Founding Fathers, aware that their vision of government was only viable if people have the most power over their lives and their money, anticipated that the federal government would overreach at times. In an effort to safeguard the rights of people and the states, they devised Article V of the U.S. Constitution, which expressly empowers states to call for a convention to propose a specific amendment. The goal of the Repeal Amendment is to force Congress to act in lieu of an amendment convention.
At present, the only way states can dispute a federal law or regulation is to challenge the law in federal court or seek an amendment to the Constitution. A state repeal power provides another constitutional way to reverse abusive congressional acts and administrative regulations without relying on federal judges or permanently amending the Constitution’s text. While this may not be the cure-all in restraining runaway federal power, the threat of repeal – much like the president’s veto power – would deter Congress and power-hungry bureaucrats from interfering with states.
While some critics of the Repeal Amendment argue that any constitutional amendment shows insufficient reverence for that original text, the fact is, the Constitution established a national government that rarely intruded into everyday life. If enacted, this amendment would restore the ability of the states to act on behalf of their citizens, and provide the public an alternate channel of protest when the federal government gets too out of touch.
This isn’t to say that this erosion of power held by states and the people has occurred just within the past few years; it’s been developing for decades. However, it’s certainly fair to say that it’s recently accelerated at an alarming rate. Since 2000, spending on anti-poverty programs surged by 89%, spending on K-12 education exploded 219%, and Medicare spending grew 81%. Thousand page bills are often the norm and federal agencies are given rule writing power for thousands more pages without Congressional oversight. We doubt this is was the vision of America of our Founding Fathers.
While the Repeal Amendment holds great appeal in addressing current controversial policies such as spending and environmental regulations, it would also be available to combat future abuses by Congress. Better yet, it’s one of the most non-partisan issues for this Congress to consider, because it allows state legislatures to check a Republican or Democratic Congress down the line.
We urge our fellow colleagues in the U.S. House and Senate to join us in supporting the Repeal Amendment, and get the government working for the people, not the other way around.
Mike Enzi, a Republican, is a U.S. Senator from Wyoming. Rob Bishop, a Republican, is a U.S. Congressman representing Utah’s 1st district.