Supreme Court to Weigh California Law on Humane Treatment of Pigs
Mar 29, 2022
Federalism | BRI’s Homework Help Series
This Homework Help narrative explores the history of the Founding of the U.S. and the reasons why federalism was created as an important part of our constitutional system. The video challenges viewers to consider this question: why we have a system with local, state, and federal laws?
This lesson includes a variety of activities and primary source excerpts, providing students with a comprehensive study of federalism. Through the Constitution’s system of federalism, power is divided between national and subnational governments. Federalism allows citizens to make policy decisions at state and local levels. Decentralization draws individuals out of private life and compels civic engagement.
What is a Federal Republic?
The delegates to the Constitutional Convention embraced the difficult duty of crafting a government that appropriately distributed the power between the national government and the states. For the Founders, the principle of federalism was a means of protecting liberty by limiting and dividing government power. This lesson explores the principle of federalism, how it is constructed in the Constitution, and the relationship between national and state powers.
Interstate Commerce & The Constitution
Under the Articles of Confederation, states would impose tariffs on each other. The Constitution solved this issue by ending that practice and granting the power to regulate interstate commerce to Congress. How has the Commerce Clause been interpreted since then?
The Commerce Clause and the Expanding Powers of Congress
During the first century of the United States, the Congress acted upon the powers delegated to it by the Constitution, particularly those enumerated in Article I, Section 8. While this entailed some regulation by the national government, most economic policies were enacted at the state and local levels, and the federal government exercised little regulation of the economy. In the decades that followed the Civil War, the scope of power of Congress would grow exponentially. This expansion of power was fueled by new interpretations of the Commerce Clause in Article I, Section 8, which empowered Congress to “regulate interstate commerce.” However in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries it was interpreted to justify a regulatory state that encompassed almost every aspect of American public life. These interpretations were confirmed and expanded by a series of Supreme Court decisions. The Supreme Court allowed Congress to exercise new powers in the name of commerce and to delegate its regulatory authority to the executive. In recent years there has been more resistance to this course of expansion. The Supreme Court more narrowly defined what commerce is and restricted the scope of congressional power. This has been further advanced by rules changes in the House of Representatives that require new bills to be more closely aligned with the enumerated powers of the Constitution.