Practical Federalism: ‘First Line of Defense Against Intrusive Federal Executive Should Be Congress’

Practical Federalism: ‘First Line of Defense Against Intrusive Federal Executive Should Be Congress’

In his introductory remarks at a forum Saturday focused on the principles of federalism as viewed by the Framers, American Principles Project (APP) education director Emmett McGroarty told 175 attendees in New Hampshire that, while both federal and state elected officeholders are charged with maintaining the structure of the Constitution, many are complicit in its destruction.

“The first line of defense against an intrusive federal executive should be Congress,” McGroarty said at the forum that was sponsored by Breitbart News and Cornerstone, as well as APP. “Unfortunately, recourse to federal legislators on state issues is available more in theory than in practice.”

McGroarty explained the Framers planned that state legislatures would provide pushback against intrusions by the federal government, one of the “checks” in the system of constitutional checks and balances.

“However, the federal government has engineered ways to cut the state legislatures out of the decision-making process,” he said. “It gives state executive agencies short periods of time in which to decide whether to pursue federal funding, and rarely does it give them enough time to truly understand the implication of taking the money and certainly not enough time to brief the state legislatures.

“And remember, it is a state’s legislature – not the federal government – that should be shaping the activities of the executive,” McGroarty reminded.

Observing that governors publicly invite federal dollars while dismissing the strings attached, McGroarty said this amounts to “short-term funding in exchange for long-term obligations.”

“We have seen this in Medicaid expansion, in the proposed universal child-care plans, and in the Common Core testing programs,” he noted. “Many governors have even gone so far as to name federal programs as if they were their own idea.”

McGroarty described the “carrot-and-stick” system used by the federal government to lure state agencies into signing onto the federal agenda, a deceptive practice that often gives citizens the impression a decision has been made by a state agency.

“The federal government reduces the governors and state agencies to supplicants more responsive to it than to the state’s legislators and its citizens,” he said.

McGroarty continued:

A divide-and-conquer dynamic is at work here. Federal officeholders and office-seekers occasionally have to respond to harms done to one group of citizens on one issue or another, but they are not called to task on the root cause. They are not being asked, “What have you done to stand at the constitutional line and protect against federal overreach?  Let’s look at your record on the full set of issues:  Have you merely been an enabler in this ever-increasing federal intrusion? What will you do, if elected?”

“We are down to the last check and balance to protect our liberties,” McGroarty warned. “It is the American people themselves.”


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