It’s only 28 words long: “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.”
But the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution is having a powerful effect on conservative ideology these days. Libertarian activists are citing the amendment with renewed fervor and many politicians have been heard reciting it recently as well.
“The reality is the Tenth Amendment really defines what the Constitution was supposed to mean,” Michael Boldin, founder of the Tenth Amendment Center, told The Daily Caller.
On Capitol Hill, a group of Republican congressmen recently founded the Tenth Amendment Task Force, with the goal of “Dispers[ing] power from Washington and restor[ing] the constitutional balance of power through liberty-enhancing federalism,” according to their website.
Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, one of the founders of the Task Force, told TheDC that the issue of the Tenth Amendment really resonates right now because of the ideological battle going on in Washington.
“We have an administration for the first time in a long time that is not necessarily pragmatic, but is very philosophical. And it’s sharpened the debate as to what should be the role of the federal government,” he said.
Other members of the Tenth Amendment Task Force include Republican Reps. Marsha Blackburn of Tennesee and Jason Chaffetz of Utah. Bishop insists that their cause is bipartisan and they plan to reach out to Democrats as well.
And it’s not just House Republicans that have a revived interest in the Tenth Amendment. Several state attorneys general are suing the federal government over the new health care bill on Tenth Amendment grounds. Minnesota Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty has voiced support for the importance of the amendment and Virginia Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell has also mentioned the Tenth Amendment favorably.
The Tenth Amendment is particularly popular at the state level. After Barack Obama’s election, a handful of states introduced state sovereignty resolutions, which pledged to fight unconstitutional laws.
States have also rebelled on issues ranging from gay marriage to medical marijuana. After Congress considered adopting a national identification card in 2007, 25 states passed laws in opposition, effectively killing the idea.
The Tenth Amendment is one of the most controversial parts of the Constitution, since many argue that it would require a massive transfer of power from the federal government to the states. Its language forbids the federal government from taking on powers that aren’t assigned to it in the Constitution.