PJ Media

The Tenth Amendment: A Rallying Point for Patriots

When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, many citizens understood that freedom was at risk. This was because Obama’s political reputation was already characterized by the pursuit of bigger government, higher taxes, and the kind of “single-payer health care plan” that has led to the medical demise of Britain and Canada.

Thus, shortly after Obama’s inauguration, governors and state legislatures around the country began to talk of states’ rights: a topic that hadn’t been much discussed since the days when approximately 600,000 men, Confederates and Unionists combined, died in the Civil War.

And the focus on states’ rights that began after Obama was sworn into office has not only continued through the first quarter of 2010, but has actually increased. Due in large part to the passage of the stimulus bill and the more recent health care reform, 38 states have passed some type of resolution emphasizing the rights reserved to them in the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. That amendment reads:

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.

The Tenth Amendment was meant to guarantee the federal government stayed within its proper sphere. Therefore, it makes it clear that all powers not explicitly given to the federal government belong to the states, and that all powers belonging to the states actually belong to the people.

Within five weeks after Obama’s inauguration, eleven states attempted passage of preemptive resolutions to avoid the financial burden certain to accompany the passage of Obama’s agenda. These states were Washington, New Hampshire, Arizona, Montana, Missouri, Michigan, Oklahoma, Minnesota, South Carolina, Georgia, and Texas.

While most of the eleven states succeeded in passing resolutions, some, like New Hampshire, did not. But even where the resolutions failed to pass they did not fail to send a message to Washington, D.C. The message was that citizens around the country, both Republican and Democrat, had already seen enough of Obama’s hope and change.

A perfect example of the language of these early resolutions is found in an excerpt from the one passed by South Carolina:

The General Assembly of the State of South Carolina, by this resolution, claims for the State of South Carolina sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the United States Constitution. …

Be it … resolved that this resolution serves as notice and demand to the federal government, as South Carolina’s agent, to cease and desist immediately all mandates … beyond the scope of the federal government’s constitutionally delegated powers.

Throughout the rest of 2009, more and more states ran to the shelter of the Tenth Amendment and passed resolutions declaring the right to exempt themselves from intrusive (and expensive) federal legislation. And while many of the same naysayers who dismissed the tea parties have dismissed some of these resolutions because they weren’t binding, the sheer number of resolutions — binding or not — is hard to ignore.

Moreover, as Obama continues to push his leftist agenda on the nation, some states that initially proposed non-binding resolutions are now revisiting those in order to make them binding. These resolutions commonly carry the language of “state sovereignty” and clearly assert the prerogatives of the state over those of the federal government.

Some states, like Montana, have combined an appeal to the Tenth Amendment with a strict view of the Fourteenth to inform the federal government that firearms manufactured within a state, which are sold and remain within that state, cannot in any way be regulated by the federal government. The preface to Montana’s resolution reads:

An Act Exempting From Federal Regulation Under The Commerce Clause Of The Constitution Of The United States A Firearm, A Firearm Accessory, Or Ammunition Manufactured And Retained In Montana.

While other states, like Tennessee, Utah, and South Dakota, have joined Montana in this endeavor, the state of Wyoming has taken the next step and explicitly outlawed the enforcement of certain federal gun control laws within their borders.

These are incredible resolutions by men and women who are free and who intend to remain that way.

The recent passage of health care reform has pushed Florida, Virginia, Idaho, Minnesota, and others to either refine their resolutions or pass new ones aimed directly at letting states opt out of the health care legislation. For example, days before the new health care legislation survived a vote in the House of Representatives, Idaho Governor C. L. Otter signed the Idaho Health Freedom Act: “Citizens of [that] state won’t be subject to another federal mandate or turn over another part of their life to government control.”

And so the cause of freedom marches on. Through appeals to the Tenth Amendment the federal government is being reminded that the powers not explicitly delegated to it “by the Constitution, nor prohibited by [the Constitution] to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”