Federalism and Executive Order

July 29, 1998
In May, President Clinton issued an executive order that may substantially change the constitutional notion of federalism, and yet most Americans probably have never heard of it. Executive Order 13083 was ironically issued from Birmingham, England while the president was visiting King George's turf. It specifies new "Federalism Policymaking Criteria."

How does that change the Constitution? Well, we have to understand what the framers of the Constitution intended. Simply put, the Constitution (and especially the tenth amendment) teach that any power not explicitly given to the federal government is reserved for the states and the people.

President Clinton's executive order throws out that principle and replaces it with nine broad and vague situations that would justify unilateral federal action to override the authority of the states. Consider some of the circumstances that justify federal intervention: "When there is a need for uniform national standards." Think of all the fuss right now for national educational standards and the push for the national ID card.

Another reason for federal intervention is: "When states have not adequately protected individual rights and liberties." Does that include sexual preference? Does that include the idea of children's rights?

Well, I think you can see the problem. For over 200 years the Constitution has provided a clear distinction between powers delegated to the national government, and powers and rights that are reserved by the states. With the stroke of a pen, the president erased that fundamental distinction of federalism. Congress or the Supreme Court need to do something to return federalism back to the Constitution.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.

© 1998 Probe Ministries International