Federal Power vs. State Power

Posted: November 30th, 2013





Federal Power vs. State Power

The constitution divided the national and state powers, giving each side specific obligations and authority. The federal and state governments share some powers, but they each have a definite role to play. Over the years, federal power has grown relative to the power of the states. The constitution has enabled the federal government to take over some of the powers that the state had, and create new powers. This has led to the overlapping of power between the federal and state agencies (Donovan et al. 28). Opinions over the exercise of power by the federal governments, in the states are divided. Some people feel that the states have the right and capability of making their own decisions and laws, and implementing them. They feel that there should be minimal interference from the federal government in the running of state affairs. Other people feel that there should be more involvement of the federal government in the states, for the sake of the country’s unity. Despite opinion supporting minimal interference from the federal government at the state level, federal power continues to grow relative of the state powers.

The constitution has enabled the growing power of the federal law, which is based on the constitution, over the state laws. The constitution defines some of the laws of the federal government. The supremacy clause, Article VI section 2 of the constitution states, “This constitution and the laws of the United States which shall be made…and all treaties made or shall be made…shall be the supreme law of the land, and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby…” When matters of conflict arise between different laws, the federal law applies because it is supreme to the state laws (Bardes et al. 85). The supremacy clause preempts the state laws, if the state laws act as obstacles to the execution and fulfillment of the federal laws (Donovan et al. 33).

The necessary and proper clause, or the elastic clause, also gives more power to the federal government. Article 1 section 8 of the constitution states, “Congress shall have the power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or office thereof.” This clause clarifies the powers of congress, as it gives it the right to do whatever it considers necessary in executing its functions. The clause has enabled the federal government to deal with problems with the framers of the constitution did not anticipate (Bardes et al. 83). In addition, it has increased the authority of the federal government. The clause has enabled the expansion of the federal government. It has enabled the federal government to create its own law enforcement agencies, whose powers supersede those of the states law enforcement agencies (Lulin).

Other than the constitution, the federal government derives its powers from exercising inherent powers, which are not specifically mentioned in the constitution. The state authorities recognize the importance and power of the federal authority when dealing with other countries. As a sovereign country, only the national government has the authority to discuss national matters and affairs with other countries (Bardes et al. 84). This authority has further contributed to the increase of federal power. The federal government has the sole authority in declaring war, acquiring territory, and making treaties with other nations. Such roles cannot be designated to the state authorities. The importance of these actions adds to the increasing powers of the federal government.

Works Cited:

Bardes, A. Barbara et al. American Government and Politics Today 2008: The Essentials. New York, NY: Cengage Learning, 2008. Print

Donovan, Todd et al. State & Local Politics: Institutions & Reform: The Essentials. New York, NY: Cengage Learning, 2011. Print

Lulin, Michael. The Power of the Federal Government Relative to the States. 2007. Web. 14 Sep. 2012


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