A recent article by Governing suggests that despite initial signs of cooperation between state governors and the federal government at the beginning of President Obama’s administration, for the last eight years they’ve been mostly at odds with one another. However, the article also demonstrates that Obama’s efforts to usurp state authority are not unique to his two terms.
Daniel C. Vock writes:
It’s clear now that the Obama years will be remembered as a time when states and the federal government were rarely partners, as Obama had envisioned, but mostly adversaries.
But these years might also be remembered as a time when an administration seemingly hobbled by opposition in Congress and in the states regained its footing through executive actions and the pursuit of new partners. It’s a shift that could have long-lasting lessons for governing in an era of divided politics.
Vock cites the Affordable Care Act and federal air pollution regulations as examples of where the states have clashed with the feds. The Justice Department also recently warned states they could lose federal education funding if they don’t accept Obama’s new transgender bathroom rules.
However, Vock notes that in the past many policies promoted by Republican President George W. Bush preempted state laws as well:
By one count, Bush signed more than two dozen federal laws that preempted state initiatives, while agencies under his control blocked states from taking action on the regulation of banking, greenhouse gas emissions and drug labels.
It is fitting then that Vock’s article concludes with a quote by John Dinan, a Wake Forest University law professor and editor of Publius, a journal on federalism.
Presidents are fundamentally concerned about substantive policy goals and outcomes. Federalism is at best — at best — a secondary consideration.
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