Almost immediately after President Obama took office, many Republican politicians seized upon a distorted vision of the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment that would leave America nearly incapable of governing itself. Indeed, top Republicans — including U.S. Senators, governors and members of Congress — have claimed that everything from Social Security to Medicare to federal disaster relief to national child labor laws all violate the Constitution. A similarly erroneous vision of the Constitution has now infected the GOP’s party platform:
We support the review and examination of all federal agencies to eliminate wasteful spending, operational inefficiencies, or abuse of power to determine whether they are performing functions that are better performed by the States. These functions, as appropriate, should be returned to the States in accordance with the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. We affirm that all legislation, rules, and regulations must conform and public servants must adhere to the U.S. Constitution, as originally intended by the Framers. . . . Scores of entrenched federal programs violate the constitutional mandates of federalism by taking money from the States, laundering it through various federal agencies, only to return to the States shrunken grants with mandates attached. We propose wherever feasible to leave resources where they originate: in the homes and neighborhoods of the taxpayers.
The GOP platform closely echoes a brief filed by GOP mega attorney Paul Clement on behalf of several Republican elected officials challenging the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court. According to Clement, because federal revenues are “composed of tax dollars collected from the States’ own residents,” it somehow follows that state governments have a claim on federal revenue. The GOP platform suggests that this claim is so strong that any federal program which grants money to the states is unconstitutional if it also requires the states to comply with certain rules in order to receive that money.
There are many federal programs which fit this description, but the biggest one is Medicaid. Medicaid offers funding to the states to provide health services to the poor. States are free to take this money or to leave it, but they must agree to follow certain rules before they can take the money. In other words, Medicaid is exactly the same kind of grant “with mandates attached” that the GOP finds constitutionally objectionable.
Medicaid also covers more than 62 million Americans, all of whom would lose their health coverage if the GOP’s apparent vision of the Constitution were to prevail.