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Supremacy Clause - Further Readings

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Article VI, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution is known as the Supremacy Clause because it provides that the "Constitution, and the Laws of the United States … shall be the supreme Law of the Land." It means that the federal government, in exercising any of the powers enumerated in the Constitution, must prevail over any conflicting or inconsistent state exercise of power.

The concept of federal supremacy was developed by Chief Justice JOHN MARSHALL, who led the Supreme Court from 1801 to 1835. In MCCULLOCH V. MARYLAND, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 316, 4 L. Ed. 579 (1819), the Court invalidated a Maryland law that taxed all banks in the state, including a branch of the national bank located at Baltimore. Marshall held that although none of the enumerated powers of Congress explicitly authorized the incorporation of the national bank, the NECESSARY AND PROPER CLAUSE provided the basis for Congress's action. Having established that the exercise of authority was proper, Marshall concluded that "the government of the Union, though limited in its power, is supreme within its sphere of action."

After the Civil War, the Supreme Court was more supportive of STATES' RIGHTS and used the TENTH AMENDMENT, which provides that the powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states or to the people, to justify its position. It was not until the 1930s that the Court shifted its position and invoked the Supremacy Clause to give the federal government broad national power. The federal government cannot involuntarily be subjected to the laws of any state.

The Supremacy Clause also requires state legislatures to take into account policies adopted by the federal government. Two issues arise when STATE ACTION is in apparent conflict with federal law. The first is whether the congressional action falls within the powers granted to Congress. If Congress exceeded its authority, the congressional act is invalid and, despite the Supremacy Clause, has no priority over state action. The second issue is whether Congress intended its policy to supersede state policy. Congress often acts without intent to PREEMPT state policy making or with an intent to preempt state policy on a limited set of issues. Congress may intend state and federal policies to coexist.

Some federal legislation preempts state law, however, usually because Congress believes its law should be supreme for reasons of national uniformity. For example, the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (WAGNER ACT) (29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq.) preempts most state law dealing with LABOR UNIONS and labor-management relations.

In Pennsylvania v. Nelson, 350 U.S. 497, 76 S. Ct. 477, 100 L. Ed. 640 (1956), the Supreme Court developed criteria for assessing whether federal law preempts state action when Congress has not specifically stated its intent. These criteria include whether the scheme of federal regulations is "so pervasive as to make the inference that Congress left no room for the States to supplement it," whether the federal interest "is so dominant that the federal system [must] be assumed to preclude enforcement of state laws on the same subject," or whether the enforcement of a state law "presents a serious danger of conflict with the administration of the federal program."


Federalism; Preemption.

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about 9 years ago

The 10 Amendment is part of the Constitution. The Supremacy Clause is part of the Constitution.They are not in conflict.

The Supremacy Clause cannot possibly undermine the 10th Amendment or change it.

The Supremacy Clause states that "The Constitution and the laws made in pursuance thereof etc"

Well the 10th Amendment is a part of the Constitution and an unchangeable law of the Constitution.

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almost 10 years ago

The states have every right to tax state banks. Perhaps not federal banks but who is to say that every bank today is not a federal bank, Does Congress tax federal banks?

Federal law does not preempt state law when federal law is unconstitutional or causes harm to the soverign state. There are many federal laws harmful to the states

National uniformity is often times a ruse and it is prevalent in the courts rulings

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almost 10 years ago

The states are free to ignore and do not have to take into account anything they consider unconatitutional

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almost 10 years ago

The constitution and the laws made in pursnace thereof:

The supreme courts decisions are not absolutely final in constitutional questions touching upon the retained powers of the soverign states.

Few remember the constitutional challenges that the states could pose to the routine and ruinous dictations endured at the hands of the federal government.

There is still the doctrines of interposition, nullification, and the 10th amendment.

Furthermore the state legislatures have the authority to overturn the mandates of the supreme court but have either forgotten this or been bullied into submission. State governments have the authotity to protect themselves at the state level from unconstitutional measures at the federal level.

The states formed a compact which excludes the federal government and are perfectly capable of interpreting the constitution as well as the supreme court.

These institutions formed by the states are answerable to them which of course is not the case.

The Framers intended the extent of the federal powers and it is not for these powers to define their own scope and accrue powers never delegated to them.