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Federal-State Relations

- April 27, 2018
Is partisanship putting governance at risk?
Featured Report

States are suing the federal government at a record pace, with Democratic attorneys general trying to block President Trump's policies on the environment, immigration, health care, marijuana and other issues. In addition, some states are defying federal authority by passing laws that counteract policies laid down in Washington. Tensions between the states and federal government are not new — states sued the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama dozens of times — but many governance experts say partisan hostility is at historically high levels. The friction has led to centuries-old questions about the division of power between federal and local authority and whether states have the right to reject policies created in Washington they believe are harmful or unconstitutional. Some states are so upset with what they see as federal budgetary excesses that they are calling for a constitutional convention to curb congressional spending authority. Meanwhile, partisan conflict between state legislatures and municipalities is also growing, with lawmakers sometimes blocking cities from enforcing local ordinances.

Blue State Resistance

President Trump’s plan to send the National Guard to the Mexican border faces Democratic pushback.

Legal Conflict

The administration and California are squaring off over immigration.

State Resistance

Some governors are fighting to protect Medicaid funding.

1790s-1950sFederal authority steadily grows.
1960s–1980sRepublican presidents seek to limit federal control of domestic policy.
1990s–2000sSupreme Court limits federal authority over policies involving states, localities.
2010s–PresentStates aggressively challenge federal power.

Should Congress pass laws preempting state authority?


Michael Greve
Professor of Law, George Mason University.


Mark Pertschuk , Jennifer Pomeranz
Director, Grassroots Change. Professor of Public Health Policy and Management, New York University.


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