Clinton continues assault on the Tenth Amendment

By Tom DeWeese
web posted August 30, 1999

Having been stopped by a firestorm of protest, the President's effort last year to gut the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution with an Executive Order, has returned in the form Executive Order 13132, issued on August 5, 1999. Clinton is once again attempting to destroy the separation of powers.

The Tenth Amendment is particularly important because it specifically says that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." There is nothing wishy-washy about this Amendment. It says what it says and anyone can understand it. If the U.S. Constitution does not grant a specific power to the federal government, it does not have it.

The most power hungry President in the modern era, Bill Clinton, on May 14,1998 issued Executive Order #13083, that attempted to over-ride the 10th Amendment, seizing powers for the federal government not granted by the Constitution. A firestorm of protest forced him to rescind it, but he has now replaced it with a new one, #13132. The new assault on the U.S. Constitution is disguised with innocent-sounding language.

Executive Order #13083 and its transparent replacement are both entitled "Federalism." The Order began with a definition of the 10th Amendment. It listed a host of duties and rights empowered to the States and their individual citizens. Then the President's order described a list of nine broad and vague exceptions granting a justification permitting the federal government to take action based on "matters of national or multi-state scope." In short, for any reason! States would have no alternative but to comply or face federal intervention.

If Clinton's original E.O. succeeded, it would overturn the most important unifying aspect of the United States government. The Constitution was specifically designed to give the States the majority of power, while clearly defining and limiting power to the Federal government.

The Founding Fathers made it abundantly clear that they feared a powerful central government. They took great pains to prevent it. Their idea was to give power to the governments closest to the people. In that way, citizens could be more involved in the process than if decisions were made by nameless, faceless bureaucrats in a far away city. As Ben Franklin said, America is "a Republic, if you can keep it." The Constitution would never have been accepted by the original 13 States without the 10th Amendment.

Bill Clinton's entire tenure in office reveals his intention to restructure the United States through programs like "Sustainable Development" which overturn Constitutionally protected, private property rights. He attempted to socialize American health care. He has used federal power to restructure our local school systems. He came with a mission to reduce American independence and sovereignty in deference to United Nations' global programs. For Bill Clinton, the Constitution of the United States was a major obstacle. The means he chose to overcome it was the flagrant use of the Executive Order.

His troubles began as groups like the American Policy Center sounded the alarm generating a firestorm of protest against E.O. 13083. Finally, as the protests turned to demands that the State governments take action against this usurpation of their powers, action was taken. The National Governors Association, the National Council of Mayors, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, and more took up the fight to stop E. O. 13083.

The White House, unaccustomed to such reaction to one of its Executive Orders, was clearly shaken. On August 5, 1998, Clinton issued a new order to rescind E.O.13083. While many Conservative leaders patted themselves on the back and told their army of activists to "stand down", the real threat began to take shape. The rescinding of E.O. 13083 was a temporary measure. The language of the rescind order stated only that the "Federalism" E.O. was put on hold, "…in order to enable full and adequate consultation with the State and local elected officials…"

If action isn't taken immediately to stop it, E.O. 13132 has all the trappings of a "done deal" because Clinton went about "consulting" with State leaders. This President, who has been described as having lied until "there was no one left to lie to"applied his skills on fellow politicians. The result is that Frank Shafroth of the National Governor's Association and William Pound of the National Conference of State Legislatures said they and their counterparts in the other state and local government associations (often referred to as the Big Seven) are pleased with the outcome. They are now busy doing Clinton's job for him to sell E.O.13132 to state officials!

The order specifies that, where state rules directly conflict with federal law, federal law shall be supreme. That alone puts the E.O. #13132 in direct violation of the 10th Amendment. Moreover, there is no requirement for the agencies to take any action on the suggestions, complaints or input from the State or local officials. They can do literally what ever they want, just as long as they "consult" the States first.

There is hope, however, this new Order, #13132, can be stopped. Most governors and local officials probably have no idea what is really included in the new Order. They are relying on bureaucrats in the "Big Seven" government associations to tell them if the Order is a good one or not. They need to feel a new fire storm of protest from Americans nationwide. So does Congress.

Many in Congress are finally beginning to wake up to the true intent of the flood of Clinton Executive Orders. Congressmen Ron Paul and Richard Metcalf have combined forces to stop Clinton in his tracks. On July 30th they introduced H.R. 2655, "The Separation of Powers Restoration Act." Their bill re-establishes the Constitutional separation between the President and the Congress. H.R.2655 is the next step in the fight to stop Clinton's Executive Orders. In fact, Sections 4 and 5 of the Bill define and limit the authority of the President to issue Executive Orders. For now, E.O.#13132 must be stopped or the nation envisioned in the U.S. Constitution will be changed forever, ceding all power the central government.

Tom DeWeese is president of the American Policy Center, Herdon, Virginia, a grass roots. activist think tank. The Center maintains an Internet site at

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