• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court resurrected and expanded the concept of state sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment when it held that Congress had no authority to require state and local governments to pay the minimum wage to public employees, but the Court overturned this decision in 1985.

In 1974 Congress amended the Fair Labor Standards Act so that its minimum-wage and maximum-hour standards were binding on state and local governments. By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court held that the amendments unconstitutionally infringed on the sovereign powers reserved to the states in the Tenth Amendment. Speaking for the Court, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist,Rehnquist, William H.;National League of Cities v. Usery[National League of Cities v. Usery] who had long been a proponent of states’ rights, argued that Congress could not use its powers over interstate commerce to regulate the “States as States,” and that “one undoubted attribute of state sovereignty” is the right of the states is to decide the salaries to be paid to state employees.Salaries;state employees In a dissent, Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., denounced the decision as “a catastrophic judicial body blow at Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause.” The Usery decision was of great symbolic importance because it appeared to resurrect notions of pre-1937 dual federalism.Tenth Amendment;National League of Cities v. Usery[National League of Cities v. Usery]Commerce clause;National League of Cities v. Usery[National League of Cities v. Usery]

In Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority[case]Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority[Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority] (1985), Justice Harry A. Blackmun switched his position, so that the justices voted five to four to reverse the Usery holding. The Court, however, resurrected the Tenth Amendment as a restraint on Congress in United States v. Lopez[case]Lopez, United States v.[Lopez, United States v.] (1995) and Printz v. United States[case]Printz v. United States[Printz v. United States] (1997).

Federalism

Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority

Lopez, United States v.

Printz v. United States

Tenth Amendment

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