A lawsuit challenging Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights raises uncomfortable questions about federalism and the Constitution’s Guaranty Clause.
The Constitution is full of inconvenient provisions. Gun-control advocates struggle to explain the Second Amendment; those favoring federal power must wrestle with the Tenth: “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.”
Here’s a puzzle for the “states’ rights” and “state sovereignty” crowd: the “Guaranty Clause,” Article 4 § 4, which binds the federal government to “guarantee to every state … a republican form of government.”
That clause, like a dormant volcano, rumbled last week in a courtroom in Denver. The sound should worry those who think state prerogatives trump those of the nation.
Since the earliest days of the republic, this clause has been interpreted to mean that when Congress recognizes a state government and admits its members to Congress, it is implicitly finding the state’s government properly “republican.” In fact, when admitting new states to the union, Congress has for more than a century placed in the statute wording finding that the people have adopted a “republican form of government.” Continue reading