Federalism has moved to the forefront of constitutional analysis in recent years as a narrow majority of the Supreme Court has begun to rein in congressional assertions of authority to legislate in areas viewed as beyond the constitutional grant of power to the federal government. One means of curtailing congressional authority is by enforcing limits on the Commerce Clause, perhaps the broadest of Congress’s regulatory powers. In United States v. Lopez, the Court sent a “constitutional wake-up call” making clear that it would no longer acquiesce in every congressional enactment purportedly adopted as an exercise of the commerce power when it invalidated the Gun-Free School Zones Act. This marked the first time since 1936 that the Court overturned a statute because it exceeded Congress’s authority to regulate interstate commerce. Five years later, in United States v. Morrison, the Court applied it Commerce Clause analysis in striking down a provision of the Violence Against Women Act. The Court held that federalism constrains the federal government’s authority to reach certain areas already subject to state control because “the Constitution requires a distinction between what is truly national and what is truly local.” The notion of mutually exclusive spheres hinted at in Lopez and Morrison overstates the role of federalism in demarcating the authority of the national and state governments.

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