Devolution The shift toward greater power and responsibility for the national

Devolution the shift toward greater power and

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Devolution? The shift toward greater power and responsibility for the national government has not gone unchallenged. Political party goals have played a role in the debate. For most of the twentieth century, Democrats supported increasing the power of the federal government in order to advance national policies in areas ranging from child labor laws and education to Social Security and health care. Republicans, in contrast, generally opposed these policies and favored states taking responsibility for such issues. They often articulated their opposition to increased federal power in terms of a defense of state authority in a federal system. However, when Republican Ronald Reagan tried to reduce the role of the national government in domestic programs and return responsibility to the states, few officials at either the state or national levels agreed with him. Despite their objections, Reagan’s opposition to federal spending on domestic programs, together with the huge
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federal deficits of the 1980s, forced Congress to reduce federal funds for state and local governments. In the 1994 elections, Republicans captured Congress, the first time in 40 years that they had majorities in both houses. Their rhetoric centered on devolution, the transferring of responsibility for policies from the federal government to state and - local governments. They followed their rhetoric with action by, for example, repealing federal speed limits, allowing states more latitude in dealing with welfare policy, and making it more difficult for state prisoners to seek relief in federal courts. Devolution: Transferring responsibility for policies from the federal government to state and local governments. Soon, however, Republicans became less concerned with abstract principles of devolution and more concerned with adopting a pragmatic approach to federalism in achieving their goals. They found turning to the federal government—and restricting state power—the most effective way to achieve a wide range of policy objectives, including loosening economic and environmental regulations, controlling immigration, setting health insurance standards, restricting the expansion of government-financed health care coverage, stiffening penalties for criminals, extending federal criminal penalties, limiting class-action lawsuits, and tracking child-support violators.16 In 2001, George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act, the largest expansion of the federal role in education since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and a policy that allowed more federal intrusion into a state domain than almost any other in U.S. history. Many states complained loudly about the problems and the cost of implementing the legislation. Currently, Republicans want to preempt state power to prevent Democratic cities from becoming sanctuary cities. (Meanwhile, Democrats are fighting to protect state and local rights to resist Trump administration policies against sanctuary cities.) In recent decades, then, Republicans in Congress and in the White House have been just as willing to limit state power as have Democrats. Republicans are more
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