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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Bipartisan Federalism Alternative?

I am late to the conversation, but at the end of last year and early this year there was a discussion about progressive interest in federalism during the Trump Administration.  The dialogue was rich and substantial, and some good posts to consult as part of that discussion were those by Rick Hills here, Heather Gerken here, and Ilya Somin here.  One of the topics of contention was whether federalism had or could attract bipartisan support in hyper-polarized times.

I want to present an alternative institutional arrangement that has attracted bipartisan support: decentralizing federal power.  I have written about this previously, and blogged about it last month here, here and here.  Several Republicans in Congress have introduced legislation to address this issue, and last week prominent Democratic Representative Tim Ryan from Ohio introduced related legislation (even though previous votes on this issue had been along party lines).

The Republican proposal—unfortunately called the “Drain the Swamp Act of 2017”—suggests that 90 percent of federal officials in Washington D.C. be relocated and relatively soon.  This is a very bad idea.  While I have argued that too many federal officials are in Washington, moving this many this fast is a very bad idea.  The Ryan proposal seems more sensible, asking for a commission to consider the issue and make suggestions.

One of the issues I have addressed in past writings and am addressing in current writings is how decentralizing federal power is both a compliment and substitute to federalism.  The comparison is particularly instructive now, given that decentralizing federal power could attract bipartisan support in a way that federalism might not be.

Posted by David Fontana on April 26, 2017 at 09:03 AM | Permalink

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