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Federalism, Individual Rights, and the Conditional Spending Conundrum

Laura S. Jensen
Polity
Vol. 33, No. 2 (Winter, 2000), pp. 259-282
DOI: 10.2307/3235490
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3235490
Page Count: 24
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Federalism, Individual Rights, and the Conditional Spending Conundrum
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Abstract

The conditional spending power, or the ability of Congress and the executive to attach conditions to grants in aid and entitlement programs, has become a vital source of authority to monitor and regulate the activites of both the states and individual citizens. If there were meaningful political or legal limits upon the conditional spending power, it would be no more problematic than any of the other policy mechanisms available for achieving Federal ends, but such limits presently do not exist. As a consequence, conditional aid may function to promote state sovereignty and the rights of citizenship, but it also may serve to undermine them. Contrary to recent developments ostensibly limiting the reach of Federal regulatory authority, arguably coercive and even unconstitutional applications of conditional aid are supported and encouraged by both the federal judiciary and contemporary politics. This article explains how and why this is the case, and assesses prospects for reform.

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