The following is an extract from Lesson 2 of An Introduction to the U.S. Congress. You can get all of the lessons here: https://cffad.org/topic/#congress-part-1
When thinking about how to create a system of checks and balances, some of the framers were worried that the new national government could become too tyrannical if its powers were too centralized. In the end, they came up with a two-part solution that addressed the balance of power between the federal government and the states and the balance of power within the federal government itself. We address the first in this post.
Between the federal government and the states. The first part of their solution was to create a strong federal government with limited powers while leaving the states and the people generally sovereign in all other powers. The state governments would maintain their local connections to their citizens and represent them indirectly in the U.S. Senate, thus resolving the issue of distance. (To learn more, check out our course on U.S. Federalism.) The overall effect was to create a system of separate and shared powers between the federal government and the states.
- Most notably, the 10th Amendment reserves for the states all powers not explicitly delegated to the federal government, nor denied to the states, by the U.S. Constitution.
- This separation of powers is accompanied by a few shared (or concurrent) powers. See Article 1, Section 10.
- The federal government can check (stop) state policies that rely on powers constitutionally delegated to the federal government – if the Appellate Courts or the Supreme Court agrees.
The states can stop federal policies that rely on powers not explicitly denied to the state governments – or that are unconstitutional in some other way – if the Appellate Courts or the Supreme Court agrees.