How does the Tenth Amendment limit federal powers?  

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution limits the powers of the federal government to those provided for in the Constitution and its amendments, with all others powers being "reserved" to the individual states and "the people."  There was some discussion about whether or not the word "expressly" should be included so that it would read "expressly delegated," but ultimately that word was not used. This is significant because if the federal government has only expressly delegated powers, it is limited to those that are "listed" in the Constitution, what are called the enumerated powers.  Without the use of that limiting modifier, the federal government has been held to have unenumerated powers, mostly Congress, under what is called the "necessary and proper" clause (Article I, Section 8), which allows Congress to make any laws that are necessary and proper to carry out the enumerated duties, those that are named specifically.  The fact that the necessary and proper clause was included has been interpreted to mean that it includes other powers.   

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, introduced by James Madison, limits the power of the federal government. There was concern that the federal government would have too much power. By adding this amendment, it made it very clear that any power not granted to the federal government was reserved for the state governments. Those who opposed the Constitution were very concerned that the federal government would have too much power and become similar to the government of Great Britain. We had fought to escape the overbearing power of the British government, and these people didn’t want that same situation to occur in the United States.

Some powers that belong exclusively to the state governments include developing educational policy within a state, determining punishments for crimes violating state laws that were committed within a state, and determining trade policies within a state. It should be noted that the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution generally does not mean that a state is exempt from following federal laws that the courts have ruled as constitutional.