Garrett and the Spending Clause
Keith E. Whittington
kewhitt at PRINCETON.EDU
Mon Aug 20 16:43:58 PDT 2001
Currie notes that it is not clear that congressional relief to Savannah would even have been consistent with the Hamiltonian reading of the general welfare clause (225n149). Federal disaster relief might be justifiable on grounds that truly large disasters have direct national economic consequences and therefore their relief is in the "general" welfare (which would be more true now than in the early republic, a change in social condition rather than in constitutional principle?), or perhaps that truly large disasters exceed the capacity of subnational governments to address them and therefore a collective scheme of mutual disaster aid in such cases
is in the general welfare. But it seems to me that federal disaster relief does pose problems under original constitutional principles, though I doubt that the Court is the appropriate institution to make the case-by-case distinctions between federal acts that are truly general and those that are merely local.
Sanford Levinson wrote:
> If one takes seriously the "general/local" distinction, then what about federal disaster relief? (As a matter of fact, as David Currie points out, 1 The Constitution in Congress 224, there were proposals to pass a federal aid statute to help out Savannah, Georgia after a 1796 fire destroyed the city, but they failed (by a vote of 52-24) with a number of Republicans denying congressional authority to pass any such legislation. So should an originalist Supreme Court strike down the coerced transfer of wealth from, say, Texas to, say, south Florida to pay for hurricanes, to California to pay for earthquakes, or to Iowa to pay for floods?
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