Congressional Preemption: Regulatory Federalism. By Joseph F.
Zimmerman. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006. 288p. $70.00
cloth, $24.95 paper.
The adoption by Congress of major statutes regulating the environment,
workplace, and consumer transactions, beginning in the mid-1960s, has been
seen by critics as granting too much authority to the federal government
at the expense of the states. The critique of federal social regulation
initiatives questions not only whether such policy interventions can be
justified per se, but as importantly, whether congressional preemption
itself is appropriate. Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan sought
specific legislative and policy changes aimed at shifting formal authority
away from Congress and back to the states—a “new
federalism” to reverse the expansion of federal authority. At least
rhetorically (though not necessarily substantively), President George W.
Bush has taken a similar stance. But the perceived need to check federal
authority is not the sole purview of conservatives; President Jimmy Carter
supported a significant program of economic deregulation, and President
Bill Clinton oversaw initiatives to devolve federal authority as part of a
broader reform of federal public management practices.