- Supremacy Clause
The Supremacy Clause is the common name given to Article VI, Clause 2 of the
United States Constitution, which reads:
The Supremacy Clause establishes the Constitution, Federal Statutes, and U.S. treaties as "the supreme law of the land." The Constitution is the highest form of law in the American legal system. State judges are required to uphold it, even if state laws or constitutions conflict with it.
While the Supremacy Clause specifically says that "all Treaties made under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the land", Certain treaties are regarded as “self-executing,” that is, independently enforceable, while others are not considered enforceable as domestic law unless Congress has enacted implementing legislation, or "non-self-executing."
Treaties must comply with the Constitution. However, the treaty-making power of the President is broader than the law-making power of Congress. The Supreme Court ruled in "
Missouri v. Holland", ussc|252|416|1920 that pursuant to a treaty with Britain, the United States President, with approval of the Senate, could regulate the hunting of migratory birds, even though Congress had no independent authority to pass such legislation.
There's been some debate (and fear) as to whether or not some of the basic principles of the United States Constitution, such as the country's system of government or Bill of Rights could be affected by an ambitious treaty. Since the constitution states that a treaty has supremacy over "any thing in the Constitution or Laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding," it has been argued that the potential for abuse is present. In the 1950s a constitutional amendment known as the
Bricker Amendmentwas proposed in response to such fears; it would have mandated that all US treaties not conflict with the existing powers granted to the US government. Subsequent legal precedents, notably, "Seery v. United States", 127 F. Supp. 601 (Court of Claims, 1955) and " Reid v. Covert", ussc|354|1|1957, ultimately established some of the limitations sought by the Bricker Amendment.
PGE. v. State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission", ussc|461|190|1983 is a Supreme Court case that lays out a variety of tests that may be used to determine if state statutes are superseded or preempted by federal legislation.
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