As said in the title:

Can the US states veto laws approved by the Congress?

For instance, the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 while it gave 90% of the funding from a Highway Trust Fund, however, required the states to pay the remaining 10%. Now, the Highway Act was a popular law, but I assume sometimes laws passed by the Congress that require the states to pay money are disliked by the respective states.

In those cases, I can't understand the relation between Congress and the states. And another important question arises:

What if the laws passed by a state legislature have contrasting points to the ones passed by the US Congress?

2 Answers 2


If states don't like a piece of Federal legislation they have 3 options:

1) Simply not comply. This will result in the Federal Government withholding disbursements to the state and other tit for tat things.

2) Present the case that the legislation exceeds Federal powers and is unconstitutional and hope the Supreme Court accepts that position.

3) Get enough states to rally behind the cause and have a Constitutional Convention to change the constitution. This has never been done.

  • Thank you for your answer...it states neatly what the US states can do in order to reject Congress legislation. In regard to the second question, what happens if states legislation is in contradiction to the one passed by the Congress? Feb 13, 2019 at 12:59

So, Article VI, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution says

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

However, the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution says

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Between these two statements it can be hard to determine when the federal government takes precedence over the state governments. What you need to look at is the Enumerated Powers Clause from Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution which gives the Congress the power, among other things

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States (emphasis mine), and with the Indian Tribes;

This is what allows the Congress to create legislation that orders the States to provide for some of the roads that the federal government builds, because it affects interstate commerce.

It should also be noted that another official name for the Act is the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act. Part of the reasoning for the law was to provide for quick movement between Air Force bases during war, as well as an efficient method of evacuating cities in the event of a nuclear attack. You can read more about the Act at

The Interstate Highway System

Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956

  • 1
    I might make this into an answer if I have time, but wanted to add - ultimately the Federal Government has the authority to enforce its laws on states by force, e.g. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Rock_Nine. Obviously it won't do this if it can be avoided. Feb 12, 2019 at 17:19
  • Thank you, guys, for your answers. But what if state laws have contrasting points to a newly passed law by the US Congress? Feb 13, 2019 at 13:19
  • The short answer is federal government takes precedence and if the State disagrees then @ClintEastwood's answer applies. For more indepth answers with citations that really should be asked as a separate question.
    – RWW
    Feb 13, 2019 at 16:02

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