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*915 It is most implausible that the person who labored for that example of state executive officers' assisting the Federal Government believed, but neglected to mention, that they had a responsibility to execute federal laws. [FN8] **2375 If it was indeed Hamilton's view that the Federal Government could direct the officers of the States, that view has no clear support in Madison's writings, or as far as we are aware, in text, history, or early commentary elsewhere. [FN9]
FN8. Justice SOUTER's discussion of this passage omits to mention that it contains an example of state executives' "essential agency"--and indeed implies the opposite by observing that "other numbers of The Federalist give examples" of the "essential agency" of state executive officers. Post, at 2403 (emphasis added). In seeking to explain the curiousness of Madison's not mentioning the state executives' obligation to administer federal law, Justice SOUTER says that in speaking of "an essential agency in giving effect to the federal Constitution," The Federalist No. 44, Madison "was not talking about executing congressional statutes; he was talking about putting the National Constitution into effect," post, at 2403, n. 2. Quite so, which is our very point.

It is interesting to observe that Story's Commentaries on the Constitution, commenting upon the same issue of why state officials are required by oath to support the Constitution, uses the same "essential agency" language as Madison did in The Federalist No. 44, and goes on to give more numerous examples of state executive agency than Madison did; all of them, however, involve not state administration of federal law, but merely the implementation of duties imposed on state officers by the Constitution itself: "The executive authority of the several states may be often called upon to exert Powers or allow Rights given by the Constitution, as in filling vacancies in the senate during the recess of the legislature; in issuing writs of election to fill vacancies in the house of representatives; in officering the militia, and giving effect to laws for calling them; and in the surrender of fugitives from justice." 2 Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States 577 (1851).

FN9. Even if we agreed with Justice SOUTER's reading of The Federalist No. 27, it would still seem to us most peculiar to give the view expressed in that one piece, not clearly confirmed by any other writer, the determinative weight he does. That would be crediting the most expansive view of federal authority ever expressed, and from the pen of the most expansive expositor of federal power. Hamilton was "from first to last the most nationalistic of all nationalists in his interpretation of the clauses of our federal Constitution." C. Rossiter, Alexander Hamilton and the Constitution 199 (1964). More specifically, it is widely recognized that "The Federalist reads with a split personality" on matters of federalism. See D. Braveman, W. Banks, & R. Smolla, Constitutional Law: Structure and Rights in Our Federal System 198-199 (3d ed.1996). While overall The Federalist reflects a "large area of agreement between Hamilton and Madison," Rossiter, supra, at 58, that is not the case with respect to the subject at hand, see Braveman, supra, at 198-199. To choose Hamilton's view, as Justice SOUTER would, is to turn a blind eye to the fact that it was Madison's--not Hamilton's--that prevailed, not only at the Constitutional Convention and in popular sentiment, see Rossiter, supra, at 44-47, 194, 196; 1 Records of the Federal Convention 366 (M. Farrand ed.1911), but in the subsequent struggle to fix the meaning of the Constitution by early congressional practice, see supra, at 2369-2372.
*916 To complete the historical record, we must note that there is not only an absence of executive-commandeering statutes in the early Congresses, but there is an absence of them in our later history as well, at least until very recent years. The Government points to the Act of August 3, 1882, ch. 376, § § 2, 4, 22 Stat. 214, which enlisted state officials "to take charge of the local affairs of immigration in the ports within such State, and to provide for the support and relief of such immigrants therein landing as may fall into distress or need of public aid"; to inspect arriving immigrants and exclude any person found to be a "convict, lunatic, idiot," or indigent; and to send convicts back to their country of origin "without compensation." The statute did not, however, mandate those duties, but merely empowered the Secretary of the Treasury "to enter into contracts with such State ... officers as may be designated for that purpose by the governor of any State." (Emphasis added.)
The Government cites the World War I selective draft law that authorized the President "to utilize the service of any or all departments and any or all officers or agents of the United States and of the several States, Territories, and the District of Columbia, and subdivisions thereof, in the execution of this Act," and made any person who refused to comply *917 with the President's directions guilty of a misdemeanor. Act of May 18, 1917, ch. 15, § 6, 40 Stat. 80-81 (emphasis added). However, it is far from clear that the authorization "to utilize the service" of state officers was an authorization to compel the service of state officers; and the misdemeanor provision surely applied only to refusal to comply with the President's authorized directions, which might not have included directions to officers of States whose Governors had not volunteered their services. It is interesting that in implementing the Act President Wilson did not commandeer the services of state officers, but instead requested the assistance of the States' Governors, see Proclamation of May 18, 1917, 40 Stat. 1665 ("call[ing] upon the Governor of each of the several States ... and all officers and agents of the several States ... to perform certain duties"); Registration Regulations Prescribed by the President Under the Act of Congress Approved May 18, 1917, pt. 1, § 7 ("[T]he governor [of each State] is requested to act under the **2376 regulations and rules prescribed by the President or under his direction" (emphasis added)), obtained the consent of each of the Governors, see Note, The President, the Senate, the Constitution, and the Executive Order of May 8, 1926, 21 Ill. L.Rev. 142, 144 (1926), and left it to the Governors to issue orders to their subordinate state officers, see Selective Service Regulations Prescribed by the President Under the Act of May 18, 1917, § 27 (1918); J. Clark, The Rise of a New Federalism 91 (1965). See generally Note, 21 Ill. L.Rev., at 144. It is impressive that even with respect to a wartime measure the President should have been so solicitous of state independence.
The Government points to a number of federal statutes enacted within the past few decades that require the participation of state or local officials in implementing federal regulatory schemes. Some of these are connected to federal funding measures, and can perhaps be more accurately described as conditions upon the grant of federal funding than *918 as mandates to the States; others, which require only the provision of information to the Federal Government, do not involve the precise issue before us here, which is the forced participation of the States' executive in the actual administration of a federal program. We of course do not address these or other currently operative enactments that are not before us; it will be time enough to do so if and when their validity is challenged in a proper case. For deciding the issue before us here, they are of little relevance. Even assuming they represent assertion of the very same congressional power challenged here, they are of such recent vintage that they are no more probative than the statute before us of a constitutional tradition that lends meaning to the text. Their persuasive force is far outweighed by almost two centuries of apparent congressional avoidance of the practice. Compare INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919, 103 S.Ct. 2764, 77 L.Ed.2d 317 (1983), in which the legislative veto, though enshrined in perhaps hundreds of federal statutes, most of which were enacted in the 1970's and the earliest of which was enacted in 1932, see id., at 967-975, 103 S.Ct., at 2792-2796 (White, J., dissenting), was nonetheless held unconstitutional.

The constitutional practice we have examined above tends to negate the existence of the congressional power asserted here, but is not conclusive. We turn next to consideration of the structure of the Constitution, to see if we can discern among its "essential postulate[s]," Principality of Monaco v. Mississippi, 292 U.S. 313, 322, 54 S.Ct. 745, 748, 78 L.Ed. 1282 (1934), a principle that controls the present cases.


[4] It is incontestible that the Constitution established a system of "dual sovereignty." Gregory v. Ashcroft, 501 U.S. 452, 457, 111 S.Ct. 2395, 2399, 115 L.Ed.2d 410 (1991); Tafflin v. Levitt, 493 U.S. 455, 458, 110 S.Ct. 792, 795, 107 L.Ed.2d 887 (1990). Although the States surrendered many of their powers to *919 the new Federal Government, they retained "a residuary and inviolable sovereignty," The Federalist No. 39, at 245 (J. Madison). This is reflected throughout the Constitution's text, Lane County v. Oregon, 7 Wall. 71, 76, 19 L.Ed. 101 (1869); Texas v. White, 7 Wall. 700, 725, 19 L.Ed. 227 (1869), including (to mention only a few examples) the prohibition on any involuntary reduction or combination of a State's territory, Art. IV, § 3; the Judicial Power Clause, Art. III, § 2, and the Privileges and Immunities Clause, Art. IV, § 2, which speak of the "Citizens" of the States; the amendment provision, Article V, which requires the votes of three-fourths of the States to amend the Constitution; and the Guarantee Clause, Art. IV, § 4, which "presupposes the continued existence of the states and ... those means and instrumentalities which are the creation of their sovereign and reserved rights," Helvering v. Gerhardt, 304 U.S. 405, 414-415, 58 S.Ct. 969, 973, 82 L.Ed. 1427 (1938). Residual state sovereignty was also implicit, of course, in the Constitution's conferral upon Congress of not all governmental powers, but only discrete, enumerated ones, Art. I, § 8, which implication was rendered express by the Tenth Amendment's **2377 assertion that "[t]he 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."

[5] The Framers' experience under the Articles of Confederation had persuaded them that using the States as the instruments of federal governance was both ineffectual and provocative of federal-state conflict. See The Federalist No. 15. Preservation of the States as independent political entities being the price of union, and "[t]he practicality of making laws, with coercive sanctions, for the States as political bodies" having been, in Madison's words, "exploded on all hands," 2 Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, p. 9 (M. Farrand ed.1911), the Framers rejected the concept of a central government that would act upon and through the States, and instead designed a system in which the State and *920 Federal Governments would exercise concurrent authority over the people--who were, in Hamilton's words, " the only proper objects of government," The Federalist No. 15, at 109. We have set forth the historical record in more detail elsewhere, see New York v. United States, 505 U.S., at 161-166, 112 S.Ct., at 2420-2423, and need not repeat it here. It suffices to repeat the conclusion: "the Framers explicitly chose a Constitution that confers upon Congress the power to regulate individuals, not States." Id., at 166, 112 S.Ct., at 2423. [FN10] The great innovation of this design was that "our citizens would have two political capacities, one state and one federal, each protected from incursion by the other"--"a legal system unprecedented in form and design, establishing two orders of government, each with its own direct relationship, its own privity, its own set of mutual rights and obligations to the people who sustain it and are governed by it." U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779, 838, 115 S.Ct. 1842, 1872, 131 L.Ed.2d 881 (1995) (KENNEDY, J., concurring). The Constitution thus contemplates that a State's government will represent and remain accountable to its own citizens. See New York, supra, at 168-169, 112 S.Ct., at 2424; United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 576-577, 115 S.Ct. 1624, 1638-1639, 131 L.Ed.2d 626 (1995) (Kennedy, J., concurring). Cf. Edgar v. MITE Corp., 457 U.S. 624, 644, 102 S.Ct. 2629, 2641, 73 L.Ed.2d 269 (1982) ("the State has no legitimate interest in protecting nonresident [s]"). As Madison expressed it: "[T]he local or municipal authorities form distinct and independent portions of the supremacy, no more subject, within their respective spheres, to the general authority *921 than the general authority is subject to them, within its own sphere." The Federalist No. 39, at 245. [FN11]
FN10. The dissent, reiterating Justice STEVENS's dissent in New York, 505 U.S., at 210-213, 112 S.Ct., at 2446-2447, maintains that the Constitution merely augmented the pre-existing power under the Articles to issue commands to the States with the additional power to make demands directly on individuals. See post, at 2389. That argument, however, was squarely rejected by the Court in New York, supra, at 161-166, 112 S.Ct., at 2420-2423, and with good reason. Many of Congress's powers under Art. I, § 8, were copied almost verbatim from the Articles of Confederation, indicating quite clearly that "[w]here the Constitution intends that our Congress enjoy a power once vested in the Continental Congress, it specifically grants it." Prakash, Field Office Federalism, 79 Va. L.Rev.1957, 1972 (1993).
FN11. Justice BREYER's dissent would have us consider the benefits that other countries, and the European Union, believe they have derived from federal systems that are different from ours. We think such comparative analysis inappropriate to the task of interpreting a constitution, though it was of course quite relevant to the task of writing one. The Framers were familiar with many federal systems, from classical antiquity down to their own time; they are discussed in Nos. 18-20 of The Federalist. Some were (for the purpose here under discussion) quite similar to the modern "federal" systems that Justice BREYER favors. Madison's and Hamilton's opinion of such systems could not be clearer. The Federalist No. 20, after an extended critique of the system of government established by the Union of Utrecht for the United Netherlands, concludes:

"I make no apology for having dwelt so long on the contemplation of these federal precedents. Experience is the oracle of truth; and where its responses are unequivocal, they ought to be conclusive and sacred. The important truth, which it unequivocally pronounces in the present case, is that a sovereignty over sovereigns, a government over governments, a legislation for communities, as contradistinguished from individuals, as it is a solecism in theory, so in practice it is subversive of the order and ends of civil polity...." Id., at 138.

Antifederalists, on the other hand, pointed specifically to Switzerland-- and its then-400 years of success as a "confederate republic"--as proof that the proposed Constitution and its federal structure was unnecessary. See Patrick Henry, Speeches given before the Virginia Ratifying Convention, 4 and 5 June, 1788, reprinted in The Essential Antifederalist 123, 135-136 (W. Allen & G. Lloyd ed.1985). The fact is that our federalism is not Europe's. It is "the unique contribution of the Framers to political science and political theory." United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 575, 115 S.Ct. 1624, 1638, 131 L.Ed.2d 626 (1995) (KENNEDY, J., concurring) (citing Friendly, Federalism: A Forward, 86 Yale L.J. 1019 (1977)).
**2378 This separation of the two spheres is one of the Constitution's structural protections of liberty. "Just as the separation and independence of the coordinate branches of the Federal Government serve to prevent the accumulation of excessive power in any one branch, a healthy balance of power between the States and the Federal Government will reduce the risk of tyranny and abuse from either front." 501 U.S., supra, at 458, 111 S.Ct., at 2400. To quote Madison once again:

*922 "In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments. Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself." The Federalist No. 51, at 323.

See also The Federalist No. 28, at 180-181 (A.Hamilton). The power of the Federal Government would be augmented immeasurably if it were able to impress into its service--and at no cost to itself--the police officers of the 50 States.

We have thus far discussed the effect that federal control of state officers would have upon the first element of the "double security" alluded to by Madison: the division of power between State and Federal Governments. It would also have an effect upon the second element: the separation and equilibration of powers between the three branches of the Federal Government itself. The Constitution does not leave to speculation who is to administer the laws enacted by Congress; the President, it says, "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed," Art. II, § 3, personally and through officers whom he appoints (save for such inferior officers as Congress may authorize to be appointed by the "Courts of Law" or by "the Heads of Departments" who are themselves Presidential appointees), Art. II, § 2. The Brady Act effectively transfers this responsibility to thousands of CLEOs in the 50 States, who are left to implement the program without meaningful Presidential control (if indeed meaningful Presidential control is possible without the power to appoint and remove). The insistence of the Framers upon unity in the Federal Executive--to ensure both vigor and accountability--is well known. See The Federalist No. 70 (A.Hamilton); 2 Documentary History of the Ratification *923 of the Constitution 495 (M. Jensen ed.1976) (statement of James Wilson); see also Calabresi & Prakash, The President's Power to Execute the Laws, 104 Yale L.J. 541 (1994). That unity would be shattered, and the power of the President would be subject to reduction, if Congress could act as effectively without the President as with him, by simply requiring state officers to execute its laws. [FN12]

FN12. There is not, as the dissent believes, post, at 2396, "tension" between the proposition that impressing state police officers into federal service will massively augment federal power, and the proposition that it will also sap the power of the Federal Presidency. It is quite possible to have a more powerful Federal Government that is, by reason of the destruction of its Executive unity, a less efficient one. The dissent is correct, post, at 2396, that control by the unitary Federal Executive is also sacrificed when States voluntarily administer federal programs, but the condition of voluntary state participation significantly reduces the ability of Congress to use this device as a means of reducing the power of the Presidency.

[6][7][8] The dissent of course resorts to the last, best hope of those who defend ultra vires congressional action, the Necessary and **2379 Proper Clause. It reasons, post, at 2387, that the power to regulate the sale of handguns under the Commerce Clause, coupled with the power to "make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers," Art. I, § 8, conclusively establishes the Brady Act's constitutional validity, because the Tenth Amendment imposes no limitations on the exercise of delegated powers but merely prohibits the exercise of powers "not delegated to the United States." What destroys the dissent's Necessary and Proper Clause argument, however, is not the Tenth Amendment but the Necessary and Proper Clause itself. [FN13] When a "La [w] ... for carrying into Execution" *924 the Commerce Clause violates the principle of state sovereignty reflected in the various constitutional provisions we mentioned earlier, supra, at 2376-2377, it is not a "La[w] ... proper for carrying into Execution the Commerce Clause," and is thus, in the words of The Federalist, "merely [an] ac[t] of usurpation" which "deserve[s] to be treated as such." The Federalist No. 33, at 204 (A. Hamilton). See Lawson & Granger, The "Proper" Scope of Federal Power: A Jurisdictional Interpretation of the Sweeping Clause, 43 Duke L.J. 267, 297-326, 330-333 (1993). We in fact answered the dissent's Necessary and Proper Clause argument in New York: "[E]ven where Congress has the authority under the Constitution to pass laws requiring or prohibiting certain acts, it lacks the power directly to compel the States to require or prohibit those acts.... [T]he Commerce Clause, for example, authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce directly; it does not authorize Congress to regulate state governments' regulation of interstate commerce." 505 U.S., at 166, 112 S.Ct., at 2423.
FN13. This argument also falsely presumes that the Tenth Amendment is the exclusive textual source of protection for principles of federalism. Our system of dual sovereignty is reflected in numerous constitutional provisions, see supra, at 2376, and not only those, like the Tenth Amendment, that speak to the point explicitly. It is not at all unusual for our resolution of a significant constitutional question to rest upon reasonable implications. See, e.g., Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52, 47 S.Ct. 21, 71 L.Ed. 160 (1926) (finding by implication from Art. II, 1, 2, that the President has the exclusive power to remove executive officers); Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc., 514 U.S. 211, 115 S.Ct. 1447, 131 L.Ed.2d 328 (1995) (finding that Article III implies a lack of congressional power to set aside final judgments).
The dissent perceives a simple answer in that portion of Article VI which requires that "all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution," arguing that by virtue of the Supremacy Clause this makes "not only the Constitution, but every law enacted by Congress as well," binding on state officers, including laws requiring state-officer enforcement. Post, at 2389. The Supremacy Clause, however, makes "Law of the Land" only "Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance [of the Constitution]," Art. VI, cl. 2, so the Supremacy *925 Clause merely brings us back to the question discussed earlier, whether laws conscripting state officers violate state sovereignty and are thus not in accord with the Constitution.

Finally, and most conclusively in the present litigation, we turn to the prior jurisprudence of this Court. Federal commandeering of state governments is such a novel phenomenon that this Court's first experience with it did not occur until the 1970's, when the Environmental Protection Agency promulgated regulations requiring States to prescribe auto emissions testing, monitoring and retrofit programs, and to designate preferential bus and carpool lanes. The Courts of Appeals for the Fourth and Ninth Circuits invalidated the regulations on statutory grounds in order to avoid what they perceived to be grave constitutional issues, see Maryland v. EPA, 530 F.2d 215, 226 (C.A.4 1975); Brown v. EPA, 521 F.2d 827, 838-842 (C.A.9 1975); and the District of Columbia Circuit invalidated the regulations on both constitutional and statutory grounds, see District of Columbia v. Train, 521 F.2d 971, 994 (1975). After we granted certiorari to review the statutory and constitutional validity of the regulations, the Government declined even to defend them, and instead rescinded some and conceded the invalidity **2380 of those that remained, leading us to vacate the opinions below and remand for consideration of mootness. EPA v. Brown, 431 U.S. 99, 97 S.Ct. 1635, 52 L.Ed.2d 166 (1977) (per curiam).

[9] Although we had no occasion to pass upon the subject in Brown, later opinions of ours have made clear that the Federal Government may not compel the States to implement, by legislation or executive action, federal regulatory programs. In Hodel v. Virginia Surface Mining & Reclamation Assn., Inc., 452 U.S. 264, 101 S.Ct. 2352, 69 L.Ed.2d 1 (1981), and FERC v. Mississippi, 456 U.S. 742, 102 S.Ct. 2126, 72 L.Ed.2d 532 (1982), we sustained statutes against constitutional challenge only after assuring ourselves that they did not require the States to enforce federal law. In *926 Hodel we cited the lower court cases in EPA v. Brown, supra, but concluded that the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 did not present the problem they raised because it merely made compliance with federal standards a precondition to continued state regulation in an otherwise pre-empted field, Hodel, supra, at 288, 101 S.Ct., at 2366. In FERC, we construed the most troubling provisions of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 to contain only the "command" that state agencies "consider" federal standards, and again only as a precondition to continued state regulation of an otherwise pre-empted field. 456 U.S., at 764-765, 102 S.Ct., at 2140-2141. We warned that "this Court never has sanctioned explicitly a federal command to the States to promulgate and enforce laws and regulations," id., at 761-762, 102 S.Ct., at 2138-2139.
When we were at last confronted squarely with a federal statute that unambiguously required the States to enact or administer a federal regulatory program, our decision should have come as no surprise. At issue in New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144, 112 S.Ct. 2408, 120 L.Ed.2d 120 (1992), were the so-called "take title" provisions of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985, which required States either to enact legislation providing for the disposal of radioactive waste generated within their borders, or to take title to, and possession of, the waste--effectively requiring the States either to legislate pursuant to Congress's directions, or to implement an administrative solution. Id., at 175-176, 112 S.Ct., at 2428. We concluded that Congress could constitutionally require the States to do neither. Id., at 176, 112 S.Ct., at 2428. "The Federal Government," we held, "may not compel the States to enact or administer a federal regulatory program." Id., at 188, 112 S.Ct., at 2435.
The Government contends that New York is distinguishable on the following ground: Unlike the "take title" provisions invalidated there, the background-check provision of the Brady Act does not require state legislative or executive officials to make policy, but instead issues a final directive to state CLEOs. It is permissible, the Government asserts, *927 for Congress to command state or local officials to assist in the implementation of federal law so long as "Congress itself devises a clear legislative solution that regulates private conduct" and requires state or local officers to provide only "limited, non-policymaking help in enforcing that law." "[T]he constitutional line is crossed only when Congress compels the States to make law in their sovereign capacities." Brief for United States 16.
The Government's distinction between "making" law and merely "enforcing" it, between "policymaking" and mere "implementation," is an interesting one. It is perhaps not meant to be the same as, but it is surely reminiscent of, the line that separates proper congressional conferral of Executive power from unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority for federal separation-of-powers purposes. See A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, 295 U.S. 495, 530, 55 S.Ct. 837, 843, 79 L.Ed. 1570 (1935); Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan, 293 U.S. 388, 428-429, 55 S.Ct. 241, 251-252, 79 L.Ed. 446 (1935). This Court has not been notably successful in describing the latter line; indeed, some think we have abandoned the effort to do so. See FPC v. New England Power Co., 415 U.S. 345, 352-353, 94 S.Ct. 1151, 1156, 39 L.Ed.2d 383 (1974) (Marshall, J., concurring in result); Schoenbrod, The Delegation Doctrine: Could the Court Give it Substance?, 83 Mich. L.Rev. 1223, 1233 (1985). We are doubtful that the new line **2381 the Government proposes would be any more distinct. Executive action that has utterly no policymaking component is rare, particularly at an executive level as high as a jurisdiction's chief law enforcement officer. Is it really true that there is no policymaking involved in deciding, for example, what "reasonable efforts" shall be expended to conduct a background check? It may well satisfy the Act for a CLEO to direct that (a) no background checks will be conducted that divert personnel time from pending felony investigations, and (b) no background check will be permitted to consume more than one-half hour of an officer's time. But nothing in the Act requires a CLEO to be so parsimonious; diverting at least *928 some felony-investigation time, and permitting at least some background checks beyond one-half hour would certainly not be un reasonable. Is this decision whether to devote maximum "reasonable efforts" or minimum "reasonable efforts" not preeminently a matter of policy? It is quite impossible, in short, to draw the Government's proposed line at "no policymaking," and we would have to fall back upon a line of "not too much policymaking." How much is too much is not likely to be answered precisely; and an imprecise barrier against federal intrusion upon state authority is not likely to be an effective one.
Even assuming, moreover, that the Brady Act leaves no "policymaking" discretion with the States, we fail to see how that improves rather than worsens the intrusion upon state sovereignty. Preservation of the States as independent and autonomous political entities is arguably less undermined by requiring them to make policy in certain fields than (as Judge Sneed aptly described it over two decades ago) by "reduc[ing] [them] to puppets of a ventriloquist Congress," Brown v. EPA, 521 F.2d, at 839. It is an essential attribute of the States' retained sovereignty that they remain independent and autonomous within their proper sphere of authority. See Texas v. White, 7 Wall., at 725. It is no more compatible with this independence and autonomy that their officers be "dragooned" (as Judge Fernandez put it in his dissent below, 66 F.3d, at 1035) into administering federal law, than it would be compatible with the independence and autonomy of the United States that its officers be impressed into service for the execution of state laws.
The Government purports to find support for its proffered distinction of New York in our decisions in Testa v. Katt, 330 U.S. 386, 67 S.Ct. 810, 91 L.Ed. 967 (1947), and FERC v. Mississippi, 456 U.S. 742, 102 S.Ct. 2126, 72 L.Ed.2d 532 (1982). We find neither case relevant. Testa stands for the proposition that state courts cannot refuse to apply federal law--a conclusion mandated by the terms of the Supremacy Clause ("the Judges in every State shall be bound [by federal *929 law]"). As we have suggested earlier, supra, at 2370, that says nothing about whether state executive officers must administer federal law. Accord, New York, 505 U.S., at 178- 179, 112 S.Ct., at 2429-2430. As for FERC, it stated (as we have described earlier) that "this Court never has sanctioned explicitly a federal command to the States to promulgate and enforce laws and regulations," 456 U.S., at 761-762, 102 S.Ct., at 2138-2139, and upheld the statutory provisions at issue precisely because they did not commandeer state government, but merely imposed preconditions to continued state regulation of an otherwise pre-empted field, in accord with Hodel, 452 U.S., at 288, 101 S.Ct., at 2366, and required state administrative agencies to apply federal law while acting in a judicial capacity, in accord with Testa, see FERC, supra, at 759-771, and n. 24, 102 S.Ct., at 2137-2144, and n. 24. [FN14]
FN14. The dissent points out that FERC cannot be construed as merely following the principle recognized in Testa that state courts must apply relevant federal law because "[a]lthough the commission was serving an adjudicative function, the commissioners were unquestionably not 'judges' within the meaning of [the Supremacy Clause]." Post, at 2401. That is true enough. But the answer to the question of which state officers must apply federal law (only " 'judges' within the meaning of [the Supremacy Clause]") is different from the answer to the question of which state officers may be required by statute to apply federal law (officers who conduct adjudications similar to those traditionally performed by judges). It is within the power of the States, as it is within the power of the Federal Government, see Crowell v. Benson, 285 U.S. 22, 52 S.Ct. 285, 76 L.Ed. 598 (1932), to transfer some adjudicatory functions to administrative agencies, with opportunity for subsequent judicial review. But it is also within the power of Congress to prescribe, explicitly or by implication (as in the legislation at issue in FERC ), that those adjudications must take account of federal law. The existence of this latter power should not be unacceptable to a dissent that believes distinguishing among officers on the basis of their title rather than the function they perform is "empty formalistic reasoning of the highest order," post, at 2392. We have no doubt that FERC would not have been decided the way it was if non adjudicative responsibilities of the state agency were at issue.
**2382 The Government also maintains that requiring state officers to perform discrete, ministerial tasks specified by Congress does not violate the principle of New York because it *930 does not diminish the accountability of state or federal officials. This argument fails even on its own terms. By forcing state governments to absorb the financial burden of implementing a federal regulatory program, Members of Congress can take credit for "solving" problems without having to ask their constituents to pay for the solutions with higher federal taxes. And even when the States are not forced to absorb the costs of implementing a federal program, they are still put in the position of taking the blame for its burdensomeness and for its defects. See Merritt, Three Faces of Federalism: Finding a Formula for the Future, 47 Vand. L.Rev. 1563, 1580, n. 65 (1994). Under the present law, for example, it will be the CLEO and not some federal official who stands between the gun purchaser and immediate possession of his gun. And it will likely be the CLEO, not some federal official, who will be blamed for any error (even one in the designated federal database) that causes a purchaser to be mistakenly rejected.
The dissent makes no attempt to defend the Government's basis for distinguishing New York, but instead advances what seems to us an even more implausible theory. The Brady Act, the dissent asserts, is different from the "take title" provisions invalidated in New York because the former is addressed to individuals--namely, CLEOs--while the latter were directed to the State itself. That is certainly a difference, but it cannot be a constitutionally significant one. While the Brady Act is directed to "individuals," it is directed to them in their official capacities as state officers; it controls their actions, not as private citizens, but as the agents of the State. The distinction between judicial writs and other government action directed against individuals in their personal capacity, on the one hand, and in their official capacity, on the other hand, is an ancient one, principally because it is dictated by common sense. We have observed that "a suit against a state official in his or her official capacity is not a suit against the official but rather is a suit against *931 the official's office.... As such, it is no different from a suit against the State itself." Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71, 109 S.Ct. 2304, 2312, 105 L.Ed.2d 45 (1989). And the same must be said of a directive to an official in his or her official capacity. To say that the Federal Government cannot control the State, but can control all of its officers, is to say nothing of significance. [FN15] Indeed, it merits the description "empty formalistic reasoning of the highest order," post, at 2392. By resorting to this, the dissent not so much distinguishes New York as disembowels it. [FN16]
FN15. Contrary to the dissent's suggestion, post, at 2394-2395, n. 16, and 2399, the distinction in our Eleventh Amendment jurisprudence between States and municipalities is of no relevance here. We long ago made clear that the distinction is peculiar to the question of whether a governmental entity is entitled to Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity, see Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690, n. 55, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 2035, n. 55, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978); we have refused to apply it to the question of whether a governmental entity is protected by the Constitution's guarantees of federalism, including the Tenth Amendment, see National League of Cities v. Usery, 426 U.S. 833, 855- 856, n. 20, 96 S.Ct. 2465, 2476, n. 20, 49 L.Ed.2d 245 (1976) (overruled on other grounds by Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, 469 U.S. 528, 105 S.Ct. 1005, 83 L.Ed.2d 1016 (1985)); see also Garcia, supra (resolving Tenth Amendment issues in suit brought by local transit authority).
FN16. The dissent's suggestion, post, at 2398-2399, n. 27, that New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144, 112 S.Ct. 2408, 120 L.Ed.2d 120 (1992), itself embraced the distinction between congressional control of States (impermissible) and congressional control of state officers (permissible) is based upon the most egregious wrenching of statements out of context. It would take too much to reconstruct the context here, but by examining the entire passage cited, id., at 178-179, 112 S.Ct., at 2429-2430, the reader will readily perceive the distortion. The passage includes, for example, the following:

"Additional cases cited by the United States discuss the power of federal courts to order state officials to comply with federal law.... Again, however, the text of the Constitution plainly confers this authority on the federal courts.... The Constitution contains no analogous grant of authority to Congress." Id., at 179, 112 S.Ct., at 2430.

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