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Missouri v. Holland

    Brief Fact Summary. A federal treaty attempted to regulate the killing of migratory birds within the United States. A state claims the treaty violates its Tenth Amendment rights.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Congress has the power to enter into treaties. Even if an activity is not within Congressional control, it will still be valid as a necessary and proper means of exercising the treaty power, so long as it falls within the scope of an otherwise valid treaty.

    Facts. The United States and Great Britain entered into the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (the Act), which governed the migration of birds between the United States and Canada. The treaty prohibited the killing or capture of certain birds within the United States. Missouri claimed the treaty violated its Tenth Amendment rights.

    Issue. If the subject matter of a treaty is not traditionally under the control of Congress, but the treaty is otherwise valid, will the treaty still be valid and binding on the states?

    Held. Yes. Judgment affirmed.
    Congress has explicit power to enter into treaties. The migration of birds is a national problem and so can be solved with a national solution. The Tenth Amendment rights of states will not prevent the government from solving this serious national problem.
    Under the Supremacy Clause, a treaty takes precedence over contrary state laws because it becomes a part of the supreme law of the land.

    Discussion. The treaty power gives the United States a broad range of authority to enter into agreements with other nations in areas that otherwise would be outside of congressional co


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