South Dakota v. Dole

In South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203, 107 S.Ct. 2793, 97 L.Ed.2d 171 (1987), the state of South Dakota challenged 23 U.S.C. 158, which directed the Secretary of Transportation to withhold a percentage of federal highway funds otherwise allocable to the states if states failed to maintain a minimum drinking-age requirement of 21 years. 483 U.S. at 205, 107 S.Ct. at 2795. The Court noted that Congress may attach conditions on the receipt of federal funds to meet certain policy objectives, including those that Congress could not otherwise meet through direct regulation. Id. at 206-07, 107 S.Ct. at 2795-96. After analyzing whether the minimum drinking-age condition met the four restrictions on the Spending Clause discussed above, the Court noted, "Our decisions have recognized that in some circumstances the financial inducement offered by Congress might be so coercive as to pass the point at which `pressure turns into compulsion.'" Id. at 211, 107 S.Ct. at 2798 (quoting Steward Mach., 301 U.S. at 590, 57 S.Ct. at 892). It further opined: When we consider, for a moment, that all South Dakota would lose if she adheres to her chosen course as to a suitable minimum drinking age is 5% of the funds otherwise obtainable under specified highway grant programs, the argument as to coercion is shown to be more rhetoric than fact. . . . Here Congress has offered relatively mild encouragement to the States to enact higher minimum drinking ages than they would otherwise choose. But the enactment of such laws remains the prerogative of the States not merely in theory but in fact. Id. Thus, the Court once again recognized the coercion doctrine, but found no violation.