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Dissenting Opinions

Mr. Justice Marshall, with whom Mr. Justice Blackmun joins, dissenting.

The Social Security Act's categorical assistance programs, including the Aid to the Aged, Blind, or Disabled (AABD) program involved here, are fundamentally different from most federal legislation. Unlike the Fair Labor Standards Act involved in last Term's decision in Employees v. Department of Public Health and Welfare, 411 U.S. 279 (1973), or the Federal Employers' Liability Act at issue in Parden v. Terminal R. Co., 377 U.S. 184 (1964), the Social Security Act does not impose federal standards and liability upon all who engage in certain regulated activities, including often-unwilling state agencies. Instead, the Act seeks to induce state participation in the federal welfare programs by offering federal matching funds in exchange for the State's voluntary assumption of the Act's requirements. I find this basic distinction crucial: it leads me to conclude that by participation in the programs, the States waive whatever immunity they might otherwise have from federal court [*689] orders requiring retroactive payment of welfare benefits.[1]

In its contacts with the Social Security Act's assistance programs in recent years, the Court has frequently described the Act as a "scheme of cooperative federalism." See, e. g., King v. Smith, 392 U.S. 309, 316 (1968); Jefferson v. Hackney, 406 U.S. 535, 542 (1972). While this phrase captures a number of the unique characteristics of these programs, for present purposes it serves to emphasize that the States' decision to participate in the programs is a voluntary one. In deciding to participate, however, the States necessarily give up their freedom to operate assistance programs for the needy as they see fit, and bind themselves to conform their programs to the requirements of the federal statute and regulations. As the Court explained in King v. Smith, supra, at 316-317 (citations omitted):

"States are not required to participate in the program, but those which desire to take advantage of the substantial federal funds available for distribution to needy children [or needy aged, blind or disabled] are required to submit an AFDC [or AABD] plan for the approval of the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). The plan must conform with several requirements of the Social Security Act and with rules and regulations promulgated by HEW."

So here, Illinois elected to participate in the AABD program, and received and expended substantial federal funds in the years at issue. It thereby obligated itself to comply with federal law, including the requirement of former 42 U.S.C. §1382 (a)(8) that "such aid or assistance shall be furnished with reasonable promptness to all eligible individuals." In Townsend v. Swank, 404 U.S. 282, 286 (1971), we held that participating States must strictly comply with the requirement that aid be furnished "to all eligible individuals," and that the States have no power to impose additional eligibility requirements which exclude persons eligible for assistance under federal standards. Today's decision, ante, at 659-660, n. 8, properly emphasizes that participating States must also comply strictly with the "reasonable promptness" requirement and the more detailed regulations adding content to it.

In agreeing to comply with the requirements of the Social Security Act and HEW regulations, I believe that Illinois has also agreed to subject itself to suit in the federal courts to enforce these obligations. I recognize, of course, that the Social Security Act does not itself provide for a cause of action to enforce its obligations. As the Court points out, the only sanction expressly provided in the Act for a participating State's failure to comply with federal requirements is the cutoff of federal funding by the Secretary of HEW. Former 42 U.S.C. §1384 (now 42 U.S.C. §804 (1970 ed., Supp. II)).

But a cause of action is clearly provided by 42 U. S. C. § 1983, which in terms authorizes suits to redress deprivations of rights secured by the "laws" of the United States. And we have already rejected the argument that Congress intended the funding cutoff to be the sole remedy for noncompliance with federal requirements. In Rosado v. Wyman, 397 U.S. 397, 420-423 (1970), we held that suits in federal court under §1983 were proper to enforce the provisions of the Social Security Act against participating States. Mr. Justice Harlan, writing for the Court, examined the legislative history and found "not the slightest indication" that Congress intended to prohibit suits in federal court to enforce compliance with federal standards. Id., at 422.

I believe that Congress also intended the full panoply of traditional judicial remedies to be available to the federal courts in these §1983 suits. There is surely no indication of any congressional intent to restrict the courts' equitable jurisdiction. Yet the Court has held that "unless a statute in so many words, or by a necessary and inescapable inference, restricts the court's jurisdiction in equity, the full scope of that jurisdiction is to be recognized and applied." Porter v. Warner Holding Co., 328 U.S. 395, 398 (1946). "When Congress entrusts to an equity court the enforcement of prohibitions contained in a regulatory enactment, it must be taken to have acted cognizant of the historic power of equity to provide complete relief in light of the statutory purposes." Mitchell v. DeMario Jewelry, 361 U.S. 288, 291-292 (1960).

In particular, I am firmly convinced that Congress intended the restitution of wrongfully withheld assistance payments to be a remedy available to the federal courts in these suits. Benefits under the categorical assistance programs "are a matter of statutory entitlement for persons qualified to receive them." Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254, 262 (1970). Retroactive payment of benefits secures for recipients this entitlement which was withheld in violation of federal law. Equally important, the courts' power to order retroactive payments is an essential remedy to insure future state compliance with federal requirements. See Porter v. Warner Holding Co., supra, at 400. No other remedy can effectively deter States from the strong temptation to cut welfare budgets by circumventing the stringent requirements of federal law. The funding cutoff is a drastic sanction, one which HEW has proved unwilling or unable to employ to compel strict compliance with the Act and regulations. See Rosado v. Wyman, supra, at 426 (Douglas, J., concurring). Moreover, the cutoff operates only prospectively; it in no way deters the States from even a flagrant violation of the Act's requirements for as long as HEW does not discover the violation and threaten to take such action.

Absent any remedy which may act with retroactive effect, state welfare officials have everything to gain and nothing to lose by failing to comply with the congressional mandate that assistance be paid with reasonable promptness to all eligible individuals. This is not idle speculation without basis in practical experience. In this very case, for example, Illinois officials have knowingly violated since 1968 federal regulations on the strength of an argument as to its invalidity which even the majority deems unworthy of discussion. Ante, at 659-660, n. 8. Without a retroactive-payment remedy, we are indeed faced with "the spectre of a state, perhaps calculatingly, defying federal law and thereby depriving welfare recipients of the financial assistance Congress thought it was giving them." Jordan v. Weaver, 472 F.2d 985, 995 (CA7 1972). Like the Court of Appeals, I cannot believe that Congress could possibly have intended any such result.

Such indicia of congressional intent as can be gleaned from the statute confirm that Congress intended to authorize retroactive payment of assistance benefits unlawfully withheld. Availability of such payments is implicit in the "fair hearing" requirement, former 42 U.S.C. §1382 (a)(4), which permitted welfare recipients to challenge the denial of assistance. The regulations which require States to make corrective payments retroactively in the event of a successful fair hearing challenge, 45 CFR §205.10 (a)(18), merely confirm the obvious statutory intent. HEW regulations also authorize federal matching funds for retroactive assistance payments made pursuant to court order, 45 CFR §§205.10 (b)(2), (b)(3). We should not lightly disregard this explicit recognition by the agency charged with administration of the statute that such a remedy was authorized by Congress. See Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424, 433-434 (1971).

Illinois chose to participate in the AABD program with its eyes wide open. Drawn by the lure of federal funds, it voluntarily obligated itself to comply with the Social Security Act and HEW regulations, with full knowledge that Congress had authorized assistance recipients to go into federal court to enforce these obligations and to recover benefits wrongfully denied. Any doubts on this score must surely have been removed by our decisions in Rosado v. Wyman, supra, and Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618 (1969), where we affirmed a district court retroactive payment order. I cannot avoid the conclusion that, by virtue of its knowing and voluntary decision to nevertheless participate in the program, the State necessarily consented to subject itself to these suits. I have no quarrel with the Court's view that waiver of constitutional rights should not lightly be inferred. But I simply cannot believe that the State could have entered into this essentially contractual agreement with the Federal Government without recognizing that it was subjecting itself to the full scope of the §1983 remedy provided by Congress to enforce the terms of the agreement.

Of course, §1983 suits are nominally brought against state officers, rather than the State itself, and do not ordinarily raise Eleventh Amendment problems in view of this Court's decision in Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908). But to the extent that the relief authorized by Congress in an action under §1983 may be open to Eleventh Amendment objections,[2] these objections are waived when the State agrees to comply with federal requirements enforceable in such an action. I do not find persuasive the Court's reliance in this case on the fact that "congressional authorization to sue a class of defendants which literally includes States" is absent. Ante, at 672. While true, this fact is irrelevant here, for this is simply not a case "literally" against the State. While the Court successfully knocks down the strawman it has thus set up, it never comes to grips with the undeniable fact that Congress has "literally" authorized this suit within the terms of §1983. Since there is every reason to believe that Congress intended the full panoply of judicial remedies to be available in §1983 equitable actions to enforce the Social Security Act, I think the conclusion is inescapable that Congress authorized and the State consented to §1983 actions in which the relief might otherwise be questioned on Eleventh Amendment grounds.

My conclusion that the State has waived its Eleventh Amendment objections to court-ordered retroactive assistance payments is fully consistent with last Term's decision in Employees v. Department of Public Health and Welfare, 411 U.S. 279 (1973). As I emphasized in my concurring opinion, there was no voluntary action by the State in Employees which could reasonably be construed as evidencing its consent to suit in a federal forum.

"The State was fully engaged in the operation of the affected hospitals and schools at the time of the 1966 amendments. To suggest that the State had the choice of either ceasing operation of these vital public services or 'consenting' to federal suit suffices, I believe, to demonstrate that the State had no true choice at all and thereby that the State did not voluntarily consent to the exercise of federal jurisdiction...." Id., at 296.

A finding of waiver here is also consistent with the reasoning of the majority in Employees, which relied on a distinction between "governmental" and "proprietary" functions of state government. Id., at 284-285. This distinction apparently recognizes that if sovereign immunity is to be at all meaningful, the Court must be reluctant to hold a State to have waived its immunity simply by acting in its sovereign capacity--i. e., by merely performing its "governmental" functions. On the other hand, in launching a profitmaking enterprise, "a State leaves the sphere that is exclusively its own," Parden v. Terminal R. Co., 377 U.S., at 196, and a voluntary waiver of sovereign immunity can more easily be found. While conducting an assistance program for the needy is surely a "governmental" function, the State here has done far more than operate its own program in its sovereign capacity. It has voluntarily subordinated its sovereignty in this matter to that of the Federal Government, and agreed to comply with the conditions imposed by Congress upon the expenditure of federal funds. In entering this federal-state cooperative program, the State again "leaves the sphere that is exclusively its own," and similarly may more readily be found to have voluntarily waived its immunity.

Indeed, this is the lesson to be drawn from this Court's decision in Petty v. Tennessee-Missouri Bridge Comm'n, 359 U.S. 275 (1959), where the Court found that the States had waived the sovereign immunity of the Commission by joining in an interstate compact subject to the approval of Congress. The Court in Petty emphasized that it was "called on to interpret not unilateral state action but the terms of a consensual agreement" between the States and Congress, id., at 279, and held that the States who join such a consensual agreement, "by accepting it and acting under it assume the conditions that Congress under the Constitution attached." Id., at 281-282. Although the congressional intent regarding the sue-and-be-sued clause was by no means certain, the Court held that the surrounding conditions made it clear that the States accepting it waived their sovereign immunity, id., at 280, especially since this interpretation was necessary to keep the compact "a living interstate agreement which performs high functions in our federalism." Id., at 279.

I find the approach in Petty controlling here. As even the dissent in that case recognized, id., at 285 (Frankfurter, J., dissenting), Congress undoubtedly has the power to insist upon a waiver of sovereign immunity as a condition of its consent to such a federal-state agreement. Since I am satisfied that Congress has in fact done so here, at least to the extent that the federal courts may do "complete rather than truncated justice," Porter v. Warner Holding Co., 328 U.S., at 398, in §1983 actions authorized by Congress against state welfare authorities, I respectfully dissent.


^ . In view of my conclusion on this issue, I find it unnecessary to consider whether the Court correctly treats this suit as one against the State, rather than as a suit against a state officer permissible under the rationale of Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908).

^ . It should be noted that there has been no determination in this case that state action is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment. Thus, the Court necessarily does not decide whether the States' Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity may have been limited by the later enactment of the Fourteenth Amendment to the extent that such a limitation is necessary to effectuate the purposes of that Amendment, an argument advanced by an amicus in this case. In view of my conclusion that any sovereign immunity which may exist has been waived, I also need not reach this issue.