WE recently noted state efforts to nullify federal laws are a dead end, a waste of state resources that won't overturn bad federal policies.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is pursuing a better alternative. In his role as chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association, Pruitt recently authored a column in Roll Call decrying the recent passage of laws “that dramatically extended the federal government's reach into state sovereignty” and vowed to fight them in court.
“As attorneys general and chief legal officers for our states, it is our duty to stand as the last line of defense against this overreach,” Pruitt said. He specifically criticized Obamacare and Dodd-Frank financial legislation, two laws he has challenged, as well as “outright illegal administrative actions” conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department.
More than a year ago, Pruitt noted, nine members of the Republican Attorneys General Association issued a report alleging 21 instances where federal policies circumvent “the law, the Constitution and the courts.” Those attorneys general are now fighting that overreach in court.
While previous efforts to have Obamacare declared unconstitutional fell short, Pruitt said the resulting ruling allowed states to opt out of Medicaid expansion, an important victory.
Pursuit of legal challenges is a legitimate venue for combating federal overreach, as are efforts to repeal bad laws through legislative means. Neither process provides immediate gratification; victories often come piecemeal and slowly accrue. But that is the nature of the democratic process in a diverse nation, and the outcome is far better than anything that would come from nullification efforts.
That point was recently emphasized by David Barton, president of WallBuilders, in a thorough, heavily footnoted review of the history of nullification. He concluded nullification “is a dangerous anarchic maldoctrine, cancerous and toxic to the health and vigor of a constitutional republic.”