Republicans Invoke 18th Century Doctrine to ‘Nullify’ Health Care Law
BOISE, Idaho – Republican lawmakers in nearly a dozen states are reaching into the dusty annals of American history to fight President Obama’s health care overhaul.
They are introducing measures that hinge on “nullification,” Thomas Jefferson’s late 18th-century doctrine that purported to give states the ultimate say in constitutional matters.
GOP lawmakers introduced such a measure Wednesday in the Idaho House, and Alabama, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, Nebraska, Texas and Wyoming are also talking about the idea.
The efforts are completely unconstitutional in the eyes of most legal scholars because the U.S. Constitution deems federal laws “the supreme law of the land.” The Idaho attorney general has weighed in as well, branding nullification unconstitutional.
“There is no right to pick and choose which federal laws a state will follow,” wrote Assistant Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane.
Regardless of the very dubious constitutional nature of the efforts, the nullification push has become a rallying cry in conservative states at a time when anti-government angst is running high and “state’s rights” are a popular belief among the tea party crowd.
Delegates at Idaho’s Republican convention last year urged seizure of federal lands and resurrection of the gold standard. Conservatives in Montana lined up the out the door of a legislative committee room last week to speak in favor of a bill that would make sheriffs the supreme local authorities, another measure widely believed to be unconstitutional.