Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
The Show Me state, has been making news lately. Unfortunately, the news it has been making has nothing to do with the St. Louis Arch or the baseball Cardinals, but its legislature’s penchant for attempting to nullify Federal laws that it does not agree with. The State of Missouri is working hard to nullify Federal gun laws and Obamacare.
“If you ever wondered what a 21st century nullification crisis would look like, look no further than Missouri. One hundred and forty eight years after the end of the Civil War, the New York Times reports, “the Republican-controlled Missouri legislature is expected to enact a statute next month nullifying all federal gun laws in the state and making it a crime for federal agents to enforce them.” Meanwhile, the Show Me State is doing everything it can to effectively block implementation of the Affordable Care Act.” Daily Kos
I guess Missouri wants to Show the rest of the nation that the Constitution and its Supremacy Clause is not worth the parchment it is written on. In case you are not sure what is meant when a State tries to nullify a Federal law, here is a little primer on the subject.
‘ “Nullification was a 19th century theory, identified most closely with South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun, based on the notion that the states created the Constitution and retained the power to determine whether the federal government complied with limitations on its power. This theory has been universally rejected throughout the course of American history by the courts as inconsistent with the Constitution. As the Constitution’s preamble makes clear, ‘We the People,’ not the states, ‘ordain[ed] and establish[ed] th[e] Constitution.’
“The Constitution’s Supremacy Clause provides that federal law is the ‘supreme Law of the Land,’ and Article III of the Constitution gives to the federal judiciary the power to decide “all cases arising under the Constitution.’ States, thus, cannot simply declare that the acts of the federal government are null and void. But, despite the rock-solid arguments against nullification, state governments continue to press the idea that they have the power to treat certain federal laws as null and void. These arguments, while not new, have no basis in the Constitution.” ‘ Maddowblog
What would make the Missouri state legislature think that they had the power to declare acts of the Federal government null and void, when as suggested by the David Gans quote in Maddowblog, the legal arguments against nullification are “rock solid”? Could politics be at work here? Is it a coincidence that the nullification “movement” has come to popularity since President Obama took office?
I wish I could say that the nullification attempts are restricted to Missouri. However, the states of Texas, Kansas, Mississippi and Arizona have all been involved in attempting to nullify Federal laws. In Missouri, the legislature is attempting to make it a crime for any Federal law enforcement officer to enforce Federal gun laws.
‘ “Like Texas, Mississippi, Arizona and a host of other states, Missouri is seemingly turning to the Confederate Constitution as the law of the land. Hoping to override Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto, Missouri Republicans are aiming at the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause:
Richard G. Callahan, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, is concerned. He cited a recent joint operation of federal, state and local law enforcement officials that led to 159 arrests and the seizing of 267 weapons, and noted that the measure “would have outlawed such operations, and would have made criminals out of the law enforcement officers.”
And not just criminals. As the Times explained, “A Missourian arrested under federal firearm statutes would even be able to sue the arresting officer.” ‘ Daily Kos
The State of Missouri is attempting to turn the Constitution on its head and at the same time, criminalize the actions of sworn Federal law enforcement officers who are just doing their duty. I wonder if the citizens of Missouri understand how much money it will spend defending its actions when the Federal government sues the State of Missouri if their nullification plans come to fruition?
The State of Missouri is also trying its darndest to prevent the Affordable Care Act from being implemented in its state. It is even ordering state officials to not do anything to aid in its implementation. According to the Daily Kos article linked above, the Missouri State legislature is attempting a “de facto” nullification of Obamacare.
‘ “Along with Arizona, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming, Missouri is refusing to enforce the ACA’s new insurance reforms and prohibitions, such as refusing to cover those with pre-existing conditions, using “rescission” to drop coverage for those who become sick, discriminating against women and setting annual or lifetime benefits caps. And while Colorado, California, Oregon and other blue states are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to fund thousands of customer service “navigators,” in Missouri “local officials have been barred from doing anything to help put the law into place.” ‘ Daily Kos
Whether the dispute is about gun laws or health care, it seems that Missouri is showing the country that it won’t sit by and watch its citizens get protected by Federal gun laws or Health care systems. At what point do the hundreds of thousands of Missouri citizens who need health care actually factor into the state legislatures nullification attempts?
When any state has a legitimate beef against a Federal law or policy, it can use the courts to sort out those issues. However, when the state legislature is relying on a 19th century theory that has been universally rejected by the courts, is that legislature actually working on behalf of its citizens? Or is it working on behalf of political or corporate interests? What do you think?