On the heels of a recent poll that said 29 percent of registered voters believe an “armed revolution” may be needed in America to restore liberties, a second poll said Americans already have figured out a solution – reject federal laws that are unconstitutional.
Now it appears that on issues ranging from Obamacare to guns, from South Carolina to Pennsylvania, lawmakers are listening, and “nullification” is entering legislative language.
At Alabama’s AL.com, a report noted that nullification was tried when Washington ordered desegregation.
The report said nullification efforts today are not only in the Deep South but from Washington state to Pennsylvania. Alabama is one of at least 39 states that have passed various laws attempting to exempt themselves from having to implement Obamacare.
Arizona and Alabama have passed controversial immigration laws aimed at regulating illegal immigration, but key provisions in both have been struck down.
In addition, many states have adopted, or are working on, various plans to nullify federal gun restrictions.
A Washington Times editorial said supporters of nullification “see it as a necessary and effective tool to protect states and citizens from the every-growing power of the federal government.”
The Times noted the first advocates of the idea were Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who drafted the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, which declared, “Whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.”
The Times noted even liberals are joining the trend. In California, the state Senate has joined dozens of other states in approving legislation designed to prevent the president from executing the indefinite detention provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act.
In addition, Washington and Colorado have ignored federal law and approved the legal use of marijuana.
Fox News reported that in Missouri, a proposal declares all federal gun regulations unenforceable.
State Rep. Doug Funderburk said: “We have the authority to enforce these laws. We are trying to position us so that we in this state can have safer neighborhoods.”
The New American reported South Carolina advocated for states’ rights – and responsibility – in opposing Obamacare. Under the proposed law, the state itself would sue on behalf of patients who may be endangered by Obama’s health care plan.
The proposal said: “Whenever the attorney general has reasonable cause to believe that a person or business is being harmed by implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and that proceedings would be in the public interest, the attorney general may bring an action in the name of the state against such person or entity causing the harm…”
The Tenth Amendment Center called the fact that the South Carolina assembly is willing to make constitutional determinations on a federal act already ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court is “historic.”
A commentary by the non-profit tea party group FreedomWorks noted the federal government “only has about 30 enumerated powers delegated to it in the Constitution.”
According to the Tenth Amendment, any issue not found in the U.S. Constitution should be left up to individual states to decide.
Now, FreedomWorks said, the United States has “gone grossly astray,” with the federal government “involved in nearly every aspect of our daily lives from what foods we put into our bodies to what we’re allowed to watch on television.”
FreedomWorks said the attitude was expressed by Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., when he said, “The federal government can do most anything in this country.”
The earlier poll on armed revolution was by Fairleigh Dickinson University. It said that among Republicans, 44 percent think armed revolution soon might be needed.
On the general question of “nullification,” 44 percent believe states should have the right to block any federal laws they disagree with on legal grounds. Thirty-six percent disagree and 20 percent are undecided, the pollsters said.
Historically, nullification has been used as a legal argument to overturn federal legislation of all kinds, including slavery laws, but has never succeeded. The U.S. Supreme Court contends that under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, federal law is superior to state law and that federal courts have the final say on interpreting the Constitution.
But Michael Boldin, founder of the Tenth Amendment Center, said there are many ways to nullify a law.
“The courts can strike a law down. The executive branch could refuse to enforce it. People in large numbers might refuse to comply. A number of states could pass a law making its enforcement illegal. Or a number a states could refuse to cooperate in any way with its enforcement.”
During the 2012 election alone, nearly a dozen states voted on measures that snubbed Washington’s authority, ranging from marijuana to Obamacare.
As WND reported, Arizona and Montana reviewed proposals that would set up standing state commissions to review “all existing federal statutes, mandates, and executive orders” to determine their constitutionality.
The commissions would recommend to state lawmakers whether or not any particular federal plan should be nullified in that state.
Weighing in on the subject, WND columnist Walter Williams argued that “moral people” can’t rely only on courts to determine what is right and wrong.
“Suppose Congress enacted a law – and the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional – requiring American families to attend church services at least three times a month,” he wrote. “Should we obey such a law? Suppose Congress, acting under the Constitution’s commerce clause, enacted a law requiring motorists to get eight hours of sleep before driving on interstate highways. Its justification might be that drowsy motorists risk highway accidents, and accidents affect interstate commerce. Suppose you were a jury member during the 1850s and a free person were on trial for assisting a runaway slave, in clear violation of the Fugitive Slave Act. Would you vote to convict and punish?
“A moral person would find each one of those laws either morally repugnant or to be a clear violation of our Constitution. You say, ‘Williams, you’re wrong this time. In 1859, in Ableman v. Booth, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 constitutional.’ That court decision, as well as some others in our past, makes my case. Moral people can’t rely solely on the courts to establish what’s right or wrong. Slavery is immoral; therefore, any laws that support slavery are also immoral. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, ‘to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions (is) a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.’”
The Tenth Amendment Center’s perspective on nullification: