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Uneasy nullification debating

This would not seem to be, and rationally shouldn’t be, a part of current Northwest political debate. But mull over this quote: “Our states have neither more nor less power than that reserved to them in the Union by the Constitition – no one of them ever having been a state out of the Union. The original ones passed into the Union even before they cast off their British colonial dependence; and the new ones each came into the Union directly from a condition of dependence …”

You’ll note that analysis: The states did not exist before the union did; before the union, they were colonies. This is what a plain reading of history tells us. (There is an excellent point-by-point description of this in Garry Wills’ fine book A Necessary Evil, among many other places.) And the quote? That came from Abraham Lincoln, a Republican the last we checked. And whose actions pretty much put paid to the whole nullification concept almost 150 years ago.

Except in Idaho (a territory Lincoln helped bring into being), which is what this has to do with politics today in the Northwest. Plain facts misunderstood, to a truly eye-rolling degree, led today in the Idaho House to some of the most peculiar and poorly thought-out legislative debate we’ve ever heard on the floor of a legislative chamber in the region.

The measure in question is House Bill 117, which in essence says that Idaho won’t obey the 2010 federal health care law. Its statement of purpose said “The purpose of this legislation is to declare the two federal laws: Public Law 111-148 and Public Law 111-152, void and of no ef fect in the state of Idaho.” The bill passed the House 49-20 – overwhelmingly.

Veteran Representative JoAn Wood remarked that “we have the right to dissent,” as of course we all do. Her remark, in this context, suggests that we also all have the right to pick and chose which laws we want to obey.

Representative Tom Trail asked whether the state could simply decide unilaterally to not obey any number of other federal laws (notably unfunded mandates). Sponsor Representative Vito Barbieri didn’t seem to answer directly, but by implication his answer was yes: “I do not believe that states are creatures of the federal government … the states voluntarily joined the compact with respect to the other states.” (Which as noted above, wasn’t the case.)

Trail wryly responded, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

The ethics-troubled Representative Phil Hart extensively quoted the Declaration of Independence as the founding document for the nation. It wasn’t; the constitution was. Barbieri said in his closing argument that “This issue was resolved in the Nuremberg trials” – comparing intended nullification of a federal law aimed at extending health care to resistance to Nazi holocaust orders.

The vote, as noted, wasn’t close. The bill goes for action next to the Idaho Senate.

ALSO A suggested trailer bill for this one: A secession bill.

ALSO A Facebook comment from Coeur d’Alene City Council member Mike Kennedy (also cross-posted on the Huckleberries blog): “I think I’ll make a motion at our next City Council meeting to nullify Idaho’s sales tax formula and keep our revenue here locally.”

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3 Comments

  1. willNeuhauser willNeuhauser February 16, 2011

    Perhaps they think we are governed by the Articles of Confederation, rather than the US Constitution which replaced the Articles as unworkable in creating an effective government (from whence the phrase, “to form a more perfect union”).

  2. paineite paineite February 21, 2011

    Thanks for the great analysis of the “nullification” claptrap by our bozo so-called legislators here in Idaho State. MUCH appreciated!

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