In President Barack Obama’s first term, his administration joined with Congress to pass a number of laws that dramatically extended the federal government’s reach into state sovereignty. If his rhetoric is an indication of actions to come, the disturbing practice is going to be amplified. Even more problematic is that if Congress fails to enact the president’s agenda, Obama has flatly stated he will go around them.
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. Attorneys general are tasked with enforcing our states’ laws and upholding the Constitution of the United States. Like a referee or an umpire, we are here to ensure the rules aren’t broken.
It is disappointing that the president continues to take actions requiring state attorneys general to defend the rule of law and the personal freedoms of our citizens. From congressional actions pushed by the president, such as the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank, to outright illegal administrative actions, such as those from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department, the greatest challenges attorneys general face stem from the administration’s aggressive strong-arm tactics.
In the State of the Union address, according to National Geographic, “Obama made it clear he intends to act with or without lawmakers” when it comes to environmental regulations. The president is sending a signal that he is prepared to bypass Congress with EPA regulations, forcing our states to carry burdensome mandates that cost taxpayers money and cripple state budgets. This, in turn, hurts business owners, kills jobs and increases the cost to consumers.
This is unacceptable. Regardless of party, when the president and Congress fail to adhere to the Constitution and the rule of law, we as attorneys general must “blow the whistle” in defense of our states.
In March of last year, nine members of the Republican Attorneys General Association issued a report exposing instances where Washington’s policies circumvent the law, the Constitution and the courts. We outlined more than 21 violations and worked together to fight them accordingly.
One of the major successes has been our fight against the Affordable Care Act’s provision that would have allowed the federal government to take away all federal Medicaid matching funds from states that did not participate in the massive expansion of the program. Attorneys general fought that provision among others, and the Supreme Court ruled in our favor, deciding states could not be coerced into Medicaid expansion. While the Affordable Care Act received the most attention in the president’s first term, it served as a mere representation of the continued disdain for the Constitution and for the rights of individual states.
Our Founding Fathers outlined a federalist system that divides authority between the states and the federal government. It is alarming to see the executive so intent on taking sweeping actions that negatively impact state governments and run contrary to the federalist system. We as attorneys general will resist this intrusion and stand ready to intervene on behalf of our states and the rights of our citizens.
Scott Pruitt is the Oklahoma Attorney General and Chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.