Legislation declaring President Obama’s health care law null and void in the state of Missouri recently passed in the state’s House of Representatives.
House Bill 1534, which has now moved to the Senate, passed the House 108-44. None of the nays were cast by Republicans.
Cosponsored by Rep. Andrew Koenig (R-St. Louis), the bill also states any federal officials attempting to enforce Obamacare may face criminal penalties including jail time.
“I’m just tired of our rights being trampled. I think the federal government is trying to do some things that are unconstitutional,” said Koenig.
Patrick Ishmael, a policy analyst at the Show-Me Institute, said the legislation raises serious concerns.
“This seems like an unnecessary piece of legislation,” Ishmael said. “This approach is toxic. There are better ways of trying to mitigate the problems inherent in the law than going this route. I don’t think it’s altogether compelling.”
Despite the much-anticipated Supreme Court ruling on Obama’s law this summer, Missouri legislators say they still see the need for HB 1534.
“We only have two weeks of session left,” Koenig said. “We would have to wait another year before we could even address it. We have to get the conversation moving.”
“It takes the eye off the ball when it comes to making substantial progress in mitigating Obamacare’s inherent constitutional and liberty problems. It’s harmful even to the purposes of educating the public,” he said.
Koenig, says the law is reasonable because all federal officials must respect the state and local laws where they are working.
“It puts in line where the jurisdiction is,” he said. “Even when the FBI comes in, they have to abide by state laws and local laws, and I think that puts things in perspective. A lot of people don’t realize that.”
Matthew Spalding, vice president of American studies at the Heritage Foundation, described this logic as “nonsensical.”
“There have always been some who want to look for a silver bullet: ‘This legislation is so egregious—why can’t we just kill it off?'” Spalding said. “I recognize and can understand the sentiment. Having said that, there really is no constitutional grounds for it. It violates their own theories of constitutional history. It takes their argument against Obamacare and weakens it substantially.”
Supremacy Clause Conflict
Spalding says legal precedent as far back as the nation’s founding demonstrates the illegitimacy of nullification legislation like House Bill 1534. The Supremacy Clause, Spalding said, requires all government officials to swear an oath to the United States Constitution, and the Constitution does not permit the unilateral interference of a state legislature with federal law.
Spalding concludes House Bill 1534 is unconstitutional: “It’s a nullification bill. I don’t see any way around it.”
The Supreme Court case and the upcoming presidential election are two ways to go about defeating Obamacare constitutionally, Spalding said. If the Missouri legislature, or that of any other state, still isn’t pleased, it can call for a Constitutional Convention, he said.
‘An Extraneous Law’
Ishmael, Spalding, and Koenig all agree a federal response is unlikely if the bill passes the Missouri Senate.
“I don’t think the federal government is going to try to do something unless the state tries to do something,” Ishmael said. “And I don’t see what course of action the state can take. It’s an extraneous law.”
Koenig said the federal government would likely get involved only if one of its officials were jailed while enforcing Obama’s law.
“My guess is it probably won’t come to that,” he said. “Hopefully the Supreme Court makes the right decision and Obamacare gets thrown out.”
But were a federal officer jailed for enforcing a federal law, affairs in Missouri would heat up quickly, Spalding said.
“At that point, you’ve got a real problem,” he said. “As president, it’s your job to execute the law, so now there’s a constitutional crisis. Now, Missouri has actually destroyed its cause.”
Casey Cheney ([email protected]) writes from Michigan.
The Heritage Foundation: Nullification—Unlawful and Unconstititional: http://www.heritage.org/research/factsheets/2012/02/Nullification–Unlawful–and–Unconstitutional?query=Nullification:+Unlawful+and+Unconstitutional