Voiding the law of the land?Posted Wednesday, April 27, 2011, at 8:54 AM
Last week, Gov. Butch Otter vetoed a bill passed by the legislature that would have attempted to block portions of the federal health insurance program from being implemented in Idaho.
Otter is no fan of Obamacare -- by any stretch of the imagination. He said in his veto message that he struck down the bill because it would have required Idaho to forego the creation of a health insurance exchange.
But then he turned around and, with the stroke of a pen, issued an executive order that amounted to little more than the ill-conceived concept of nullification. His order prohibits state employees from implementing, assisting or enforcing Obamacare.
In effect, his order said the state intends to ignore the federal law by whatever means are available to it to do so.
Nullification has no legal basis. His own attorney general said so when it issued an opinion to the legislature, where a nullification bill was being debated. It is a concept that would change our nation from a Republic to a confederacy. Even the legislature eventually got the message and voted against it. Otter apparently didn't get the memo.
We agree that Obamacare is horribly flawed and does none of the things that the public wanted in health care reform, such as driving down or capping the skyrocketing costs of health care.
But it is the law of the land, passed by a majority of the elected representatives of the people, and as citizens of this country our compact with the government says we will accept that, even if we don't like it. Congress has never passed a law to which someone didn't object, but our national ethos says that will abide by it until it is changed by appropriate means.
Furthermore, Article VI of the United States Constitution makes it absolutely clear that federal law takes precedent over state law. No matter how much a given state may object to a federal law, they are still required to obey it -- including implementing, assisting and enforcing it.
There are other ways of objecting to a federal law.
First and foremost, you convince enough Americans to elect representatives who will repeal or reform it. That's probably the best way, and the one most in line with the process of democracy, as it is understood and practiced in this country.
Secondly, you can sue in federal court. Idaho did that over key provisions of Obamacare and won (although the appeals are still pending). That's also an appropriate process in this nation.
But what Butch did was to step outside the process, to ignore Article VI of the Constitution, and in doing so to violate his own oath of office to uphold it.
No matter how much he, or anyone else, objects to this or any other law, there are always appropriate remedies under law. This wasn't one of them.
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