Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Nullification of the Federal government

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The GOP has done all it can as a minority party in the Senate to hold the country and the government hostage and in general see how much damage they can do by refusing to confirm presidential appointments (even when candidates are fully qualified: it’s simply spite), require super-majorities for any actions in the Senate, block legislation through holds as much as possible, and so on. Kevin Drum takes a look in his Mother Jones column:

In the 19th century, the theory of nullification, and the crisis it provoked, was all about states rights. Nullification advocates argued that the constitution was a compact between sovereign states, and therefore states could choose to ignore federal laws that they considered unconstitutional.

The Civil War largely put an end to this clash, but in the 21st century there’s a new theory of nullification. This one, though, isn’t about a conflict between states and the federal government. It’s about a conflict within the federal government. There isn’t yet any modern-day John Calhoun to articulate this new theory of nullification in detail, but the nickel version is pretty simple: it says that a single senator can nullify a duly passed statute of the United States.

In one sense, this is just the latest front in the Republican war against executive branch nominees of the Obama administration. But until now, that war has been merely an escalation: more nominees are being filibustered than ever before, creating logjams in the federal court system and a shortage of leadership in the executive branch. It’s a big problem, but nothing has actually been shut down because of it.

That’s now changing. Republicans are refusing to allow votes on President Obama’s nominee to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and on his nominees to fill vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board. In both cases, the Republican refusal is explicity aimed at shutting down these agencies. In the case of the CFPB, it’s because the law that created it gives certain powers to its director, and without a director those powers can’t be exercised. In the case of the NLRB, it’s because they can’t function at all unless a minimum of three out of five seats are filled. When Craig Becker, already a recess appointment because of a  Republican filibuster last year, finishes his term at the end of 2011, only two seats will remain filled and the NLRB will grind to a halt.

Republicans make no bones about why they’re doing this. They opposed the CFPB from the start, and they’re now using the filibuster as a way of unilaterally preventing it from operating even though it was lawfully created by a vote of Congress and signed into law by the president. Likewise, they’re afraid the NLRB is about to make some rulings they dislike, so they’re using the filibuster as a way of shutting it down by denying it a quorum. Since, in practice, a single senator can place a hold on a nominee, this means that a single senator is now able to shut down an entire agency of the federal government simply out of dislike for what it’s doing. . .

Continue reading. I think this will play a significant part in the continuing decline of the US: once the government cannot govern, things go to hell quickly.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 December 2011 at 7:27 am

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