Commentary: Empty rhetoric over nullification

The Kansas City StarMarch 18, 2013 

Pumped up on conservative steroids, many Republican legislators in Kansas and Missouri want to send a message to Washington, D.C.

It goes something like this: You can’t tell us what to do.

It’s silly and embarrassing talk, the kind that elected officials on both sides of the aisle too often get involved in.

This time, it’s the GOP, mostly because the two states’ lawmakers can’t stand the fact that President Barack Obama and Congress have passed a health care bill that will affect the states and because Washington might change existing gun laws.

Those two hot-button issues have led lawmakers to introduce bills in both states, essentially aimed at trying to nullify federal laws dealing with health care and guns.

Unfortunately for the state lawmakers, a host of legal scholars point out that these bills would be unconstitutional, a huge waste of time to fight in the courts.

The issue of whether the federal government has the power to do what it’s doing was settled in the Civil War. Remember that event?

And that point was re-emphasized during the segregation of the 1950s and 1960s, when states tried to prevent black people from having the rights to vote or go to integrated schools. The feds had to step in there, too.

A lot of the current talk about nullification is empty rhetoric, thrown out by legislators trying to make themselves look big in front of their constituents.

But in reality, the lawmakers lack the courage to take a real stand on nullification.

Here’s how they could do that:

Tell the federal government that Kansas and Missouri are going to turn down the federal money sent their way for roads, education and other governmental programs.

Tell the federal government that, yeah, Kansas and Missouri don’t like what Washington is doing, so we’re going to have to stop following some of the laws you set and, in the meantime, we won’t be a financial burden to you.

Right, that’s going to happen.

Kansas and Missouri are part of the United States of America - with the emphasis on “United.”

All this empty rhetoric about nullification just makes GOP legislators in Missouri and Kansas look like a bunch of idiots, not the best selling point for the states to the rest of the nation.

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