“Repeal Amendment” sought to reign in Washington control

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Fueled largely by the controversy over the Obama healthcare measure, a constitutional amendment is being discussed by lawmakers in Washington that would give power to states to nullify federal laws. The so-called “Repeal Amendment” that was first proposed by Randy Barnett, a Georgetown University law professor, is picking up momentum, and according to a story in the New York Times, has support of 12 states and incoming House majority leader Eric Cantor.

Under the proposed amendment, any federal law or regulation could be overturned if two-thirds of states voted to do so.

Passing any constitutional amendment would be difficult however, requiring approval of both chambers of Congress and three-quarters of state legislatures.

Last month Cantor said “Washington has grown far too large and has become far too intrusive, reaching into nearly every aspect of our lives. Massive expenditures like the stimulus, unconstitutional mandates like the takeover of health care and intrusions into the private sector like the auto bailouts have threatened the very core of the American free market. The repeal amendment would provide a check on the ever-expanding federal government, protect against Congressional overreach and get the government working for the people again, not the other way around.”

“This is something state legislatures have an interest in pursuing,” said Barnett, “because it helps them fend off federal encroachment and gives them a seat at the table when Congress is proposing what to do.

Barnett’s proposal was supported by William Howell, the speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates. Howell said the Virginia legislature would consider proposing the amendment when it meets next month in January

A group called RepealAmendment.org says that so far, legislative leaders in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia, were backing the amendment.

Tea party groups are also working to move the amendment proposal forward. Anger at Washington has already ignited discussions about the importance of the 10th Amendment, which gives powers to states not explicitly reserved by the federal government. Both Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney have highlighted the issue.

A constitutional law professor at the University of Texas, Sanford V. Levinson, called the amendment a “real terrible idea” because it gives as much weight to small states as larger, more populous states. “You can bet the ranch that there are enough state legislators in the large states who will not consider it a good idea to reinforce the power of small parochial rural states in which most Americans do not live,” said Levinson.

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