Republican Hypocrisy: On-Again, Off-Again Federalism

Both political parties have issues on which they are systematically rank hypocrites.  Republicans are particularly so on Federalism, or on the power of states vs. the Federal government.

In the last week, an AZ Republican has proposed to defend Federal law against state pre-emption:

A Flagstaff lawmaker is hoping to throw a new roadblock in the path of those who want to legalize marijuana in Arizona.

Only thing is, his plan may be too little – and too late.

The measure by Republican Rep. Bob Thorpe would spell out that any voter-sponsored initiative that proposed anything that conflicts with federal law could take effect only if approved by 75 percent of those who cast ballots. Right now, a simple majority is all that is needed.

Thorpe told Capitol Media Services he has one particular measure in mind: a proposal by the Marijuana Policy Project to get voters here to adopt a Colorado-style law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.

He pointed out that marijuana use remains illegal under federal law. Yet Arizona voters decided in 2010, by a margin of just 4,340 votes, to allow the use of the drug for medical purposes.

Wow, principled stand for the rule of law, right?  Well, just year or so ago the same AZ state Republicans put on the ballot, and got passed, a Constitutional amendment essentially pre-empting large parts of the PPACA, a different Federal law:

Section 2.

A. To preserve the freedom of Arizonans to provide for their health care:

1. A law or rule shall not compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer or health care provider to participate in any health care system.
2. A person or employer may pay directly for lawful health care services and shall not be required to pay penalties or fines for paying directly for lawful health care services. A health care provider may accept direct payment for lawful health care services and shall not be required to pay penalties or fines for accepting direct payment from a person or employer for lawful health care services.

B. Subject to reasonable and necessary rules that do not substantially limit a person's options, the purchase or sale of health insurance in private health care systems shall not be prohibited by law or rule.

And just so it is understood that this is not some populist end-around Republican legislators, these same Republicans passed a bill last year, vetoed by the Governor, to essentially ban enforcement of Federal health care law

Arizona - S 1088, passed House and Senate; vetoed by governor, May 28, 2011. Would oppose any state role in compulsory participation in a health care system or purchase of health insurance; would prohibit any government official from enforcing prohibitions on purchase or sale of health insurance in private health care systems otherwise authorized by the laws of the state; would affirm a right to direct payment or purchase of lawful health care services; would prohibit threats of penalties, fines, taxes, salaries, wage withholding, surcharges or fees to punish or discourage the exercise of such right. Also would establish an Interstate Health Freedom Compact, to unify states opposing the ACA.

In the last several years, I can count at least four "principled" positions taken by AZ Republicans on Federalism:

  1. State law should not pre-empt Federal law (marijuana criminalization)
  2. State law should pre-empt Federal law (Obamacare)
  3. States should enforce Federal laws that we think the Feds refuse to enforce sufficiently aggressively (immigration)
  4. States should prevent the Feds from enforcing Federal law when we think they are being too aggressive in enforcing (Grand Canyon National Park closure during shutdown)

So there you have it.  Pick a position, stick to it.


  1. HenryBowman419:

    States should prevent the Feds from enforcing Federal law when we think they are being too aggressive in enforcing (Grand Canyon National Park closure during shutdown).

    I didn't think the closure of national parks during the "shutdown" was based upon any Federal law.

  2. Onlooker from Troy:

    I'd confidently wager that not a single person in the federal govt has a well-reasoned, consistent set of principles, much less do they act in such a manner. It's the nature of the beast; and always will be. It's part of why it can never truly be "reformed."

    Always just ad hoc nonsense that advances their own interests.

  3. mx:

    Sure it was. Parks require staff to remain open. The Antideficiency Act says that government workers can't work in the absence of an appropriation except for "emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property." Since cleaning the toilets in the Grand Canyon visitors center is not an emergency under even the rather expansive definition administrations have taken when it comes to government shutdowns, the parks were closed.

    Personally, I don't think they went far enough shutting down the government in the absence of appropriations. I would have closed the border crossings and kept only minimal staff on hand for security (and to admit emergency vehicles for mutual aid purposes if necessary). I would have closed US airspace and sent most air traffic controllers home after everyone landed safely (leaving minimal staff for military, law enforcement, and aeromedical flights). And I would have sent home federal meat inspectors, shutting down food processing operations. A shutdown means the government stops operating; that's supposed to be painful for people because the government, in addition to doing a lot of things people find useless, provides a lot of services people use.

  4. Stan:

    "Pick a position, stick to it."

    Individual rights. Done.

  5. TruthisaPeskyThing:

    Each party has its moments of hypocrisy. Each party has more scoundrels than it cares to admit. Now, we could debate which party has more problems in these areas, and I am quite confident of my position which party does and why that party does. However, such debates are quite fruitless. Nevertheless, there is one reason to support Republicans despite that debate and despite your disappointments: Republicans are more likely to choose judges that respect the Constitution. If the government does not respect the constitution but contorts it as it wishes, then individual liberties and rights are endangered. I cannot remember the last time that I saw a Democrat-appointed judge making reference to -- or abiding by -- the 9th or 10th amendment. Those amendments are key to freedom.

  6. markm:

    But they expended more government funds to keep people out of the parks. That isn't following the Antideficiency Act so much as picking and choosing where to cut and where to spend for political effect.

  7. mx:

    Government shutdowns are expensive. Always have been. We paid for back pay for the workers who didn't work during the time of the shutdown along with the overtime to make up for the work they didn't do while they were sent home. No part of the system involves a rational decision to reduce costs.

  8. SortingHat:

    Why do Bush lovers foam on the mouths if you DARE mention any of the negative things Bush did? They will completely gloss over the moment you mention facts about how much Bush spent on the military/industrial complex and they will go on and on about Obama acting as if they are the only mouth piece?

    Most Liberals seem to be able to handle debates on both sides unlike See N N or Fox.

  9. SortingHat:

    I meant Faux!