Opinion: State within its rights to block unconstitutional Obamacare


A.J. Balukoff, Democrat candidate for governor, and a couple of national health care policy analysts disagree on the impact expanding Medicaid would have on emergency room visits.

By Reps. Vito Barbieri and Judy Boyle, and Sens. Monty Pearce, Steve Vick and Sheryl Nuxoll

Too many people are under the mistaken impression that the state government must in every case be a mere rubber stamp of the federal government. We see this year after year and time and time again. Congress passes a law and it is the state governments’ responsibility to implement it with the following result: expensive governmental bureaucracies, new entitlements, and almost naturally, restricted personal freedoms.

The bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. really believe that their superior knowledge is the instrument of an emerging ‘Shangri-La.’ This attitude is killing our state and the principles under which our country was founded. Be it the introduction of predatory wolves, healthcare, mining, air and water quality and myriad other subjects, the federal government has butted into areas not delegated under the U.S. Constitution. We must act. The time is now.

We have proposed a simple, well-reasoned solution that is rooted in America’s history. We propose recognizing the national health care plan for what it is – a vast overreach of federal power. To stop it, we invoke our right to opt-out of the program, to interpose the state between the federal government and its Idaho’s citizens. House Bill 59 is a capsulation of that effort. Our bill simply says that our state government will not recognize the onerous provisions of the health care plan. Under our bill, state agencies and state employees will be forbidden from writing new agency rules, creating new programs or entering into any agreements that further the federal plan.

Under our bill, state agencies and state employees would be forbidden from expending state resources to assist the federal government with the creation of their federal healthcare scheme. Under our bill, the state would be forbidden from accepting or expending federal grants designed to support the federal government’s expansion into the healthcare arena.
In 2010, we took steps to block the unconstitutional health insurance mandate from taking effect here in Idaho, but there has been no effect. For example, the Department of Insurance is still working toward creating the insurance exchanges required by the plan at an expense estimated in the millions of dollars. Idaho must act now to block further work on behalf of the requirements on employers and healthcare providers. This bill does that.

This concept, known as nullification, is not new. It is merely choosing to opt out of a federal requirement. In 1798, the states of Virginia and Kentucky passed resolutions rejecting the federal government’s attempt to make it illegal for Americans to criticize their own government. The states viewed it necessary – even their duty — to interpose themselves between its citizens and a government that was bound and determined to fine and jail people who exercised their first amendment rights against their elected officials. Those state resolutions were penned by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, people who presumably knew a thing or two about the U.S. Constitution.

Critics will assert, incorrectly, that the state either cannot or are foolish to pass legislation blocking the federal government, that such attempts harkens back to a bygone era in the nation’s history. That’s simply not true. The state of Idaho participated in a very successful nullification effort just a few years ago. In 2008, the state Legislature passed a bill rejecting the federal government’s REAL ID act. The state Legislature said at that time that the mandate “appears to be an attempt to ‘commandeer’ the political machinery of the states and to require them to be agents of the federal government. . . . It is within Idaho’s rights to protest the commandeering of its position in the Union by acts of Congress and the President of the United States.”

That vote was unanimous. And Idaho wasn’t alone in that effort. Twenty-two other states moved to block Real ID, and today, we don’t carry around a national ID card. 

We have a chance to do the same with federal health care. The Idaho Legislature must act, here and now, boldly and decisively. If we don’t, forget it. The legislature might just as well buy rubber stamps!

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8 Comments

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  2. fortboise

    If this is the strongest statement this foursome can make–and I have to assume it is, given the friendly venue provided by Mr. Hoffman–color me unimpressed. The nonsense about “rubber stamps” suggests a remarkable lack of actual experience in governance.

    The authors seem to think their role as legislators is a ceremonial one. Another failure of the self-esteem movement, I think.

  3. Steve

    Mr. Hoffman,

    This editorial is just foolish.

    Nullification is a doctrine that has extensive history, none of it pretty.

    South Carolina in 1832 tried to use the doctrine with respect to federal tariffs. President Jackson went so far as to threaten invasion with federal forces — and the state caved. The consequence of not enforcing could have been collapse of the United States.

    In the 1840s, some northern states resisted fugitive slave laws and the Supreme Court asserted federal sovereignty.

    The next wave was Southern efforts which led to the Civil War. This was the doctrine pushed by opponents of Abraham Lincoln, our greatest President.

    In the 1950s, after Brown v. Board of Education, some Southern states tried again and were squashed by the Supreme Court.

    This a doctrine that is tied to efforts to destroy the Union and foster racism. It is a doctrine unworthy of conservatives.

    Our state representatives took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Idaho Constitution. This act is in violation of that oath.

    Nullification is the wrong route to go.

    Electing a new President, defeating the legislation in the Courts and legislative initiatives at the federal level are the proper, constitutional course.

  4. Cheryl

    This part of the Idaho Constitution seems to say Hoffman has no case “ARTICLE I DECLARATION OF RIGHTS, SECTION 3.STATE INSEPARABLE PART OF UNION. The state of Idaho is an inseparable part of the American Union, and the Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land.”

  5. Bill Killen

    The 2008 rejection of the Real ID Act was not an act of nullification as your authors allege. The Idaho’s 2008 bill simply opted out of the Act, an alternative not prohibited by the Act. It resulted in the inability of Federal agencies to accept Idaho’s noncompliant driver’s licenses for ID purposes. In no way did it take the position that the Federal law was being delcared uncostitutional, but rather that it was simply a bad bill and, as contemplated by the bill, we were opting out. Eventually clearer heads prevailed and the bill has begun to wither away. Of interest,during the run up to the 2008 elections both Ron Paul and Barack Obama opposed the bill, whereas Senator McCain supported it.

  6. Hector

    What is wrong with politicians? All this talk about big government and state government and who is a jerk and who is trying to do what to whom.

    If any politician, democrat or republican, has a really good idea about anything that matters – like jobs – they are really good at keeping it a secret. At least health care is trying to help somebody besides the rich corporate types. I think the last thing our government did that was truly impressive was the interstate highway system under Dwight Eisenhower. It is really laughably sad that republicans and democrats criticize each for doing pretty much nothing for the regular citizen. When was the last time a politician from Idaho did anything impressive. I certainly cannot think of anything Crapo or Risch has done that is a great legislative achievement – but then they are pretty much like the rest of them.

  7. Bob

    How is it that my HSA can continue to disallow over the counter purchases as required by obamacare? The law is unconstitutional. There has been no appeal or injunction to force this *unconstitutional* law on us. So how is it that they continue to do that? Lack of backbone?

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