By The Enterprise-Journal, McComb, Miss.
McCOMB, Miss. —
One of the dumbest ideas in a while to come down the pike of the Mississippi Legislature — a frequent source of dumb ideas — has thankfully been shelved. A House committee chairman wisely used the pocket veto to kill a proposal to create a legislative mechanism to defy the federal government’s authority.
Republican Rep. Scott Delano should be commended for his prudence. It was a refreshing contrast to some members in his party — notably Reps. Gary Chism and Jeff Smith and Gov. Phil Bryant — who have pushed this wacky idea of nullification, which is not only unconstitutional but has earned Mississippi national ridicule.
Chism and Smith wanted their fellow lawmakers to create a Joint Legislative Committee on the Neutralization of Federal Laws to review existing federal laws and executive orders and recommend those to be ignored. Then, under the proposal, if the full Legislature concurred, Mississippians would not be obligated to abide by these federal dictates.
This nullification idea, which Bryant also has supported, is the old states’ rights argument in new clothing — an argument that has caused great misery in Mississippi ever since the Civil War and fostered a national image of a backward, recalcitrant state.
Prompting this latest display of defiance is the unpopularity among tea partiers and other conservatives to some of the policies and priorities of President Obama, particularly those dealing with health care and gun control.
It is fine for conservatives to challenge the ideas of the Democrat in the White House, but there are proper venues for doing so — Congress and the federal courts. What states can’t do, and what Chism, Smith and Bryant were pretending they can, is ignore federal law or pretend it has no more weight than state law. That is simply untrue. When a state law and federal law are in conflict, the federal law always take precedence unless it is revoked by Congress or overturned by the federal courts.
Before Bryant and his legislative friends further encourage law-breaking by citizens of this state, they should refresh their memories on the oaths of office they took. They swore, among other things, to uphold the U.S. Constitution, which gives supremacy to the federal government. What part of that oath didn’t they understand?