All three Wyoming delegates to Congress have signed on as co-sponsors to a proposed constitutional amendment allowing states to veto federal laws and regulations they dislike.
According the Casper Star-Tribune, Rep. Cynthia Lummis said, “I am fighting to return to the rightful owner — the states and the individuals — the power that the federal government has grabbed,” Lummis said in a media release Wednesday. “That is what our founders envisioned, what our Constitution requires and what the people of Wyoming demand.”
There is a noticeable bit of irony in a member of Congress complaining about a “federal power grab.” It’s like the boy who murdered both parents asking the court for mercy because he’s an orphan. If there has been a federal power grab, haven’t these three fault-finders been accomplices to the crime?
But what really ought to demand some explanation is the claim their radical proposal “is what our founders envisioned.” That is true only if what is meant by “our founders” are those who gave us the original Articles of Confederation.” If historical facts have any value in this debate, it should be recalled these “founders” gave us a fatally flawed system of government lasting only a few years.
The Articles of Confederation were enacted by Congress November 15, 1777, ratified March 1, 1781 and then replaced in 1791 by the Constitution we have had now for 220 years. So, to which of these “founders” do our Congress-people refer? Their proposal to allow the states to veto federal law would cause one to believe they consider those who gave us the short-lived Articles of Confederation to have been the founders. The Articles read as does their proposal. Article II says, “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled. Article III continued, “The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other….” That “firm league of friendship” was a failure.
Tongue in cheek but not without relevance is the possibility our Members of Congress are thinking of those who established the Confederacy in 1861 as “founders.” The Preamble of the Constitution of the Confederate States actually sounds like what they have in mind.
We, the people of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Confederate States of America.
In a more common view, the term “founders” of course refers most accurately to those who quickly recognized the weaknesses the Articles of Confederation tossing them out along with the bath water after less than a decade. Under the Articles, regional differences among the states left the nation disabled then as they would today. The founders who gave us the current US Constitution did so after quickly realizing state’s rights were distinct from the common needs of a nation.
Perhaps things have changed so much that the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the Confederacy make better sense to Senators Enzi and Barrasso and Rep. Lummis. It is, however, a dangerous experiment, a form of Russian roulette. The Tea Party that ultimately gave us a Constitution which survived 220 years of wars, depressions, and Manifest Destiny should not be easily discarded by a Tea Party that has been around for only a couple of long years.