Liberty and Union
Liberty and Union
House Chambers, Washington, D.C.
February 15, 2017
One of the most troubling aspects of California’s lurch to the left are the rise of two doctrines unknown in this country since the last gasp of the Southern Confederacy.
The first is the doctrine of nullification – the notion that states may defy federal laws that their leaders don’t agree with. The most outspoken advocate of this doctrine was John C. Calhoun, who, in referencing our nation’s most revered document – the Declaration of Independence -- observed that our nation had been founded on – his words – “self-evident lies.”
The doctrine of nullification has been revived in the sanctuary cities movement, and has now reared its head as state legislation. Our Constitution clearly gives Congress the sole prerogative to make immigration law and commands the President to faithfully execute those laws. Our President is now doing so. The supremacy clause binds the states to those laws. Yet California’s legislature is actively considering a bill that would assert an independent power to defy them.
Mr. Speaker, states ought to be jealous guardians of their organic powers and prerogatives against unwarranted encroachments by the federal government. But the very essence of constitutional federalism is article VI: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and of all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges of every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or Laws of any state to the Contrary notwithstanding.”
If a state, in rightfully guarding its powers, believes that a federal law unconstitutionally infringes on those powers, the Constitution provides that the courts shall resolve such disputes. But asserting the power to nullify a federal law that is clearly within enumerated powers of the Congress and under the supremacy clause of the Constitution, crosses a bright line that no state has breached since the first state seceded in 1861.
This brings us to the second, even more disturbing development in California’s march to the extreme left.
There is no single act which more ultimately and categorically rejects our Constitution, our Country, and all they stand for, than a proposal to secede from the Union that has preserved our liberties for nearly two and a half centuries. It is logically impossible to support secession and yet maintain loyalty to the Union from which you propose to secede. Secession is the ultimate act of disloyalty, today no less than during the days of the Confederacy.
And yet in California, a formal secession movement is now circulating petitions for signature to place exactly such a proposal on the ballot. It should come as no surprise that one of its leading proponents is an American expatriate now living in Russia who declared he “could no longer live under an American flag.” It should not even come as a surprise that the movement is cheered on by California’s increasingly radical left.
But what came as a stunning surprise is that 32 percent of Californians support this measure according to a recent poll. Let me repeat that: one in three Californians, according to this poll, want to repudiate our federal union.
We can only hope that the polling is wrong, or that the disaffected Californians who answered the poll in this fashion did so with reckless abandon that calm reflection will cure. But it is impossible to avoid the implication that so many people in my afflicted state hold so little loyalty to our country that they would support a measure that willfully rends it asunder.
These movements – nullification and secession – cross from lawful dissent to lawless rebellion. In these turbulent times, our greatest strengths are our rule of law, our constitutional institutions, and the loyalty of Americans to their priceless legacy of freedom and justice and the Union that preserves them.
Every person who takes office under our Constitution swears an oath to support and defend that Constitution. These modern resurrections of the long- buried doctrines of nullification and secession strike at the heart of that Constitution. These movements of the left would undermine the very foundation of our American civilization. They ought to be condemned in the strongest possible terms and opposed by every American of good will who remains loyal to our free government.