“Cease and desist” is the message that Oklahoma state legislators are sending to the federal government.
Fed up, literally, the Oklahoma state legislature passed a resolution claiming sovereignty and rebuking Congress and the Executive Branch for issuing mandates that go beyond their Constitutional powers.
Though largely symbolic, the resolution, passed by the Oklahoma Senate this week, could impact the ability of Oklahoma to use federal tax dollars offered to the state.
Or at least that was the argument Governor Brad Henry (D) cited in vetoing the House version of the bill. The only problem? Bill supporters mustered enough votes to override the veto and keep the measure alive.
The Obama administration’s recent use of resources such as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and a $789 billion economic stimulus package were the impetus behind drafting the resolution. Republican state rep Charles Key, the bill’s sponsor, told the Oklahoman/NewsOK, "We give all this money to all these different entities, including automakers, and now they’re talking about, ‘Well maybe it’s better to let them go bankrupt,’” Key said. "Well, maybe we should have let them go bankrupt before we gave them the money.”
Key said Gov. Henry is “out of step” for vetoing House Joint Resolution 1003, the first attempt at a sovereignty bill. And maybe he is out of step, since the second attempt to muscle through a bill — as House Concurrent Resolution 1028 —passed on a vote of 73-22. It then passed the Senate, led by Sen. Randy Brogdon.
Gov. Henry said this in explaining his veto: “[The bill] alleges, without offering any evidence or explanation, that past and current U.S. leaders may have violated the Constitution and committed crimes against the states and the country.”
States rights advocates have long argued that the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment, which says that powers not delegated to the Federal Government fall “to the states respectively, or to the people,” is regularly ignored as the feds seek to expand their power beyond the traditional Constitutional roles.
Of the roughly 20 duties of the U.S. Government listed in the Constitution, Key said, bailing out financial institutions and automakers is not included.
Gov. Henry said the bill implied that Oklahoma should reject the federal tax dollars offered to the state as part of the President’s stimulus package. It would “prevent our tax dollars from being used in Oklahoma to address critical needs in transportation, education, health care, law enforcement, veterans programs and many other vital services beneficial to our state,” he said.
Key denied the claim, insisting that the document was only meant to warn Congress to "get back into their proper constitutional role” (the one that doesn’t include distributing bailout funds) without jeopardizing federal support.
Had Gov. Henry signed the bill commanding the federal government to “cease and desist” actions beyond its constitutional rights, it would have been sent to President Obama and the U.S. Congress, among others. With the Senate’s passage of the resolution, it appears to be back on its way to Washington.
"It has nothing to do with the Obama Administration," said Key in USA Today. His first sovereignty resolution came last year, when George W. Bush was still in the White House.
Given that Oklahoma borders Texas, which itself has been toying with greater independence from Washington, perhaps we’re seeing the beginnings of our own breakaway republic, smack in the middle of the country.
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