Republican attorneys general: The unsung heroes in challenging the Obama agenda
The July 22, edition of the Weekly Standard features a cover story on the Republican attorneys general, The Last Redoubt, by Fred Barnes. In all, there are 25 state Republican AGs, all but three of them (Wyoming, Alaska and New Jersey) are elected.
They’re independent in the sense that they don’t take orders from a governor. On Obamacare, they were united by the time the case reached the Supreme Court. With the addition of three GOP governors, “it was the first time in history you had the majority of the states in a lawsuit against the federal government,” says Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department official now at the Heritage Foundation. “I don’t think there’s ever been this much cohesiveness with the Republican AGs.”
“In effect, the administration has been put on notice: If you adopt policies inconsistent with constitutional limits and the rule of law, Republican attorneys general will come after you. We have a network and we’re always on alert,” says Alabama AG Luther Strange. In Oklahoma, AG Scott Pruitt has created a special federalism unit to track federal policies that may infringe on the authority of states. Obama “should know we’re not going to back down,” says Florida AG Pam Bondi.
The Obamacare suits are the best-known challenge to the president’s agenda, but not the only important one. The attorneys general blocked EPA from overreaching on water and air pollution enforcement. They forced federal mining authorities to abandon an effort to seize control of mining permits from state authorities. They intervened on behalf of Boeing to halt the National Labor Relations Board from barring the airline manufacturer from assembling 787s in South Carolina, a right-to-work state.
In all these cases, their target was the same, the Obama administration. The AGs are committed —“ruthlessly committed” is how Pruitt puts it — to obstructing the expansion of the federal government at the expense of the states. They are champions of federalism, the Tenth Amendment, states’ rights, and a defanged federal government.
There is strength in numbers. “If you have a good issue, you should try to build a coalition,” says Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society. “Judges take coalitions seriously. The challenge to Obamacare was a perfect coalition, with every Republican AG on board.”
“I divide the AGs into two clusters, the core and the inner core. Both are dedicated to the mission. When the NLRB was bearing down on Boeing, Texas AG Greg Abbott and Virginia’s Ken Cuccinelli organized a coalition of 15 AGs to support A.G. Alan Wilson, in whose state the new Boeing facility had been built. The group included Tom Horne of Arizona, John Suthers of Colorado, Lawrence Wasden of Idaho, Derek Schmidt of Kansas, Bill Schuette of Michigan, Jon Bruning of Nebraska, Marty Jackley of South Dakota, Mark Shurtleff of Utah, and Gregory Phillips of Wyoming. They belong to the core.”
Read all 3 pages here. You’ll be glad you did.