Modern Nullification

Much vacating, little blogging, but I did want to take a moment to highlight this Drum post, which I think is very valuable.  Read it.  Or, at least a few key points:

There isn’t yet any modern-day John Calhoun to articulate this new theory of nullification in detail, but the nickel version is pretty simple: it says that a single senator can nullify a duly passed statute of the United States.

In one sense, this is just the latest front in the Republican war against executive branch nominees of the Obama administration. But until now, that war has been merely an escalation: more nominees are being filibustered than ever before, creating logjams in the federal court system and a shortage of leadership in the executive branch. It’s a big problem, but nothing has actually been shut down because of it.

That’s now changing. Republicans are refusing to allow votes on President Obama’s nominee to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and on his nominees to fill vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board. In both cases, the Republican refusal is explicity aimed at shutting down these agencies. In the case of the CFPB, it’s because the law that created it gives certain powers to its director, and without a director those powers can’t be exercised.In the case of the NLRB, it’s because they can’t function at all unless a minimum of three out of five seats are filled. When Craig Becker, already a recess appointment because of a  Republican filibuster last year, finishes his term at the end of 2011, only two seats will remain filled and the NLRB will grind to a halt.

If you actually believe in representative democracy, you have to acknowledge that this is just very wrong.  Otherwise, those Republican blinders are really, really strong.  Furthermore, this is a great example of our political asymmetry.  Democrats don’t just do crap like this– or at least not anywhere in the same league.   This should stop.  Of course, Obama should play tougher– and Drum covers this, too– but that’s almost surely not going to happen.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Modern Nullification

  1. I applaud the repubs for doing their job. Obama wants to fundamentally change our country through executive fiat and bypassing Congress. Just look at the NLRB intervening after Boeing built a multi billion dollar plant in South Carolina so that it could be its new airliner without constant union pickets and strikes crippling them and the NLRB filed a federal injunction against them. Very pro union and completely illegal.
    Yea for our side and opposing libs who want total control and to eliminate the free market system in our country

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