CHEYENNE -Wyoming's congressional delegation today helped unveil an ambitious new proposed constitutional amendment that would allow states to veto federal laws and regulations they dislike.
The proposal, introduced in both houses of Congress today, states that any federal law or regulation would be repealed if two-thirds of the states - or 34 states - voted against it
If the two-thirds majority is reached, the law or regulation would then be sent back to Congress, which could vote to override the repeal and pass it in finality.
The idea behind the proposal is to give states a way to push back against federal overreach without having to resort to the courts or a constitutional amendment, said U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., the proposal's main sponsor in the Senate.
"If we are to believe the old adage of President Reagan that ‘as government expands, liberty contracts,' we must provide our states with the breathing room to decide what policies are best for them," Enzi said in a media release. "The role of the federal government was never meant to be a big brother, but a partner in providing the greatest amount of opportunity to the most people."
Wyoming's other two federal lawmakers, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso and U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, are also co-sponsoring the proposed amendment along with two other senators and 12 other U.S. representatives.
However, Wyoming Democratic Party Executive Director Bill Luckett called the bill "disturbing" and "nothing short of an attack upon the very heart our Union."
"It's sad for Wyoming that both of our U.S. Senators are so caught up in anti-government tea party hysteria that they are endorsing a piece of legislation that would dismantle the Union our Founding Fathers created," Luckett said in an email Wednesday.
University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato said not to expect the proposal to become law anytime soon, given that it must pass a two-thirds majority in each house of Congress, and then be ratified by 38 state legislatures.
"There is zero chance that this amendment will be added to the Constitution in the foreseeable future," Sabato said in an email Wednesday.
While the idea of giving the states collective veto power over federal laws is new, the debate over how much power states should have to overturn federal laws and rules is almost as old as the United States itself.
In 1832, in response to high tariff rates, South Carolina passed a "nullification" law declaring the state had the right to void the power of any federal law within the state.
President Andrew Jackson threatened to send troops to the state, but before he could do so Congress passed a compromise law reducing the tariff rate and defusing the crisis.
Twenty-eight years later, 11 Southern states seceded from the Union over the issue of states' rights - and particularly, their belief that the federal government had no right to force states to ban slavery.