U.S. Constitution remains supreme law in our state
The recent efforts of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Governor Stitt to pass a House bill which would give the governor, the attorney general and the state Legislature the power to negate, nullify or overrule acts passed by Congress or executive orders of the president is another example of what William Shakespeare termed “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing.”
We should remind Oklahoma lawmakers that the North won the Civil War, and that Article 1, Section 1 of the Oklahoma Constitution provides that Oklahoma is inseparably part of the federal union, now and forever, and that the Constitution of the United States is the supreme law in Oklahoma. Even first-semester law students know that only the federal judiciary may declare an act of Congress unconstitutional. That has been the law since Marbury vs. Madison in a unanimous decision written by Chief Justice Marshall in Thomas Jefferson’s first term.
Neither the governor nor the Legislature nor the attorney general can overturn, negate or nullify an act of Congress, only the federal courts, and ultimately the Supreme Court, can accomplish that feat.
President Andrew Jackson is quoted as saying that he had two regrets as president; that he did not shoot John Calhoun or hang Henry Clay. Calhoun, as any high school student knows, was the leading exponent of nullification, later called interposition and which some Southern states, in order to defeat the Supreme Court’s decision abolishing separate but equal educational facilities argued that states could nullify an act of Congress or a presidential executive order.
It was Republican President Dwight Eisenhower who put that test to the sword with the dispatch of hundreds of federal troops under the command of General Walker to Little Rock in 1957 to enforce a Supreme Court decree eliminating the segregated school system at Central High School and enforce the Supreme Court’s order integrating the high school.
A $10 million appropriation to the Attorney General of Oklahoma for the creation of a special “unit” to advance such discarded constitutional theories is absurd.
The quality of life in Oklahoma and the role of government would be more legitimately fulfilled by addressing the problems of infrastructure, education, poverty, mental health and the criminal justice system than attempting to revive what General Lee surrendered to General Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse in 1865.