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Congressman Rob Bishop

Representing the 1st District of Utah

Bishop responds to Standard editorial on 'Repeal Amendment'

December 20, 2010
Op-Ed and Speech
by Rep. Rob Bishop
The Standard-Examiner Editorial Board, on Dec. 12, opined against the "Repeal Amendment" -- a simple measure that would allow two-thirds of the states, if they all agree, to undo an onerous federal policy and make Congress readdress the issue. ("Bishop's repeal amendment)

The Standard-Examiner Editorial Board rejected the idea that thousands of elected state legislators should ever have, even on rare occasions, the chance to have a voice in charting our nation's policies, even when national policy so often mandates involuntary state participation.

In another ironical twist, the authors of the editorial were comfortable, though, with just five of nine appointed judges being able to veto that same policy. Judicial review, remember, is merely a precedent of a Supreme Court case.

Opposition to the concept of the Repeal Amendment and principle of state involvement ignores the history of our national government. The core principle of our constitutional government structure is balance of power. We frequently talk of the horizontal balance between the three branches of national government, as did the editorial board.

Equally important to the Founding Fathers, though, was a vertical separation of power between the national government and the states. We call it Federalism.

The Founders hoped to accomplish this vertical separation by assigning a division of labor -- with certain, limited matters under national jurisdiction, and a broad set of matters left to the states. During the past 100 years, especially the last 50, an aggressive federal government, poor Supreme Court decisions, and even a few constitutional amendments have all changed the national/state relationship -- and not in favor of the states. No one can argue that the federal government hasn't grown and encroached much more than the power of the states; and federalism has been weakened.

The Repeal Amendment readjusts the situation, back to original intent, by giving states a seat at the decision table. If two-thirds of the states collectively believe there is a problem with a bill passed by Congress, there is probably a good chance there actually is a problem. Two-thirds is a high bar. It can only be achieved by blue and red states together from multiple regions of the country.

Under the Repeal Amendment, the states can't mandate a solution or create national policy; they can only insist Congress rethink its action. This is not abdication of congressional responsibility to state legislatures. This is allowing input.

It is checks and balance. Congress alone still maintains the right to pass federal law.

At least the Standard-Examiner recognized the Repeal Amendment is not the same as nullification -- with single states opting out of federal law. It has nothing to do with any issues of the Civil War. Too many already jump to that silly conclusion.

States should have the ability to request that Congress reconsider its actions, particularly when federal action so dramatically affects states. States should have a seat at the table.

That is consistent with constitutional intent of balancing power.

I believe the Founding Fathers would have approved.

Bishop, a Republican, represents Utah's First U.S. Congressional District.