The Constitution was back in vogue in some parts of Washington, D.C., last week. The cherry blossoms are an annual event in the Capital, sadly the appearance of the Constitution is far rarer.
The country is sharply divided on the presidential election and the certification of electors, so is Congress. Many in Congress (North Dakota’s delegation included) said they could not protest the certification of presidential electors, that doing so would be unconstitutional. At least someone read the Constitution, we should be happy with that. But who knew we had so many strict constructionists in Congress?
Members of Congress were inundated with letters and messages against this position. You cannot blame the voter’s confusion. Standing on the Constitution may have been better received if it wasn’t so, so… unusual in our capitol.
For years our representatives sat on their hands (and on their constitutional authority) allowing government agencies to interpret laws and make rules far beyond the intended scope of the statutes they passed. Federal agencies have exercised more and more power over our lives ignoring the authority of each state. We witnessed, time after time, a single federal judge make law for the entire country. EPA ruled that each time you and I exhale we are poisoning the environment. I could go on. Yet in each instance our strict constructionists said and did nothing.
Yes, Article XII is clear. Congress does not have the authority to override state certified electors. It is also true that the actions of one or more states can harm the citizens of other states. This was the point of the Texas lawsuit – joined by North Dakota – that was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case was not rejected on the merits, it was rejected because the Court said Texas lacked standing. Question, if the Constitution limits the authority of Congress over the electoral process and the court does not allow a dispute among the states to be heard, where do we go from there? This question will need to be answered for the sake of the republic.
Beyond that, the people of North Dakota should closely follow the constitutionalists in Washington. What will Congress do if (when) the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule comes back? How about when the Obama era methane rule is resurrected, and fracking is banned on federal land? Will the strict constructionists in Congress object when an agency asserts any amount of federal land in a spacing unit means that federal policies apply to the entire spacing unit? Not far-fetched, this was the position of the prior administration.
But, environmentalists argue, you cannot leave issues like fracking or methane regulation to each state because those issues affect people in other states. Interesting, that is exactly the issue Texas raised, that the election process in six other states impacted the people of Texas.
Federalism, recognizing the authority and autonomy of each state, is the only answer for our divided republic. And, the Constitution is not a convenience to be pulled out only when it suits.
Grande represented the 41st District in the N.D. Legislature from 1996 to 2014. She is CEO of the Roughrider Policy Center, an "innovation over regulation" think tank. She is a wife, mom, grandma, lover of life and Jesus. Opinions are solely her own.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.