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As much as we hate to admit it, many of us have felt victimized and outraged by Obama’s power-mongering, arrogant, and defiant administration. I look ahead and wonder whether the next president will tackle our disgraceful debt? What about the bloated federal government? Or the lopsided reality of a supposed three-part federal government? I’m also skeptical about whether Congress will finally reverse any of the administration’s or agencies’ abuses of the last eight years.
I think the first steps to correct these injustices are actually happening. The actions are small, but they have already shown signs of success in the past year, and suggest hope for the foreseeable future: Actions by the federal court system outside of the Supreme Court against the tyranny of our government will be the path to salvation.
Lately I’ve noticed stories about court cases where people with conservative agendas were winning. As I looked into these cases, I found a few that indicated that all was not lost.
This article in the Washington Post described a stay granted in February 2016 by the Supreme Court against the EPA’s Clean Power Plan due to legal challenges to that program in court. Although the legal issues, including whether the EPA has the right to carry out the Clean Power Plan under the Clean Air Act are still pending, the EPA was halted until the legal issues are resolved.
In May 2016 the Supreme Court ruled against the Obama administration in a case regarding water pollution permits. The court decided unanimously that a landowner can appeal through the federal court system a determination from the Army Corps of Engineers that a water body is subject to federal jurisdiction and permit requirements under the Clean Water Act. According to this article in The Hill, the case is likely to have consequences for the federal government’s entire enforcement of the Clean Water Act, the main law regarding pollution control.
Also in May of this year, a US District Court judge ruled, according to the Washington Times, in favor of House Republicans, who said the administration broke the law and trod on Congress’s fundamental powers by paying Obamacare insurers without permission from Capitol Hill.
The long-running Internal Revenue Service targeting scandal, as described in the Fiscal Times, was given fresh life after a federal appeals court overturned a lower court decision that declared the complaints of several conservative groups against the agency moot. The lawsuits are related to the IRS department that reviews applications from groups seeking tax-exempt status. In the year before the 2012 presidential election, numerous conservative groups found their applications delayed by demands for large amounts of background information and supporting data — requests that went well beyond the normal approval process.
Another action noted by The Hill by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit this week ruled that the structure of the CFPB is unconstitutional because it is an independent agency with a single director — a level of power given to no other regulator in the federal government. The director has a five-year term — longer than the term of an elected president.
According to the Seattle Times, this month a federal judge in West Virginia ordered that the EPA must begin evaluating how many power plants and coal mining jobs are lost because of air pollution regulations, an analysis it hasn’t done in decades. US District Judge John Preston Bailey ruled that the EPA is required by law to analyze the economic impact on a continuing basis when enforcing the Clean Air Act.
These federal court cases are examples from this year that demonstrate when the administration and its agencies act unlawfully, there is recourse. We shouldn’t need to take these actions; all the branches of governments should respect the checks and balances the Founders established in the Constitution. But they don’t.
Currently other cases are in process, and the states have begun to identify opportunities to challenge the violations of the divisions between federal and state governments. Several states, with Texas filing the most lawsuits, are fighting back.
Since President Obama took office in 2009, the state of Texas has sued his administration at least 46 times, according to a Texas Tribune analysis. Former Texas Attorney General and current Gov. Gregg Abbott filed 31 of those lawsuits. His successor, Ken Paxton, has mounted 15 such legal challenges since taking office in 2015. Paxton’s office has provided cost estimates for 39 of those cases, which as of mid-2016 totaled about $5.9 million.
Utah has now joined nine other states in a lawsuit, according to KSTU (Salt Lake City), against the White House over its new transgender directive in schools. Nine other states and three individual school districts have joined the federal lawsuit, which was filed in US District Court for the Northern District of Texas. Joining Utah are Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, Maine, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Georgia. Two school districts in Arizona, one school district in Texas and Maine Gov. Paul LePage are also listed as plaintiffs. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that Paxton would challenge the controversial order, which tells school districts to allow transgender students to use the restroom of their choice.
UPI explained that nearly two dozen states filed a lawsuit in September 2016 against the federal government claiming that a new labor rule, which offers overtime pay to all American workers who earn up to nearly $50,000 per year, is unconstitutional. Twenty-one states are plaintiffs in the suit filed in the Eastern District of Texas. The crux of the new regulation, set to take effect nationwide Dec. 1, is to raise the ceiling for American workers to get overtime pay. The new threshold is $47,476 per year — a substantial amount higher than the old limit of $23,660. The plaintiffs, who argue that the rule is unconstitutional because it issues fiscal mandates to states, are concerned that the change might wreak havoc with state budgets because more government employees would earn overtime pay.
Even if our next president promises to cut back on interference from the federal government and roll back regulations, changes will happen slowly, if at all. And we have no assurances that Congress will do its job and pass appropriate legislation to reverse these violations. We can thank the states, led by Texas, for setting the example for maintaining the integrity of state law and the United States Constitution through the court system. Let’s hope they continue the fight.Published in