Last September, the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates co-signed a bizarre op-ed laden with Glenn Beck-esque rants against dastardly “progressives” who created a “constitutional imbalance” by allowing voters to choose their own senators. The centerpiece of this op-ed was a proposed constitutional amendment allowing a supermajority of the states to repeal federal laws:
Any provision of law or regulation of the United States may be repealed by the several states, and such repeal shall be effective when the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states approve resolutions for this purpose that particularly describe the same provision or provisions of law or regulation to be repealed.
Silly constitutional amendments are proposed all the time, so that fact that a right-wing editorial page decided to publish one such proposal isn’t all that surprising. What is surprising, however, is that this proposal appears to be gaining some steam — earning the endorsement of incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) yesterday.
At first glance, it’s not entirely clear what the amendment’s proponents hope to accomplish. Cantor might not be aware of this fact, but there’s already a mechanism to repeal a law that the states disapprove of in the Constitution. It turns out that the states get to send representatives to two little-known bodies called the “House of Representatives” and the “Senate” which can vote to repeal laws –- one of which is even malapportioned to favor Republican states! Cantor is not likely to change much by creating a new constitutional procedure for repealing laws — enacting a repeal resolution in 34 of the 50 state legislatures — that is significantly more difficult to invoke than simply repealing a law the old fashioned way.
But Cantor’s support for this solution in search of a problem is just the latest example of conservatives wrapping themselves in the rhetoric of the Constitution while simultaneously trying to remake to document into something completely unrecognizable. In recent months, Cantor’s co-ideologues have called for a return to the Dred Scott vision of U.S. citizenship, and declared war on Congress’ power to raise money and on voters’ power to chose their own senators. Many have even proclaimed everything from child labor laws to the federal ban on whites-only lunch counters to the minimum wage to Social Security and Medicare to be unconstitutional.