Flush with excitement over their recent electoral gains, Republican state lawmakers are partying like it’s 1859. A group of lawmakers from 14 states, led by nativist Arizona state Senator Russell Pearce (R), plan to thumb their nose at the 14th Amendment’s grant of citizenship to nearly all persons born within the United States by introducing legislation that will “end birthright citizenship for the children of illegal aliens.”
Meanwhile, Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R) recently returned to his state from a Beltway pilgrimage to GOP interest groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, intended to drum up support for his expected upcoming U.S. Senate race. Shortly after completing this pilgrimage, Haridopolos laid out a plan to fast-track an obviously unconstitutional proposal that would nullify the Affordable Care Act:
After being fast-tracked through its first committee stop Wednesday, a proposed state constitutional amendment to prevent the federal government from compelling people to participate in any health care system could be the first bill passed during next year’s session, Senate President Mike Haridopolos said Wednesday. [...]
The proposal is a tweaked version of what would have been Amendment 9 in this year’s election had the Florida Supreme Court not thrown the question off the ballot.
Pearce and Haridopolos need to figure out which side won the Civil War, because their proposals are straight out of Jefferson Davis’ America. In its most infamous decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford, the Supreme Court held that a former slave was not welcome into the community of U.S. citizens and warned that the states cannot “introduce a new member into the political community created by the Constitution of the United States.” Under Dred Scott’s reading of the Constitution, only the descendants of those fortunate enough to be embraced by the founding generation could claim the privileges of citizenship, and those disfavored by the new nation were permanently excluded from participation in its political community.
The 14th Amendment was enacted to expressly reject this vision of America as a country club. Under its unambiguous language, “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” are citizens with a few rare exceptions such as the children of foreign diplomats.
Likewise, the 19th Century doctrine of nullification — which claims that states have the power to halt federal laws they don’t like — is explicitly rejected by the Constitution’s proclamation that Acts of Congress “shall be the supreme law of the land…anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” As James Madison warned, allowing nullification would “speedily put an end to the Union itself” because it would make each state’s participation in the union entirely optional.
For the last two years, conservatives have flaunted their disdain for the Constitution and their desire to effectively replace it with a Tea Party manifesto. Sadly, they appear to be wasting no time after last November’s election in declaring war on the nation’s founding document.