Group hopes Maine will help states get veto power over Congress

The executive director of a national organization that wants to give states the power to veto acts of Congress hopes Gov. Paul LePage and the Legislature will join the effort.

Marianne Moran, the executive director of the Repeal Amendment, said LePage had been receptive to a libertarian movement that has so far gained traction in 13 state legislatures. The intent, Moran said, is to blunt the unfunded mandates by the federal government by adding clarifying language to the U.S. Constitution that reasserts the states' rights outlined in the Federalist Papers.

The Repeal Amendment is considered another weapon in Republican attempts to overturn the national health care law.

The initiative, spurred by the tea party's strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, is currently working two fronts.

In Congress, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is pushing a bill that would give states the ability to overturn any act of Congress if 34 states agree to do so. Bishop's bill has the backing of several key Republicans, including House Republican whip, Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va.

The Repeal Amendment group is also working on the state level to urge legislatures to call for a constitutional convention. Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, states can propose amendments like the repeal measure if two-thirds of them, or 34, petition Congress.

So far, the state-led effort is under way in 13 legislatures. Moran hopes Maine will become the 14th.

Moran said LePage had been supportive of the measure during his trip to Washington, D.C., in December. At the time, the governor made headlines for telling a reporter that Maine could help overturn the Affordable Care Act by becoming one of 35 states to join a lawsuit challenging the law's constitutionality.

That provision doesn't exist in the U.S. Constitution. However, LePage's spokesman Dan Demeritt later clarified the governor's remarks, saying he was referring to Bishop's bill. That led Moran to consider Maine a potential supporter for the Repeal Amendment effort.

"I've talked with some of his staff there, but as of yet, we're not ready to officially announce we have a sponsor in Maine," Moran said.

Demeritt said the governor "has concerns about federal mandates and any restrictions at the federal level that prevent the state from acting as it thinks it should, but we haven't signed onto anything yet."

Demeritt acknowledged that he'd spoken to Moran about the repeal amendment, but that those discussions had taken place in December.

"Gov. LePage believes strongly in state sovereignty and protecting Maine from overreaching federal mandates," Demeritt said. "I had brief discussions with a national repeal amendment group during the transition about the concept, but the governor has not taken a formal position on a proposal."

Demeritt and the communications director for the House Republican Office said they didn't know if relevant legislation had been submitted in the Legislature.

"Just because it hasn't crossed my desk doesn't mean there aren't discussions about it," Demeritt said.

The initiative would seem to fit LePage's constitutional rhetoric about states rights, as well as his opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Twenty-five states, including Maine, are legally challenging the law, and Moran acknowledged that some of the momentum of the Repeal Act can be attributed to its potential threat to the ACA.

"We're definitely not selling like that," Moran said. "Our strategy is to restore that balance of power. The people have more power and their state legislators and government is healthier if people can control it better."

The Repeal Act's state-led initiative has had some success. The Virginia House of Delegates recently approved the measure with the support of both the speaker and Gov. Robert McDonnell.

The effort also has the backing of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a national organization that has reportedly ghostwritten dozens of legislative proposals over the last decade. ALEC, a coalition of conservative lawmakers and business interests, has unveiled a broad slate of legislation for GOP legislatures.

The Repeal Amendment was written by Randy Barnett, a professor of legal theory at Georgetown University. Barnett is also a senior member of the libertarian Cato Institute.

Tarren Bragdon, the chief executive officer of the conservative advocacy group the Maine Heritage Policy Center, and an advisor to LePage, said Monday that he was unaware of the state-led effort of the Repeal Amendment.

Demeritt didn't rule out the governor's support of the effort, saying the governor could submit legislation at any time. He said LePage was currently focused on the budget "and putting people back to work."

Moran said that states have petitioned Congress for Constitutional amendments in the past. The most recent effort came toward the end of President Ronald Reagan's first term when he called on states to push for a balanced budget amendment. Although Reagan's effort fell short of the 34-state threshold, it compelled Congress to act and eventually led to the Balanced Budget Act of 1985.

"The bottom line is when you have so many states pushing for the change,  Congress should submit," Moran said.

Moran said she hoped Maine would join a national effort that's popular with Republicans and Democrats.

"State legislators love the idea of having more power to check Congress when many of them, whether they're Republican or Democrat, feel that Congress is not properly representing the people," Moran said. "With unfunded mandates it's a winning topic."

She said her group had yet to find a Democratic sponsor in the 13 states' Legislatures considering the Repeal Act.

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 's picture

Supremacy Clause

"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding." How are you going to get around that?

RONALD RIML's picture

All these folks disagreeing with the Constitution.

Do you wonder if any ever took a solemn oath to protect and defend it, with their lives if necessary?

Reminds me of Paul LePage who took off north for Canada when his college draft exemption expired.

Jim Cyr's picture

16th Amendment

And I suppose you think that "income " is the same as "wages" in regards to the 16th? And as usual, you spin it. The 40% that pay no "income tax" is a fact. And I did not say "the poor pay no taxes" Where do you get that? They do take advantage of the code by getting a so called "unearned credit". The system needs to get revamped and maybe "the Fair Tax" would be the answer to making things equal. You can not deny that the top 1% pay over 40%. So lets all be all we want to be and just give it to those who don't want to be! Why should we punish entrepreneurship and individual drive to be all we can be?
And who cares how they do it in other countries?

RONALD RIML's picture

No spin to it....

Both wages and income may be taxed; SCOTUS has ruled on these. You're setting yourself above SCOTUS now??

So why focus on one tax that some might not pay when there are so many taxes that they do? It's obvious that the aim of such a tactic is to justify the reduction of taxes for those who can obviously well afford to pay them.

Against the 'Redistribution of Wealth?' Then you should be for the Nationalization of Health Care - and remove it from the "For Profit" sector and 30-40% mark-up of the insurance industry. But I haven't heard that tied into the mantra of the right wing.

Don't care how they do it in other countries? So you fail to see the wisdom in learning from others. You should learn the difference between Conservatism and backwardness.

Jim Cyr's picture

Unfunded Wars

Yes, Mr. Riml, I and a zillion other people were and are against "any" unfunded war! You Progressives keep bashing the so called "well off". Is it not true that the top 1% are paying over 40% of what the I.R.S. manages to "Steal" and that over 40% don't pay any " Income Tax" at all? And does not the Constitution state "No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration" and also that "all Duties Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States".
Why do you guys insist on not upholding the Constitution by our Reps? Would not life be more simpler? Or is it Big Brother a better alternative?

RONALD RIML's picture

Keep Bashing "Well Off?" Get a Life!!

How so, Jim? Care to expand on that??

I.R.S. Steal?? Apparently Christ wouldn't agree with you; Mark 12:17. And you neglect to mention the 16th Amendment of the Constitution clarifying the status of the income tax. Why is that, Jim?? Doesn't suit your purpose??

Is the "Income Tax" the only tax levied on the populace so that those who do not pay it get off scot free?

It's not that simple, so of course - you fail to address that.

Pay Rent?? Own a property? - You're paying property taxes - and that can be a real bite.

- Feeding a gas tank in a car? Buying tires? There are federal excise taxes built right in. Also some State taxes. Swilling any liquor, beer, or wine down. Tax there also. Phone and cable fees?? That's taxed.

I like Roquefort cheese. Any idea of what the damn duty is on that? 200%!! And the duty on how many other imports? Taxes are built into more items and services than you can imagine.

How about the 5% state sales tax? Cigarette tax - Cripes they are well over $6 a pack now!! Licensing fees for cars, dogs, barbers, hairdressers, you name it....

So this crap about the poor not paying taxes? BS! So if you want to go on being an apologist tool for the wealthy - have at it! They are taxed at a much lower percentage of their wealth here than in most countries - and at a lower percentage now than they were when Reagan was in office.

They've sure got your number. And they'll throw you out like a cheap "Made in China" tool when they're done with you.

 's picture


Yeah, like that's going to go anywhere. Constitution?

Jim Cyr's picture

Veto Power

"Unfunded Mandates" is an excellent stand alone problem to overturn at ever possible turn! Long live STATES RIGHTS!

RONALD RIML's picture

Were you against the unfunded war in Iraq, Jim?

Or Afghanistan?

Neither of those were funded during either the Bush or Obama administrations. I haven't looked at this new budget proposal, but all during the Bush years, Iraq-istan et al weren't included within the defense budgets, but rather unfunded supplementals.

It's estimated now that the costs of these wars will exceed Three Trillion $$$ - See -->

And we've not put any money away for it. The Republicans are too afraid to tax those well enough off to pay for it. Some idiots keep shouting 'Class Envy' or soime such crap.

RONALD RIML's picture

So those thirteen States which have signed on to this bunkum

Don't currently have representation in Washington???? One bite at the apple isn't enough?

Who'da thunk it......

 's picture

More lawyers

Just what our state needs, more lawyers and more money tossed at initiatives on the national front that will not benefit Mainers in any way.
Let's keep our noses into what matters to our state. The new administration has shown time and time again that they know little about the structure of law. Evidence the appointment of the DEP head that violates both state and federal law.
By the way Mr LePage, how many assistants has your daughter hired?


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