The Obama administration’s declaration that those without the proper zealotry for climate change will be discriminated against in their applications for Federal Emergency Management Agency grants is just the latest attempt to enforce his worldview by bullying the states. And Republicans have only one surefire way to undermine this tactic, if they’re willing to take it.
The story of the last six years has been a dogged pursuit of Progressive ends through redefining or repurposing current laws until they are not recognizable.
Let’s Review the Litany of Executive Abuses
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was one of the first to find a novel way to enforce President Obama’s preferred policies on states without statutory authority. The noxious No Child Left Behind law was threatening states with onerous burdens if fell short of its high standards. With the deadline fast approaching, Duncan made an offer too good to refuse. The 2009 Race to the Top grant program offered more cash from the stimulus and a legally dubious waiver of NCLB mandates. In a dangerous precedent, many states took the deal and fell in line with Obama’s preferred nationalized education plan, known as Common Core.
Similarly, the original, pre-NFIB v. Sebelius version of Obamacare, forced on states Obama’s expanded Medicaid coverage for able-bodied adults who earned up to 138 percent of the poverty line. If a state refused to abide, the entirety of their federal Medicaid support was forfeit. The Supreme Court in 2012 gave states an escape hatch to avoid this Sophie’s choice.
On energy, Obama’s favored cap-and-trade scheme failed in the Senate. To make up for this failure and smite the demon “climate change” threatening the land, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy announced last summer the Clean Power Plan. Like Obamacare’s healthcare exchanges, the CPP requires states to carry out the federal bureaucrats’ dirty work by writing and implementing a state plan to cap carbon dioxide emissions.
No matter who writes it, the standards will decimate reliable coal power, shuttering plants across the country (“if you like your coal-fired power plant, you can keep your coal-fired power plant”). That is why Sen. Mitch McConnell recently told his fellow Kentuckians to ignore the rule and await the judgment of the courts.
Use Highway Funding to Fight Back
Worried about a mass rebuff from the 31 states led by Republicans, the Obama Administration recently threatened to withhold highway money from non-compliant states. And here is where congressional Republicans can turn the tables on Obama.
Highway funding is a tangible issue to many voters—they get it. If Washington is going to tax them, they better see some of it back. A reauthorization of highway spending is also one of the few “must-pass” pieces of legislation facing Congress this year, and it typically receives bipartisan support.
Republicans need to end the federal coercion wherein Washington puts its nose under the tent with some grants, states become dependent on the cash, then find they are vassals of the manor lords at the departments of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Education. Republicans must repeal the national drinking age.
The penalty for not complying with the national minimum drinking age is a 10 percent haircut on federal highway funds. Governors and state legislatures are reluctant to reject federal aid, so all states have fallen in line with this blackmail.
By eliminating this requirement in the highway reauthorization, Republicans could make a principled stand against federal coercion of the states while probably picking up some younger voters along the way. As Glenn Reynolds pointed out in November, “it’s hard to imagine [Obama] vetoing this.”
It is past time for Republicans to show some creative thinking and outmaneuver Obama. They have an opportunity to undermine his favorite method for growing government and taking up a popular cause at the same time. Will they go for it?