House Speaker Mike Chenault Announces New Bill is about Nullification

House Speaker Mike Chenault Announces New Bill is about Nullification

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This week, Speaker of the Alaska State House of Representative, Mike Chenault, introduced a controversial bill that he called a gun rights bill, which is being covered as a gun bill, but which is unmistakably not a gun bill.

The proposal, if enacted, would nullify federal law and codify, in state law, a state authority to arrest any federal agent attempting to enforce any future measure pertaining to firearms in Alaska.

It is not a gun rights bill. It is a nullification bill. The speaker, through his legislation, purports that the law of the state trumps the law of the states; that Alaska can strike down as invalid a law imposed by the United States of America, of which we are members, not king.

During a Majority Press Availability on Friday, Speaker Chenault faced a round of questions from reporters about the legislation. The following is an exchange between Chenault and Juneau Empire reporter, Mark Miller.

transcript:

Miller: Mr. Speaker, you mentioned about being concerned about the President’s policies on gun control and his executive orders. Can you talk about which of the executive orders that he signed that you find would be trampling on the rights of gun owners?

Chenault: Well, there, you know, there’s a number of them and I won’t get into them specifically because I don’t have all 23 of them in front of me. Probably, basically all of them.

Miller: Well, I’m just wondering if there was one specific one –

Chenault: Basically all of them because none of them went through the legislative process of the Congress. None of them are passed into laws, they are EO authority, so that causes me concern that we can take at any time and put a law out there, or something that carries the force of the law –

Miller: But the President has the power to issue executive orders, I’m just wondering which of the specific executive orders –

Chenault: I understand that he does, but I also have the ability to not like the EO authorities that he’s passed.

Miller: But you don’t necessarily have the ability to nullify things that the federal government has…

Chenault: And that’s something that the people in my district are looking at, is nullification.

Miller: Seems like that was resolved a long time ago, when Andrew Jackson was president.

Chenault: Well, we can go back if we want to all the way back to George Washington if we want to go far enough back. So, well, and even before Thomas Jefferson so, and how we became a country.

 —

We can go all the way back to “how we became a country” to look at the argument about states’ rights, and a state’s ability to strike down a federal law as invalid. We can look at the powerlessness of the Articles of Confederation – our first founding document as the United States of America – which proved functionally inadequate because of its decentralized nature. That dysfunction was so inhibiting that it demanded the need for a more consolidated government, which is what came out of the Constitution which guides us today.

But every attempt at nullification has ended with the reaffirming precedent that nullification is not constitutional, starting at the close of the 18th century with Jefferson’s call for Virginia to secede over the Adams administration’s Aliens and Sedition Act, through to Arkansas’ and other states’ attempts to prevent desegregation of public schools in the 1950’s. And there’s that whole Civil War thing that happened in between.

Anyone who thinks that attempts at nullification are a good idea either have an alarming lack of appreciation/understanding of history, or a sick blood lust. If Speaker Chenault’s district is “looking at” nullification as a viable option to serve as objection to federal policy, he needs to have a conversation with his district about how this is not a rational prescription, not take up their dangerous and ridiculous charge.

Article 6, Section 2 of the United States Constitution is fairly clear on the supremacy of the federal government:

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, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

The DVD commentary to the Constitution – the Federalist Papers – explain the necessity of this supremacy. Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist #33:

[I]t is said that the laws of the Union are to be the supreme law of the land. What inference can be drawn from this, or what would they amount to, if they were not to be supreme? It is evident that they would amount to nothing.”

And James Madison eloquently wrote in his papers that “A plainer contradiction in terms, or a more fatal inlet to anarchy, cannot be imagined.

This is not a gun rights bill.

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John Aronno is a co-founder, managing editor, and award winning political writer at Alaska Commons. Aronno has had his work featured in the Huffington Post, the Anchorage Press, the Alaska Dispatch, and the Rachel Maddow Show, and is listed among the state’s top reporters on the Washington Post’s “The Fix.” He writes the weekly column “On Politics” for Alaska Commons. Aronno lives in Anchorage, Alaska with his wife, Heather Aronno, and a lot of pets.

46 COMMENTS

  1. What a foolish, wasteful use of the legislature’s time and energy. We have important issues to consider regarding this awesome state. If energy was focused on those issues we could see legislative work completed in a timely manner, perhaps without special costltly sessions.

    • David do you actually understand what you’re cheering for? Do you really think a civil war is a good idea? Please explain to me what part of dead Americans appeals to you.

      • Why would nullifying unconstitutional laws lead to a civil war?

        Please explain why removing the power of the President to unilaterally issue orders with the effect of law, without congressional approval would lead to “dead Americans”.

        • A. You don’t get to decide what is or isn’t constitutional – the courts do. And, in terms of nullification, they have consistently been ruled invalid. Nullifying federal law is rejecting the supreme law of the land, laid out in Article 6, Section 2 of the Constitution. It’s an act of aggression – it’s an assertion of dominance over the United States of America. If we want to remove the presidential power to issue executive orders, we can have the conversation. But it’s a different conversation then threatening to arrest federal agents enforcing the laws of the United States.

  2. Mr. Arrono has a myopic view of American history. Quite limited, and founded on the Mythys of Nationalism. Unfortunately, he has a lot of company. First of all, nullification is quite successful. Check out theReal ID Act of 2008, whose “absolute, final deadline for compliance” has passed with nary a peep. Also, Colorado and Washington State just nullified the federal drug laws on marijuana. He can contact me any time and participate in a debate, be it through email, radio, TV, name the forum. In the meantime, he ought to get himself up-to-speed by reading Thomas Woods’ book, or if he’s too lazy to ready it, invest 30-45 minutes and watch his lectures on YouTube. The nullification debate is just beginning, and the fascist/nationalist reporters have got a LOT of homework to do, if they think they can win this debate.

    • BBird. Nullification has never succeeded from a legal standpoint and your arguments are a testament to that. First, no state has legally refused to comply with the Real ID Act. The Federal Government has simply failed to enforce it. A lack of action on the law is not a nullification of the law. Colorado and Washington State also did not nullify drug laws. What these States have said is that they, as a State, will not use their resources to enforce these laws; however, if the Federal government wants to press charges and prosecute, the States can’t do squat about it. So perhaps it is you that may want to work on your reading comprehension skills. The act of nullification by any legislator is akin to the child not getting his way, taking his toys, and going home. We aren’t going to agree with 100% of our laws 100% of the time. This is why we have an ever changing group of elected officials. If you don’t like the law, then use your rights and change the officials so that the law can be properly evaluated and modified. Trying to nullify a law in this manner is fundamentally un-American and simply selfish.

  3. This writer has zero knowledge of history. Jefferson never called for Virginia to secede over the Alien and Sedition Acts — that’s precisely what nullification was intended to prevent! How the Civil War is supposed to be relevant to this is anyone’s guess; the southern states were upset about nullification, not endorsing it, when they seceded.

    This piece simply repeats every conventional view ever uttered about the subject at hand. Not even a hint that the author has ever dared entertain an unconventional thought in his life.

    Every claim made here is decisively refuted here:
    http://www.libertyclassroom.com/objections.

  4. Interestung that the dictation should the speakers improper grammer but not the questioner. I am SO sick of bias & spin. Just saying.

  5. Two things.

    1. What part of, “in pursuance thereof” in regards to the Supremacy Clause do you not understand? Do you really think that Jefferson and Madison weren’t familiar with the clause? Nullification is about Constitutional laws.

    2. You think it’s BBird who’s going for the “looking-down-the-nose-effect”? Are you just upset that he was trying your tactic?

    3. No, being over 30 pages in length does not make something absolutely true. But a researched paper, based on centuries of American scholarship, by someone with degrees from Harvard and Columbia might give it a little credibility. One might think that it would be worth a look before one displays his ignorance of the subject for all to see. Just maybe one if one wanted his work-in-progress degree in political science from UAA to mean anything.

    • It’s highly entertaining to watch the trolls fall all over themselves trying to outdo one another in justifying their subjective fictions and expressing their utter outrage for some amorphous act that hasn’t even occurred.

      Life must be really hard to have to negotiate all that bizarre unreality at the same time they attempt to deny actual reality.

      It’s no wonder they get so wrapped up in themselves, they’re terrified of their own constantly shifting constructs.

      Engaging with these types isn’t going to bring them any aid or comfort, best to just give them a quick snort of derision and watch them aim themselves at some new target for their delusions.

      To Mr Arronno, …you couldn’t have demonstrated any more succinctly Chenault’s affinity with the politically deranged and the comments here from his similarly challenged cohorts seals the deal.

  6. Have you openly opposed Obama’s civil liberty and foreign policy actions? If not, then it is hilarious to see you bring up the “blood lust” charge. The same guy who is blowing away what is estimated by a Stanford study to be 49 civilians for every one terrorist with his drone strikes, or has assassinated a 16 year old US citizen via drone strike, and believes he has the power to indefinitely detain and assassinate any US citizen based upon secret kill lists without charge or trial? Or the same guy who sends people with actual assault rifles to stop those massive national security threats of the sick and elderly from smoking medical marijuana?

    http://www.tomwoods.com/blog/alaska-house-speaker-calls-for-nullification/

    Please respond to Tom Woods! I have loved watching him destroy various neo-cons and progressives over the years who all shared your enthusiastic arrogance at your own ignorance. For instance, Mark Levin had such a huge tantrum that he began deleting any reference to Tom Woods posted on his facebook page after his exchange with Tom Woods.

    I wouldn’t view someone currently attempting to get a political science degree taking on a PhD historian as very wise, but you don’t seem to exactly be full of wisdom judging by this column. Do you have the courage to respond to Tom Woods, the leading proponent of nullification, or are you too smart to pick a fight you have no chance of winning?

    http://www.libertyclassroom.com/objections/

  7. Tom Woods just ripped this reporter a new one. Based on the content of this article, it looks like Mr. Aronno did a quick review of a Wikipedia article on nullification. Which is to say, the journalistic integrity of this piece is flimsy to say the least.

    For example, Mr. Aronno quotes Alexander Hamilton’s 33rd essay in the Federalist Papers. Super. The problem is that he only quotes a tiny portion of the essay. If Mr. Aronno had bothered to read through the essay he would have found the following:

    “But it will not follow from this doctrine that acts of the large society which are not pursuant to its constitutional powers, but which are invasions of the residuary authorities of the smaller societies, will become the supreme law of the land. These will be merely acts of usurpation, and will deserve to be treated as such. Hence we perceive that the clause which declares the supremacy of the laws of the Union, like the one we have just before considered, only declares a truth, which flows immediately and necessarily from the institution of a federal government. It will not, I presume, have escaped observation, that it expressly confines this supremacy to laws made pursuant to the Constitution; which I mention merely as an instance of caution in the convention; since that limitation would have been to be understood, though it had not been expressed.”

    …which ironically appears not two sentences after what Mr. Aronno quoted in his article. Far from claiming that this clause was a catch all clause that anyone could claim to do anything for any purpose whatsoever, both Hamilton and Madison understood that the Supremacy Clause was written entirely as a restrictive clause; and furthermore, they argued that in both the Federalist Papers, and in the State ratifying conventions.

    Finally, let’s consider how an unconstitutional law is treated in American jurisprudence:

    “The general rule is that an unconstitutional statute, though having the form and the name of law, is in reality no law, but is wholly void and ineffective for any purpose since unconstitutionality dates from the time of its enactment and not merely from the date of the decision so branding it; an unconstitutional law, in legal contemplation, is as inoperative as if it had never been passed … An unconstitutional law is void.”
    (16 Am. Jur. 2d, Sec. 178)

    I should be quick to point out, that this is no new-found legal precedent. Read Blackstone. Read Coke. Read Tucker. Read Story. Read Kent. This has been the cornerstone of constitutional interpretation in Anglo-American law since the founding of the country, and much earlier.

    I highly suspect Mr. Aronno never bothered to do any research before writing this article. I don’t think it would be mean or out of place to say that this is a good example of knee-jerk journalism.

  8. I notice none of you seem to want to address the issue being reported: An ignorant politician’s knee-jerk reaction to the President’s Executive Order calling for not-very-severe gun measures. An Order it appears Mr. Chennault didn’t even read before he entered legislation to nullify it.

    I do believe Mr. Aronno has a firmer grasp on nullification and American history than Mike Chennault. But I applaud your hoity-toity strawmen, Tom Woods et al. Way to look like blustering dipshits.

    • I clicked your twitter link, and it took all of ten seconds to discover that you seem to SUPPORT nullification when it comes to Medical Marijuana laws. isn’t that something.

      • I think there’s a huge difference in saying “We aren’t going to spend state tax dollars enforcing a federal law” vs “We’re going to spend state tax dollars to actively incarcerate federal officials for doing their jobs” the later being what’s on the table in Alaska. Pot is already mostly legal here anyway because of our state’s constitutional right to privacy and court precedence.

        • There really isn’t much of a difference at all.

          The “actively incarcerating” of Federal officials would apply only to their execution of unconstitutional acts. If they, as people who have taken on oath to defend the Constitution breaking that oath, then they should be imprisoned.

  9. This is funny. I used to be a conservative, and as usual none of the GOP members who took the time to critique this piece focused on the matter at hand which is a gun bill that isn’t really a gun bill. Not to mention the fact that the individual in question supporting it can’t even identify a single EO that he had a problem with, and having reviewed the EOs myself I see nothing within them that is extreme, or contradictory to my second amendment rights as a gun owner. Being that I am still a fiscal conservative, I see no need for an additional legislative measure that will cost additional tax dollars to enforce when the current system in place is already sufficient. If you are going to be critical people, be critical of the subject. Stop deflecting.

  10. So will the people who are resorting to insults and attempting to distract from the issue at hand – nullification – respond to the post of Tom Woods? Speaking of being critical or being a “lousy author” as the last two posters have claimed, it would seem that if this author does not understand the most basic aspects or history of Nullification, or the quote from the Federalist Papers he gave, or that Jefferson did not advocate secession over the Alien & Sedition Acts, or that the South was upset over nullification instead of fighting a war because of it – why should anyone take his other arguments seriously at all?

    He is the one criticizing someone over the concept of nullification, and he rather embarrassingly attempted to justify his own view that nullification is not constitutional. If he can’t respond to some relatively basic questions that point out the major inaccuracies in his article, then who exactly is deflecting?

      • I guess it is rather insulting to have a delusional belief of some relatively basic aspects of US history shot down in a few sentences, right?

      • And actually, the author started off the article with insults mixed in with numerous historical fallacies and incorrect statements if we are going to be completely accurate.

      • The whole article is trollish.

        “Anyone who thinks that attempts at nullification are a good idea either have an alarming lack of appreciation/understanding of history, or a sick blood lust.”

        The “insult” Dr. Woods uses is a direct response to what was said by Mr. Aronno. He then provides a historical context for this.

        Mr. Aronno has in a few short comments had his entire article completely destroyed, and it’s been sourced completely. What should follow from Mr. Aronno is a retraction article.

        If one is looking for a troll here, they’re looking at you. You’ve added nothing but insults yourself.

        • What I still can’t figure out is why all of this “expertise” is being directed at our site? Who the hell called in all of these “big dawgs” to set us straight? Why not take all of these fancy learnins’ and, oh I don’t know, put them to practical use in an arena where they might actually be helpful? I don’t go around challenging High School students to science debates, it would be a waste of my time and wouldn’t really “teach” them anything. My ego doesn’t need that kind of mental masturbation. Do you folks just get off to bullying people who you feel academically superior to?

        • Mike, you are about as respected as Fox news. Just like when those pundits want to feel good about themselves, they run to the hills screaming “oh, snap! He destroyed him!” yet you haven’t provided any examples. Go back to the swamp you were spawned from, you neo-confederate scum.

          • Ironically, most of foxnews has the same general views on this issue as the author and the ever so tolerant progressives posting in the comments section with only maybe someone like Judge Nap being the exception.

            The “neo-confederate” line of attack is especially hilarious given that the confederates shared your view of nullification and were opposed to it. They were furious with Wisconsin for nullifying the Fugitive Slave Act (as was the Supreme Court), and Jefferson Davis specifically denounced nullification. But judging by the original points made in this article, it doesn’t appear that facts matter that much to you.

  11. “I do believe Mr. Aronno has a firmer grasp on nullification and American history than Mike Chennault”

    Considering some of the major historical blunders that have already been pointed out in the comments section in this article, then the bar must be set really, really low.

    I also enjoy the fact that a “strawman” now seems to consist of responding to basic historical statements made in the original argument and correcting them. Speaking of those who did not read, it would appear that the original author has not read beyond an entry level establishment approved Poli Sci 101 course for the original article. Nor did his defenders accusing people of looking as though they are “blustering dipshits” bother to read the responses about how clueless this author is on nullification.

    I am starting to get the feeling that the people defending this author are the type who went ballistic over Bush’s Patriot Act, drone strikes, medical marijuana raids, etc and cheered on MSNBC denouncing (correctly) Bush as being evil and tyrannical – but are now unabashed Obama cheerleaders who defend the NDAA, Patriot Act renewal, drug raids, and assassination of underage US citizens since the guy doing it now has a D next to his name and looks smooth reading a teleprompter while saying all the right progressive phrases.

    • Damn, Obama Drone Strike. You drone on and on. You keep on yapping to the point that your not even talking about the original article anymore. It is your bedtime, young man. Go to sleep. You need your energy for your day tomorrow, which will surely consist of another 12 hours trolling the internet.

      • Yeah, I guess anything more than, “We Need Hope and Change” is too complex and long for someone like you to understand, right?

        • The problem is that you don’t have anything complex to say, little boy. Does your mother know how much time you spend trolling the internet, child?

          • Good point – bringing up the total embarrassment and humiliation of the progressives doing a Mitt Romney style flip flop on just about everything to do with civil liberties and war that Obama ran on in 08 isn’t complex at all, is it?

            I’ll let you get back to cheering on Obama blowing up children with drone strikes and won’t take up any more of what is clearly very valuable time of yours, Mr “Kandy Dawg,” The insults about being physically small and the ever original and hilarious references to one’s mother that have never been stated on an internet discussion forum before are also clearly the sign or complex thinking and not that of a little boy, either.

            Pretty much everyone from the original author to the childish attempts from angry hipsters typing out insults they heard in high school remind me of the progressives in this video:

    • Thank you for acknowledging that Bush was evil and tyrannical. I wish that had been a more popular viewpoint in 2002, and that people had rallied then against American Imperialism and blows to our civil liberties then as they do so admirably now, at least on comment pages for editorials. It’s good that we point to those things we hold in common view as so harmful. It keeps us from turning on each other, getting distracted from the work of resisting the unjust and powerful, who do indeed come in many guises.

      I do wish you would enlighten us with more logic, less emotional stuff. I, for one, would be interested. Some people say not to engage folks like you, who present so angrily in comment threats. But I wonder if they’re right.

      It sounds, taking my guidance from Tom Woods, that we should be talking about the constitutionality of the executive orders the House Speaker finds so objectionable. I had heard they were more like agency directives to the ATF to publish a letter, and a directive to law enforcement to employ “maximum effort” to curb gun violence.

      We’re obviously very scared of something, but we’re not really talking about what it might be. That’s my little joke about the separation of powers see, the logical from the emotional.

  12. “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, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

    Are you and I reading the same thing? It says all laws “made in Pursuance” of the Constitution are supreme laws of the land. Unconstitutional laws are not.

  13. So “reporters” in Alaska are no different than the talking heads on MSNBC and FOXNEWS. How about reporting the news instead of attempting to spoon feed us your regurgitated pablum, John Aronno. Please, I can think for myself and don’t need you to distort the realities of nullification. You got it all wrong and need to stop spreading your propaganda.

  14. “Anyone who thinks that attempts at nullification are a good idea either have an alarming lack of appreciation/understanding of history, or a sick blood lust.” Wait, have you read the Zimbardo and Milgram Experiments? Have you read Gustave DeMolinari’s “The production of Security?” Have you seen the charred bodies in Dachau- or the tortured inmates in Abu Grahaib? Have you read about Oscar Grant, Ruby Ridge, Amadou Diallo, or Waco? What will happen once the ubermensch have drones patrolling the skies and you can’t even have a “assault rifle”? The centralization and cartelization of “defense” is a counter-productive perversion.

      • A state-pushed bill nullifying federal law won’t prevent Abu-Grhaibb. And arresting federal agents for future regulations on guns isn’t going to prevent the drone program. Your assault rifle won’t likely make much of a difference if the full weight of the United States decides to come down on you. As citizens, we have a duty to participate in government and lobby our legislators to make rational decisions to stop bad policy – like war crimes. Just saying that you aren’t going to recognize our nation’s laws isn’t going to help the matter. Stockholm Syndrome for believing in the US Constitution? Move somewhere else, you seditious ass.

  15. My family moved to North America before your Constitution was created. Speaking of the Constitution- as astutely observed by George W Bush, it is just a “god-damned piece of paper.” It worse actually. It promises the ability to regulate a monopoly of violence- something which cannot be done. See the “Kinetic Military Action” in Libya for a blatant example of the total worthlessness of your Constitution. Sedition is only meaningful in the context of an involuntary relationship. Governments- coercive monopolies of adjudication- demand obedience and pervert their legal system to their own advantage (see Kilo V. New London). Saying that I should move because I hate being treated like a serf is farcical. My ANCESTORS moved to this Continent because they hated being treated like serfs. My ANCESTORS traded peacefully with the Natives before assholes that speak English showed up and stole the Natives’ Land and my ancestors land. While Your Constitution was foolish, at least it did prohibit any infringement on the right of the people to keep and bear arms. As the citizens are disarmed, I and other inconvenient people will likely find ourselves in another Wounded Knee- whenever the likes Madeline Albright decide that our deaths are “worth it”. But unlike the Iraqi children, when they kill me I will die laughing….

  16. Uh, you do understand that nullification is not legal, that state law cannot override federal law, that we fought a Civil War in part about this, that like it or not, since 1789 under President Washington, this country was founded on the supremacy of Federal Law, that we have a Constitution and a Supreme Court to challenge any Unconstitutional over reaching of Federal laws…that for over 200 years the people and the government of the United States have rejected this absurd doctrine…uh, you do understand that, right?

What do you think?