This week, two state laws were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court – Montana and Arizona – while the Affordable Care Act ruling due tomorrow could do the same.
Or, maybe it won’t.
But does it really matter in the long run?
We’ll get back to that question in a bit.
THE SUPREMES LOVE THE FEDS
But first, the so-called states’ rights supreme court. One of the rallying cries we’ve heard in recent years has gone something like this:
“The Supreme Court is getting filled with people who believe in old Constitutionalism – that most of the “progress” since the new deal violates constitutional limits, and must be overturned.”
But, if there’s one thing we actually learned from this week’s Supreme Court decisions so far, it’s that the court takes the opposite view – that the maintenance of federal power over the states is the primary goal. Keeping the status quo – where federal law is always considered supreme – takes precedence over Constitutional originalism, and possibly even personal political views.
In the campaign finance case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Citizens United decision trumped state laws – like Montana’s – putting restrictions on corporate money in political races. It decided that individual states don’t have the ability to craft their own campaign-finance laws that contradict Citizens United, even – it appears – if those laws are for state and not federal races
In the ruling on the Arizona immigration case — which struck down three parts of that state law, but kind of upheld the “show me your papers” provision – the court maintained that states couldn’t make their own decisions on federal policy – even when simply attempting to enforce established federal law.
“The national government has significant power to regulate immigration,” Justice Kennedy said for the majority. “Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.”
The view of the court? States better not “undermine federal law.” Whatever that means.
And that’s not all. On top of these two rulings, yesterday a federal appeals court ruled against Michigan, Texas and twelve other states – who sued to block new