With state legislatures back in session, legislators are looking for options to reassert their legitimate role in the constitutional structure of federalism. Sadly, a few otherwise well-intentioned legislators are once again turning to the discredited and unconstitutional doctrine of nullification—the claim that an individual state legislature has the authority to veto federal laws.
Nullification may appear to offer a tempting “silver bullet” solution to the overexpansion of the federal government, but it is imperative that legislators reject this unconstitutional and unlawful doctrine.
Heritage recently released a factsheet distilling the core arguments against nullification and an essay by Christian Fritz entitled Interposition and the Heresy of Nullification: James Madison and the Exercise of Sovereign Constitutional Powers. Fritz’s essay provides an in-depth historical explanation of why Madison, the Father of the Constitution, emphatically rejected the attempt by a single state to nullify national laws. Equally important, Fritz explains in detail Madison’s theory of “interposition”—a constitutional method for states to resist federal encroachment.
In 2011, nullification bills were successfully defeated in each state in which they were introduced. Defenders of the Constitution should continue to resist the allure of nullification and seek other constitutional means of defending federalism, limited constitutional government, and the cause of liberty.