The New York Times has been running a multi-part story—with countless additional internal links—on the connections between (Republican) state attorneys general and industry groups and their lawyers and lobbyists. There’s lots of wining and dining in fancy places to gain and maintain corporate access to state AG’s when it’s needed—more often than not, to deal with this or that multi-state investigation and prosecution. Also, the energy industry in particular has made common cause with state AG’s in fighting the Obama administration’s climate change agenda. The article series is quite good in a Times-ish way—informative to the point of exhaustion, self-congratulatory (“We intrepid reporters unearthed this information on the internet! And through open records requests!”), and slightly paranoid.
Yesterday, the House of Representative passed a massive $1.1 trillion spending bill to keep government—most of it, anyhow—operating through the summer of 2015. (The measure is expected to pass the Senate unless someone filibusters.) Senator Warren, the Madame Defarge of the U.S. financial sector, is very upset about one piece of the bill: an amendment to the Dodd-Frank Act that would give certain FDIC-insured banks the ability to keep derivatives contracts on their books (as opposed to the statutorily required “push-out” to subsidiaries). Senator Warren thinks this fix will spell the difference between the Dodd-Frank’s ironclad anti-bailout protections and a future Armageddon at taxpayer expense.
I’ve long wanted to understand and maybe write about international commercial arbitration. It’s of enormous economic importance and hugely interesting as a matter of legal theory—especially if you’re skeptical of legal positivism (as I am) and fond of contractual arrangements and competition among legal systems (ditto). The American system, post-New Deal, traps commercial actors in multiple hostile legal forums: that’s Erie Railroad, which is organized hell. The international commercial system seems to be that parties choose an impartial, exclusive forum by contract, which sounds heavenly by comparison. How exactly does that work? Unfortunately I’m no expert, and unlikely to become one.
This past Monday the Supreme Court heard oral argument in (yet) another important AdLaw case, Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association. At issue: the D.C. Circuit’s “Paralyzed Veterans doctrine,” a set of cases holding that under some circumstances, agencies seeking to change their interpretation of a regulation or law must go through notice-and-comment rulemaking even when the original interpretation was adopted informally.
Last week, the Supreme Court granted cert in another important administrative law case—yet again involving EPA; yet again arising over the agency’s riff on the Clean Air Act; yet again a Chevron case. After EME Homer City and Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG) (yet again a petitioner in this case), it’s the third such case to be heard, decided, or granted in a single calendar year. Maybe it’s just the ebb and flow of cases, but a casual survey of the D.C. Circuit’s environmental docket and the EPA’s ambitious plans to rid the galaxy of any chemical whatever strongly suggests that cases of this sort will continue to loom large.
Under the Constitution, states have no right to “interpose”—that is, to block the enforcement of supreme, validly enacted federal law. However, with the arguable exception of the judges in each state, state officials are under no obligation to execute an affirmative federal command issued to them. They cannot be ordered to accept federal funds or to establish an exchange. The ACA illustrates the salutary force of this constitutional precept: grand federal schemes gang aft agley. The next big illustration could and hopefully will be the regulation of greenhouse gases under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act (CAA), coming very soon in this theater.
James L. Buckley is a former U.S. Senator, federal judge, and real-life saint. The Federalist Society’s 2014 Annual Convention featured a presentation and panel discussion on his most recent book, Saving Congress from Itself. As the title suggests, Jim Buckley—even at age 91—is into tasks that are kind of biggish. His key proposal is to phase out any and all federal transfer payments to state and local governments.
Robert R. Gasaway (Kirkland & Ellis—once upon a time, Judge Buckley’s law clerk) chaired the panel composed of Senator Buckley, John Eastman (Chapman Law School), and yours truly. Pending FedSoc’s posting of the video, my humble remarks appear below. More fodder for my friend Linda Greenhouse, I suppose.
Saving Congress from Itself is a must-buy and must-read. I wish I could write like that.
God bless Senator James Buckley.
The hubbub over the ACA is getting weirder and weirder. Amidst other revelations, there appears to be an extensive but as-yet undisclosed legislative history bearing on the pending Supreme Court litigation in King v. Burwell. One surprise at a time, though:
Professor Jonathan Gruber has by now well earned the George Washington Cherry Tree Award. Congenitally incapable of telling a lie, he blurts out an inconvenient truth about the act every time he opens his mouth. In today’s Wall Street Journal, Tevi Troy unveils “Another ObamaCare Deception” cheerfully revealed by Professor Gruber, this one having to do with an artfully disguised tax on “Cadillac” health plans that will eventually encompass Chevys.
Yesterday, GMU Law School celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall—quite possibly, the only law school to commemorate the joyous occasion. The event was sponsored by the GMU Law & Economics Center and the Federalist Society. I was asked to deliver a few personal remarks. They appear below.
Herewith (as promised) a brief comment on brother Rappaport’s splendid earlier post on the “exclusive” Commerce Clause. Here’s the key paragraph:
It is too bad that Congress does not have the exclusive commerce power, because I believe it would be better than the original meaning. An exclusive power would make it less likely that the states would have agreed to the New Deal expanded, concurrent commerce power. Thus, the exclusive power would have been unlikely to have been expanded into the broad scope that the current commerce power has. With a more limited scope, the federal government would have limited authority, as would the states. There would not be two governments exercising the same authority and neither would have complete power to create cartels. This arrangement came close to being followed in the pre New Deal era, when the Court came pretty close to recognizing a limited federal Commerce Power that was largely exclusive. But it is now, sadly from a policy perspective, gone with the wind.
I think there’s pretty powerful evidence to the effect that the Founders did mean the Commerce Clause to be exclusive; it’s just that their idea of what constitutes “commerce among the several states” was so much narrower that ours.