Republican AGs take blowtorch to Biden agenda

With their party out of power within the White House and Congress, the nation’s 26 Republican attorneys general have emerged because the weapons division of the GOP, reprising a task played by Democratic AGs during the Trump era. 

Republican AGs take blowtorch to Biden agenda
Republican AGs take blowtorch to Biden agenda

Republican attorneys general are suing the Biden administration over the Keystone XL pipeline, and over its its immigration and climate policies. One is challenging the White House’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Others have raised the specter of a constitutional challenge to the voting rights bill H.R. 1.

With their party out of power within the White House and Congress, the nation’s 26 Republican attorneys general have emerged because the weapons division of the GOP, reprising a task played by Democratic AGs during the Trump era. even as Democratic AGs served because the vanguard of the blue-state resistance, Republican AGs are leading the charge to stymie President Joe Biden’s policy-making agenda.

“We’re standing up and fighting back,” said Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who is leading a coalition of states suing Biden over an executive order concerning the “social cost” of greenhouse emission emissions.Republican attorneys general, said Schmitt, vice chair of the Republican Attorneys General Association, “play a really important role in checking a really aggressive administrative state that’s been unleashed.”

Only two months into Biden’s term, the breadth of challenges from Republican-led states to the president’s agenda is already expansive, pertaining to everything from tax program to global climate change and abortion. Five Republican attorneys general interjected themselves into his appointment process, urging Biden to withdraw his nominee for the No. 3 position at the Department of Justice , Vanita Gupta.And the litigation is probably going just beginning, as Biden and therefore the Democratic-controlled Congress unwind Trump-era policies and start to implement their own.

It’s “the rise of the Republican AGs as a counterweight to the Biden administration’s overreach,” said Mark Weaver, a Republican strategist and former deputy attorney general of Ohio. “This is that the natural tension and therefore the balance of power, right? Leaders in government will use whatever levers of power are available to them to advance their policy goals. And state Republican attorneys general have the power to bring lawsuits. And that’s what they’re doing.”

State attorneys general have traditionally assumed a more prominent position in Washington when a president of the opposite party is in power. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, when he was state's attorney general, sued the Obama administration so frequently that he said in 2013, “I enter the office within the morning. I sue Barack Obama, then i'm going home.”

Years later, Democrats returned the favor. Former California Attorney General — and newly confirmed Health and Human Services Secretary - Xavier Becerra alone filed no fewer than 100 lawsuits against the Trump administration on issues starting from health care and immigration to global climate change and regulation .

The challenges Republicans are now mounting against Biden represent “the other side of the coin from the Democrats bringing literally many lawsuits against the Trump administration, which successively built on a trend” of Republicans suing Obama, said Rob McKenna, the previous Republican attorney general of Washington and former president of the National Association of Attorneys General.

He said one reason for the proliferation of such litigation is that successive administrations are relying increasingly on the utilization of executive orders, “so they leave themselves hospitable legal challenges” about the extent of executive power.

“On the political side,” McKenna said, “the base of every party, Democratic and Republican, expects their attorney general to intensify and fight for issues that the bottom believes in. … There’s a better expectation now that the AGs are getting to move , and if you don’t intensify , you’re likely to return under attack from people in your own party.”

That was more obvious than ever within the aftermath of the November election. Following then-President Donald Trump’s defeat, it had been Texas’ embattled attorney general, Ken Paxton, who led a failed effort by Republican-led states to overturn the election in several battleground states though not his own. The attorney general of Utah, Sean Reyes, crossed state borders to advance Trump's baseless claims of voter fraud in Nevada. And an arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association sent robocalls encouraging people to attend the “Stop the Steal” rally at the Capitol on Jan. 6. RAGA officials distanced themselves from the decision and condemned the following riot.

A minimum of one Republican state's attorney general who declined to hitch the trouble to overturn the election, Idaho’s Lawrence Wasden, has faced recriminations in his home state, with Republican lawmakers there attempting to curb his power.

To Democrats, the involvement of Republican attorneys general within the election’s aftermath was something more pernicious than typical partisan warfare. Rather, it had been “something that we just haven’t seen before,” said Maura Healey, the Massachusetts attorney general and co-chair of the Democratic Attorneys General Association.

“There are often fights,” said Healey, who was a pacesetter of the Democratic attorneys general's resistance to Trump. “There are often challenges to deciding the scope or the extent of federal authority over a state, for instance , right? And there could also be a Republican philosophy around that and a Democratic philosophy around that. So, we’re wont to those battles, OK? But this is often something different.”

Now, she said, “Unfortunately, it seems that there are certain Republican AGs who seem hell-bent on trying to prevent the Biden and Harris administration from moving forward, and that i think it’s unfortunate.”Alabama’s Republican attorney general, Steve Marshall, said the extent of Republicans’ legal challenges against Biden will depend upon how aggressive his administration is, largely around executive actions. But GOP attorneys general won't only be attempting to dam elements of Biden’s agenda, he said. they're going to even be seeking to preserve Trump-era policies that Democrats sued to undo which Republican attorneys general will now intervene in an attempt to preserve.

How much litigation Republicans ultimately file, Marshall said, “really depends on how aggressive this administration wants to urge in pushing the envelope concerning the separation of powers” and executive authority.

McKenna, like other attorneys general and former attorneys general of both parties, noted that attorneys general still work across the aisle on significant issues like consumer protection, big tech and therefore the opioid epidemic. Jim Hood, the previous Democratic attorney general of Mississippi and a former president of the National Association of Attorneys General, said on those sorts of issues, “we have traditionally reached across party lines, still do to the present day, and can within the future.”

Iowa’s Tom Miller, a Democrat and therefore the nation’s longest serving attorney general, agreed. He said the Republicans’ more partisan filings amount to “quite a couple of lawsuits during a short time.” But he said it “remains to be seen” if the GOP’s overall efforts will become more expansive than his own party’s were during the Trump era.

[ News Source POLITICO ]

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