Thanks to the Biden administration’s enthusiastic support of everything from a sweeping election overhaul to new restrictions on how coronavirus relief funds can be spent, states now find themselves subject to a whole new level of federal overreach, but the good news is that Republicans are fighting back.
As The Hill reports, an alliance of 14 GOP attorneys general filed suit against the Biden administration on Wednesday, claiming that a significant provision in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that forbids states from using relief funds to offset tax cuts is unconstitutional.
The complaint, which was filed in Alabama federal district court takes issue with the spending restriction contained in the bill, something the plaintiffs refer to as “one of the most egregious power grabs by the federal government in the history of the United States,” as the Washington Examiner noted.
According to language contained in the relief bill, state governments may not use funding obtained by virtue of the relief bill as a means to offset tax cuts or credits, either “directly or indirectly,” and the attorneys general assert that determination of whether such use occurs is impossible given the fungible nature of money and is a violation of the 10th Amendment, the anti-commandeering doctrine, and the conditional spending doctrine.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey blasted the provision, declaring, “Never before has the federal government attempted such a complete takeover of state finances,” adding:
We cannot stand for such overreach. The Constitution envisions co-sovereign states, not a federal government that forces states legislatures to forfeit one of their core constitutionally functions in exchange for a large check equal to approximately 25 percent of their annual respective general budgets.
In addition to West Virginia, states joining in the lawsuit include Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Montana. A similar lawsuit was previously filed by Republican Ohio AG Dave Yost, as The Hill noted, and separate suits have also been initiated by Missouri and Arizona.
For its part, the Treasury Department earlier this month defended the mandate, suggesting that “the law does not say that states cannot cut taxes at all, and it does not say that if a state cut taxes, it must pay back all of the federal funding it received.”
Even so, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was likely not surprised by the lawsuit, explaining last week that the agency had 60 days from the time the law was enacted to provide detailed guidance on the matter and admitting that there was still a “host of thorny issues” that needed answers, the Examiner reported, saying:
We will have to define what it means to use money from this act as an offset for tax cuts, and given the fungibility of money, it’s a hard question to answer.
It remains to be seen whether the attorneys general will get any traction in the courts as they push back on the Biden administration’s latest move to unconstitutionally expand the power of the federal government.