Six state attorneys-general warn Joe Biden against signing 'unconstitutional laws' and presidential overreach

Six state attorneys-general warn Joe Biden against signing 'unconstitutional laws' and presidential overreach
(Getty Images)

Six state attorneys-general on Wednesday, January 27, wrote to President Joe Biden cautioning him that any executive action or federal overreach which is potentially unconstitutional will not go without facing a challenge. Put in another way, the letter signed by the attorneys-general told the Biden administration that any action taken by it that crosses its statutory authority and is not consistent with the constitution or puts civil liberties at risk could result in the states taking legal actions.

West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey was in charge of the coalition and, according to the Republican’s office, the letter was intended at asking Biden to be careful about the separation of powers as enshrined in the US Constitution and the authority of the states relative to that of the federal administration. 

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (Getty Images)

“We stand ready to meet with your administration to discuss more how the issues below affect our States; litigation is never first option, and we would like to help your team in its important job on behalf of all Americans, consistent with the Constitution and the rule of law,” Morrisey wrote in the letter addressed to the White House.

“Yet if you sign unconstitutional laws passed by Congress, it will be our responsibility and duty to challenge those laws in court. If cabinet officials, executive officers and agencies go beyond the bounds of their statutory authority, fail to follow legally required procedures, or fall short of the bedrock Administrative Procedure Act obligation of reasoned decision making, it will likewise be our responsibility to take action,” it said. 

The Administrative Procedure Act is a federal law from the 1940s that oversees the process for agency rulemaking and has been invoked frequently to challenge the executive branch’s rules and regulations.

“The President cannot cut constitutional corners or shirk statutory strictures without inevitably doing more harm to our country than good. The foundations of our republic and American life are embedded within our Constitution’s carefully crafted design. Accordingly, today by this letter we respectfully urge you when pursuing your policy priorities to honor the core constitutional tenets which should be appreciated and respected by every person entrusted with the honor and burdens of the presidency,” the letter added. 

Morrisey is joined by attorneys-general from Indiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas and Montana — all GOP members. 


Biden has already signed several executive orders

The letter was sent in the wake of Biden issuing a series of executive orders in his very first week in office. Some of them reversed policies that the administration of his predecessor Donald Trump had formulated while others were about establishing and expanding policies related to climate change, racial equality and the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Some of the new president’s orders have already come under the scanner, like the one to return to the Paris climate deal that Trump had withdrawn from months after taking office in 2017. The move to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline has also sparked controversy and threatened the US’s peaceful relation with neighbor Canada.


The Epoch Times, a far-right media outlet, has also slammed the new Democratic administration saying it embraced “a quasi-Marxist critical race theory” in its policies aiming to prioritize certain racial communities that have found themselves at a disadvantage, historically. 

The letter written by the attorneys-general also noted that the freedom of religion and religious expression (First Amendment) and the right to bear arms (Second Amendment) are two areas of concern. America has found itself deeply polarized over these two issues over the years and the right-wing camps fear that the Biden administration has plans to make things go against their likings. 


Former President Donald Trump (Getty Images)

The attorneys-general said in the letter that while American presidents and the Congress always face pressure to exceed their power “lest they be judged to be ignoring important issues or failing to address critical problems,” it’s a president’s duty to uphold the constitution’s separation of powers as well as respect the sovereignty of the states.


They also said that the limits on federal power are not a flaw of the constitution and when certain issues that are outside the federal sphere need to be focused on, the “states are ready and able to do the job.”

The new administration has already faced legal challenges over its executive orders. For instance, a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked the president’s executive order to stop the deportation of certain immigrants for a hundred days, dealing a blow to the current administration’s plan to bring big reforms in immigration. 


However, it is not uncommon for presidential orders to meet legal hurdles. Trump also faced the same during his term when Democratic attorneys-general often sued his administration over a range of executive actions and regulations in fields like climate, immigration and health.

According to a website run by Dr Paul Nolette, an associate professor of political science at Marquette University who tracked lawsuits that were filed against the former president, the Trump administration was sued as many as 157 times in cases in which states were "initial plaintiffs, successful intervenors or in single state lawsuits".


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 Six attorneys general write President Joe Biden warn presidential overreach unconstitutional laws