House Republicans Pass Bill To Let Oklahoma Lawmakers Declare Federal Actions Unconstitutional

Feb 25, 2021

Credit Serge Melki

Oklahoma House Republicans passed a bill on Thursday to give the legislature power to determine whether federal actions are constitutional.

House Bill 1236 says lawmakers would refer a determination on whether a presidential order, federal rule or congressional action is constitutional to the state attorney general, but if their office doesn't act on that determination, the legislature can declare the action unconstitutional by a simple majority vote.

Rep. Andy Fugate (D-Del City) said he supports reviews of executive orders, but the bill goes too far.

"I think it’s appropriate for this body to ask the attorney general to challenge federal actions that we believe are unconstitutional, but I cannot support the blatantly unconstitutional concept of having a legislative body assume the powers of the judiciary to determine whether or not something is constitutional," Fugate said.

Rep. Mark McBride (R-Moore) was asked how saying a presidential order, federal rule or congressional action was unconstitutional would play out.

"We don’t follow it. We overturn it and we don’t follow it as a state, and I think other states would follow," McBride said.

House Minority Leader Emily Virgin (D-Norman) said that sounds like something done before in U.S. history.

"If that’s not reminiscent of southern states during the civil rights movement, I don’t know what is. Is it intentional? I don’t think so, but intent is just one small piece of the puzzle," Virgin said.

McBride said he is concerned about the number of executive orders President Joe Biden is issuing, given that their policy agendas don’t align. Virgin said the state can already challenge federal actions in court.

House Republicans added an emergency clause to HB1236 so it will take effect immediately if signed into law, rather than on Nov. 1 as originally written. The measure now goes to the Senate.

House Republicans also formally declared their intent to use the powers in HB1236 by passing House Resolution 1005, which is to be sent to President Joe  Biden, U.S. Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.