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"Texas asserts sovereign immunity against Congress"

By Steven Dinan The Washington Times - Thursday, May 16, 2019

"Texas is asserting its sovereign immunity against Congress, telling Democrats on two congressional committees this week that the state has no obligation to comply with their investigative demands.

Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office says that as a state with sovereign powers under the Constitution, Texas can’t be treated like a federal agency or Cabinet secretary who can be compelled to comply.

“Texas does not draw its authority from the United States or the United States Constitution, but from its status as a dual sovereign within the union,” Jeffrey C. Mateer, first assistant attorney general, wrote in a letter Monday to the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Mr. Mateer fired off a similar letter Wednesday to the House Ways and Means Committee rebuffing its attempts, saying the state wouldn’t stand to be treated like a “subdivision of the federal government or a private citizen.”

“Granting Congress the power to exercise ‘oversight’ over the constitutional officers of a state engaged in the lawful exercise of that state’s core authority would undermine the fabric of our system of dual sovereignty,” Mr. Mateer wrote.

The defiance in some ways tracks that of President Trump, who has said HouseDemocrats’ investigations into the president’s business, family and myriad official actions are harassment.

Texas is objecting to Democrats’ requests for documents probing the state’s efforts to clean up its voter rolls, and documents detailing the state’s efforts to protect faith-based adoption and foster care providers against an Obama-era rule about working with same-sex couples.

The clash could break new legal ground.

Ken Cuccinelli, a former Republican attorney general in Virginia, said he never encountered the situation during his time in office, but he added that two constitutional principles are at stake: the sovereignty of states and the supremacy clause, which gives the federal government an edge in clashes with states.

He said Texas makes a strong case in its letters for why it will prevail.

Congress doesn’t get to do oversight over states — period. Nor can they compel action by state officers,” he said. “If I were a betting man, I’d take Texas and give two touchdowns on this one.”

Josh Blackman, a professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, said the House committees have issued requests only for documents. Things will get more complicated if either committee feels strongly enough to approve subpoenas.

Mr. Blackman said Texas could try to head that off by suing first, picking a court in Texas and asking for a temporary restraining order against having to turn over any documents while the state argues its case that its officers aren’t subject to federal demands."

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