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October 9, 2015

The Problem with Chaffetz as Speaker

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You could hardly have a more fluid situation than what is going on right now with regard to future Republican House leadership, so this blog may be out of date before it’s finished. But as I’m writing, several people are maneuvering for leadership positions, and the general grassroots mood is that they want a “real conservative.”

(Of course, what a “real conservative” is differs literally from activist to activist. If they agree with you down the line on every single issue, they are a “real conservative,” and if they disagree with you on anything, they are a RINO. Apparently. Which is the biggest problem the conservative movement has right now. It’s principles, people. Anyway . . . )

One candidate who some feel is the “real conservative” for Speaker of the House is Jason Chaffetz from Utah. Chaffetz is an interesting case. Is Chaffetz the “real conservative” option?

Well, yes, the Obama administration doesn’t like Chaffetz, but that’s largely because he chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and thus has been looking into Executive Branch.

But conservatives mostly define themselves by their principles, and one of the pretty bedrock principles is constitutional federalism. On that front, Chaffetz is troubling, for at least two reasons.

First, Chaffetz has been a primary driver of the attempt to pass state sales taxes on Internet transactions. It’s called the Remote Transactions Parity Act, and it’s just this year’s release of the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA), which conservatives have managed to soundly defeat for several legislative sessions now. But that hasn’t stopped Chaffetz from pushing this legislation that is highly problematic from a federalism standpoint.

Chaffetz’s legislation is highly problematic, but the main problem is that it empowers states to cross state border and tax and audit businesses and taxpayers who do not vote in that state. In other words, it’s taxation without representation. That’s why previous Supreme Courts have found such schemes to be unconstitutional, and it’s why conservatives have thus far rejected Chaffetz’s legislation.

And then there’s the Restore America’s Wire Act, which is an attempt to regulate at the federal level something that has been regulated at the state level. It’s a gross overreach of federal authority, and the only reason Republicans like Chaffetz favor it is that they are getting the big bucks from Las Vegas gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson. Now, Adelson is a great contributor to conservative candidates, and that’s all well and good, but when it comes to expanding federal authority, true conservatives should just say no, based on their principles.

So here we have just two recent examples of Chaffetz not simply voting to expand federal authority beyond its constitutional bounds, but actually writing and championing the legislation. Chaffetz has a federalism problem, and that certainly strikes me as a major problem for a person who wants to become the Republican leader in Congress.

We need leaders in Congress who want to devolve power back to the states, not continue to expand federal power over the states. And Chaffetz doesn’t fit that bill.

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