Daily Beast Attempts to Paint Iowa Republican Joni Ernst as Nullification Nelly

Recent polls show a tight contest in the Iowa Senate race to replace retiring liberal Democrat Tom Harkin (D), so leave it to the Daily Beast to hype a video clip it recently unearthed to insist that it is evidence that Republican nominee Joni Ernst as a nut who betrays a "shocking ignorance" [see image below page break] about constitutional law regarding the Tenth Amendment and state nullification of federal law.

That's how Ben Jacobs painted the military veteran and Republican state senator, suggesting her answer to a question posed to her at a September 13, 2013 event was an endorsement of state legislatures issuing nullification proclamations against federal laws:

Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Iowa, appears to believe states can nullify federal laws. In a video obtained by The Daily Beast, Ernst said on September 13, 2013 at a form held by the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition that Congress should not pass any laws “that the states would consider nullifying.”

“You know we have talked about this at the state legislature before, nullification. But, bottom line is, as U.S. Senator why should we be passing laws that the states are considering nullifying? Bottom line: our legislators at the federal level should not be passing those laws. We’re right…we’ve gone 200-plus years of federal legislators going against the Tenth Amendment’s states’ rights. We are way overstepping bounds as federal legislators. So, bottom line, no we should not be passing laws as federal legislators—as senators or congressman—that the states would even consider nullifying. Bottom line.”

Ernst, a first-term state senator, has never explicitly supported pro-nullification legislation in her time in the Iowa state senate. However, she co-sponsored a resolution that says “the State of Iowa hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States.” It was introduced in response to “many federal mandates [that] are directly in violation of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

States cannot nullify federal laws, of course.

Jacobs includes for his viewers a video clip lasting about a minute long. Of course, nothing in the video suggests an explicit endorsement of nullification, and Ernst's point is that it is incumbent on federal legislators to not vote for unconstitutional intrusions on the areas of policy best left states and localities.

In his penultimate paragraphs, Jacobs insisted that "Ernst’s comments mark yet another chapter in what has been an ugly Senate campaign" in which:

Democrats have tried to depict her as an extremist and suggested that the Iowa state senator supports impeaching President Obama. In contrast, the Republicans have slammed Braley as being an out-of-touch liberal trial lawyer who is willing to sue his neighbors over minor squabbles and who looks down on those without advanced degrees.

Jacobs and the Daily Beast seem all to eager to give Democrats a handy assist in painting Ernst in an unfavorable light.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.