Nearly two months ago, I was interviewed by Houston’s NBC affiliate, KPRC, to discuss Texas’s frequent lawsuits against the federal government. At last, the piece aired.
Here is the video, and the transcript is below.
From the environment to transgender issues to immigration, Texas is certainly not afraid to push back against federal regulations that come from the top.
Records from the Attorney General’s Office show Texas has sued the federal government at least 46 times since President Barack Obama first took office.
“If Texas could write in their briefs, ‘Don’t Mess With Texas,’ they would,” said Josh Blackman, constitutional law professor at South Texas College of Law. “I have little doubt that Texas believes that their interpretation of the Constitution is stronger than that of the Presidency.”
That sentiment was clear in 2013, when Gov. Greg Abbott was still Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
“My job description has been simplified over the past four years, because what I do is go into the office, I sue the federal government and then I go home,” Abbott said while speaking to a Freedomworks group in Austin in 2013.
Fighting the federal government isn’t cheap. Records obtained by Channel 2 Investigates show taxpayers spent more than $6 million on these cases. The outcome includes eight wins, 12 losses, 17 cases still pending and nine withdrawn.
Blackman said that’s not a bad average.
“When you sue the federal government, you’re playing against the house. You have house odds and you’re likely going to lose,” Blackman said.
Some of Texas’ high-profile wins include blocking the president’s executive order on immigration and the president’s guidance to schools on transgender bathroom policies. Some of the losses include trying to stop the Affordable Care Act and the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the state.
VIEW: Texas v. Federal Government suits filed (please note that the status of many of these cases have changed since KPRC received this document in September. KPRC will continue monitoring these cases and update this story).
“The important thing is fighting the good fight, not necessarily winning,” Rice University political science professor Mark Jones said.
Jones said in addition to pushing back against what Texas perceives to be an overreaching federal government, there is a tinge of politics to some of these lawsuits.
“I think there is political benefit in suing the federal government when that government is run by Barack Obama,” Jones said. “Part of the Republican playbook today is run as much against President Obama here in Texas as against your actual opponent and it’s been very successful in the general election.”
Both Blackman and Jones said congressional deadlock on many issues leaves the door open for lawsuits when the president tries to enact new policy.
“If the states aren’t bringing these suits, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, for a lot of these issues to be resolved by the courts,” Jones said. “It falls to the states as those who can bring these suits in the first place.”
Both men added there is always going to be a natural conflict between Republican leaders in a conservative state and Democratic leaders in the White House.
“In their view, the pendulum has swung too much in favor of federal government encroachment and that has reduced state autonomy to a level that, in their view, is unconstitutional,” Jones said.
Two of the most recent lawsuits came in September regarding President Obama’s rule making more workers eligible for overtime and a plan to give an international organization oversight of internet domain names.
Officials with both Gov. Abbott’s and Attorney General Ken Paxton’s offices declined to comment for this story.