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Crossing the “t’s” and Dotting the “i’s”

     As many may be aware, New Jersey recently lost out on a potential $400 million grant under the Race to the Top program.  Ten states qualified with Ohio being the tenth and New Jersey missing by three points under their scoring system.  The reason New Jersey lost is that they included State education figures for the years 2010 and 2011 instead of 2008 and 2009 as was required.  Initially, Governor Christie blamed the Obama administration calling them a bunch of “box checkers.”  Since the, a video was released showing that State education officials had this brought to their attention in face-to-face meetings in Washington.  They were not permitted to submit the correct data.

     As a result of this video, Christie fired Education Commissioner Brett Schundler and essentially called him a liar for misleading the administration about what amounts to a clerical error.  The Christie-Schundler relationship was rocky to start with.  The original proposal was negated by Christie after Schundler negotiated compromises with the teacher’s union- the NJEA.  Compromise, per se, was not off the table, contrary to the statements of the NJEA.  Two things irked Christie.  First, some of the compromises merely reinforced the status quo and amounted to actual non-reform.  Anyone who follows New Jersey politics knows that Christie has done his best to shake up the status quo in his short tenure in Trenton, especially as concerns public workers unions.  Secondly, Schundler announced the agreement prematurely without the knowledge or approval of Christie.  Hence, the agreement was negated and resubmitted more in line with Christie’s goals and policies.  Schundler publicly apologized after a public dressing down.  From that point forward, the writing was on the wall for Schundler.

    And as everyone who follows Jersey politics knows, Democrats have jumped all over this non-controversy.  Since they control both houses of the legislature, they are holding hearings to get to the bottom of what they perceive as some malfeasance of office.  The goal is to tarnish Christie’s image.  And given the budget cuts this year, they argue, that $400 million would have come in handy for New Jersey’s schools.  In reality, it is nothing but political posturing over much-ado-about $400 million.  The state learned an important lesson about dotting their “i’s” and crossing their “t’s” in Federal grant proposals.  It may be frustrating and some may find it trivial and Christie’s original take on the situation may have been correct in the first place.  The bottom line is that the error cost the State five precious points on the scoring system had the correct data been presented and New Jersey, not Ohio, would have, could have, should have…

     But this whole episode pales in comparison to the possible gaffe regarding Obamacare.  A detailed article can be found on the American Thinker website.  Primarily because of the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts, Obamacare was rammed through Congress bypassing the normal conference committee method to hammer out differences between the House and Senate versions.  Instead, Pelosi and Reid, at the urging of the White House, used the budget reconciliation process.  This was done with the explicit purpose of avoiding debate and a probable Republican filibuster in the Senate.  As a result, essentially a  draft bill was approved and signed into law by Obama.  Unfortunately, in their zeal to “do something” and hand Obama a legislative victory- his “legacy” if you will- the draft did not contain a severance clause.  This clause basically states that if a particular provision of the law is found to be unconstitutional, the remainder of the law remains in effect.

     The current legal proceedings begun by State Attorney Generals address this issue.  Seeking dismissal, Obama has already lost round 1 and the case is proceeding.  Their particular grievance is the individual mandate.  Here, the states claim that this provision is an over-reach of the Commerce Clause.  In the case of several states, it violates their laws to the opposite effect.  Although the Federal government would most likely prevail under the Supremacy Clause argument, the fact the courts are allowing the case to proceed seems to indicate that there is a question under the Commerce Clause, if not the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.

     Thus, the Federal government must clearly demonstrate the necessity of the mandate.  And in their briefs they argue just that; without the mandate, the other provisions cannot proceed.  However, with this argument, absent the severance clause, they cannot now argue that if the mandate fails to pass constitutional muster, the other parts can remain in effect, that they just have to go back to the drawing board on that provision.  In effect, its an all or none argument on the part of the Federal government strictly under the Commerce Clause.  The lawsuit and the states have legally boxed in the Federal government.  They cannot argue it two ways.

     Unlike a clerical error in Trenton costing New Jersey a potential $400 million, this “error” in Congress SAVES a nation a potential $1.5 trillion.  New Jersey schools will survive just well without that money.  And the country can definitely afford the mistake of Congress.  Should the states prevail, thank the Democratic Congress for their zeal.  Maybe then, health care can truly be reformed.  Like Christie said, those in Washington are “box checkers,” except this time they potentially boxed themselves in.

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