As published for the Washington Post on August 6, 2009:

By Jeff Rosen and Jay Lefkowitz

With his “stimulus” bill, “cap and trade” solution to global warming, and proposed government takeover of health care, President Obama has made no secret of his desire to expand the size, role and budgets of federal health and safety regulators. Yet this summer, in a largely unreported action, the president took a radical step toward weakening the authority of federal health and safety regulators throughout the government.

The president issued a memorandum to all federal agencies May 20, telling them, in effect, to avoid having their health and safety rules become authoritative over state tort laws, and to consider revoking any rules from the Clinton and Bush years that made federal laws nationally uniform instead of leaving authority with state court juries.

The issue involved is federal “preemption,” created in 1789 in Article VI of the Constitution. It says that when the federal government has validly chosen to regulate an area, federal law “shall be the supreme law of the land . . . anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.”

Read the full article here

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