The Daily Signal: In 8 Years of Obama, GOP AGs Sued 46 Times. Democrats Already Sued Trump 35 Times.


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Democrats continue to sue the Trump administration at a record clip. The sheer volume of lawsuits filed this year by Democratic attorneys general is staggering.

Democrats have a singular focus: advancing their partisan political agenda. This is not about the Constitution or the rule of law. Democratic attorneys general in twenty-two states are operating political machines out of their offices. That should scare everyone.

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A coalition of northeastern states suing the Trump administration over the new tax code is only the most recent example of what puts Democrats on track to file a record number of lawsuits against one administration.

Democrats already have set a record for most lawsuits filed against a presidential administration in a single year.

What’s Changed

A total of 20 state attorneys general across the country are Democrats. They initiated 35 multistate lawsuits against Trump administration policies in 2017 alone.

That contrasts with 46 multistate lawsuits brought by Republican state attorneys general against the Obama administration during all eight years, according to research compiled by Paul Nolette, a political science professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

During President Barack Obama’s two terms, Republican state attorneys general led litigation challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare and the legality of Obama’s executive actions to advance immigration and environmental goals, among other issues.

“There’s no doubt we are taking a page out of the Republican AGs’ playbook,” Lizzie Ulmer, communications director for the Democratic Attorneys General Association, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

‘Completely Different’

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican who led some of the lawsuits against the Obama administration, strongly disagrees.

“This is a completely different concept. We were trying to enforce the Constitution; they are trying to do an end run around the Constitution,” Paxton told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

“We challenged the Obama administration on its authority to rewrite the law that Congress hasn’t written,” Paxton said. “This, on the other hand, is suing the Trump administration because they don’t like his actions, and their goal is to get a liberal judge.”

Going to Court

Ulmer, the association’s communications director, noted that Democratic attorneys general are willing to show bipartisanship.

Earlier this year, after 10 Republican state attorneys general threatened to sue the federal government over the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, all 20 Democratic attorneys general wrote Trump pledging to defend him against his own party if he preserved DACA.

After the Trump administration announced a phase-out of DACA, 16 Democratic attorneys general sued.

Under federalism, states have the power to determine many of their own policies while remaining part of, and under the authority of, the larger political unit of the United States government.

The more recent lawsuits seem to be more “aggressive” and “creative,” said C. Boyden Gray, a White House counsel under President George H. W. Bush and U.S. ambassador to the European Union under President George W. Bush. He said he doesn’t think the Democratic lawsuits will last very long.

“The next Democratic president could trigger Republican attorneys general to sue,” Gray told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “The Democratic lawsuits seem very aggressive. Republican lawsuits were over traditional review of agency actions. Democratic lawsuits are more creative and less routine.”

The Numbers

During the two terms of the Reagan administration, 39 multistate lawsuits were filed, with a single year peak of seven lawsuits in 1982, according to Nolette’s tracking.

Under the elder Bush, the number of multistate lawsuits peaked at three in 1991, with a total of eight for the four-year term. President Bill Clinton faced 18 multistate lawsuits during his two terms in office, with a single-year peak of five in 1997.

Under the two terms of the younger Bush, the number of multiyear suits leaped to 44, with a single year peak of 10 in 2003.

Obama saw 46 multistate lawsuits over his eight years, peaking at 13 in 2015.

State attorneys general should be a check on federal power regardless of who the president is, said Nicole Waugh, spokeswoman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, chairwoman of the Republican Attorneys General Association.

“Attorney General Rutledge is committed to fighting against an overreaching federal government regardless of who serves as President,” Wough told The Daily Signal in a statement. “The Obama administration took many actions that exceeded the authority of the federal executive branch and infringed on the rights of states. It is incumbent on attorneys general to uphold and defend the rule of law.”