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Texas Gov. Rick Perry Contemplates Secession

That is why I am here today to express my unwavering support for efforts all across our country to reaffirm the states' rights affirmed by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I believe that returning to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its essential 10th Amendment will free our state from undue regulations, and ultimately strengthen our Union.
The legislation itself (HCR 50) declares the state sovereign and demands "[t]hat all compulsory federal legislation that directs states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties or sanctions or that requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding be prohibited or repealed."

This isn't your garden-variety conservative rhetoric. It's actually considerably more radical than that. The Civil War (and, if that's not enough, a subsequent Supreme Court decision) makes clear that secession is illegal.

Beyond that, the Texas resolution (though silent on secession per se) appears to buy into the similarly discredited theory of 'nullification'--the idea that states are sovereign and can pick and choose which federal laws apply to them. This is illustrative, I think, of a problem that, in the United States at least, seems to particularly afflict conservatives--specifically, that even brief electoral reverses make it difficult for mainstream Republican politicians (like Perry), and members-in-good-standing of the conservative movement, to steer clear of the line between loyal opposition and truly fringe ideas. You saw a flash of this when Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) said she wanted Americans to be "armed and dangerous" against energy reform, then quickly walked it back, and in other instances as well.

There will be more to come, beyond what can plausibly be construed as irrational exuberance in the midst of a tea party.

About The Author

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Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com