“A republic…if you can keep it.”

September 17th is Constitution Day. We celebrate adoption of our Constitution 229 years ago.

On the eve of Constitution Day, I’m reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s response when asked whether we’d created a republic or a monarchy; “A republic…if you can keep it.”

“Keeping the republic” is the business we have been attending to in Nashville this week. State sovereignty, nullification, the Supremacy Clause, the Tenth Amendment, and the separation of powers are among the doctrines of law and principals we debate and hold dear as Tennesseans — and Americans.

The General Assembly was called into “special session” by Governor Haslam in Nashville this week to resolve a conflict between the federal government and the State of Tennessee.

A state law we enacted to toughen penalties against minors who drink and drive caught the federal government’s attention in August. They contended our law conflicted with a federal “zero tolerance” law already on the books, and the Secretary of Transportation threatened to withhold $60 million in federal highway funding, unless we cleared things up before October 1.

Understanding the relationship between our states and the federal government is hard sometimes. Maintaining it is even harder.

Whether it is President Obama increasing the number of refugees by 30% next year and requiring Tennessee taxpayers to pay the bill for those he sends here, or unelected federal bureaucrats threatening to withhold our own tax dollars from us, we vigilantly defend our state sovereignty at every turn.

Picking our battles, knowing which hills take, and at what cost — not just monetary, but on principle — is important.

We have recently won four important battles in defense of state sovereignty and the Tenth Amendment in four cases involving immigration, education, preemption and the environment. But those victories are not secure.

We’ve been saying it for years here in Tennessee. “It matters who governs.” Make certain you are registered to vote in time for Election Day on November 8th.

We have a republic, but only if we can keep it.

Watch me on the floor of the Senate discussing the importance of Constitution Day!


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