HELENA - Whether a resolution debated on the House floor Wednesday was a call for secession or an affirmation of the U.S. Constitution depended on who was doing the talking at any given moment.
House Resolution 3, sponsored by Rep. Michael More, R-Gallatin Gateway, was a sweeping statement on state rights.
“For those of you who would like the abbreviated version, here it is: The right to govern is derived from the consent of the governed. That is what this resolution is all about,” More said.
Among other things, the resolution states that “any acts of Congress that abridge protected individual freedoms are not law and are void” and “every state has a right to ignore or reject all unwarranted assumptions of power by other entities within its boundaries.”
Knowing the charges were coming, More said the resolution was not about seceding from the union, only an affirmation of the rights granted by the Constitution.
But those charges came anyway from several Democrats.
Pointing to the last line of the resolution, which states that Montana’s contract with the United States should be considered broken if Congress passes a law breaching the “reservations” of the resolution, Rep. Mike Menahan, D-Helena, said, “If this isn’t groundwork for seceding from the union, I don’t know what is.”
Rep. Franke Wilmer, D-Bozeman, said Texas Gov. Rick Perry had just signed a similar resolution in his state before speaking to a rally at which chants of “secession” arose.
“We don’t serve the Constitution of our government by passing anti-government resolutions like this,” Wilmer said.
Many Republicans countered there was nothing anti-American about the resolution.
“There is no revolution. There are some very angry people about the overreaching of government,” said Rep. Ed Butcher, R-Winifred. “This is very pro-government, because government is of and by the people,”
Yet some Republicans didn’t shirk at the thought of secession.
“This is a federal government be-good stick,” said Rep. Krayton Kerns, R-Laurel. “Now there is talk of secession. (The resolution) isn’t saying that. But that is the big stick in the room that we have to occasionally display.
“This is a shot across the bow that says, ‘Hey, don’t forget about us out here,’” Kerns said.
Rep. Robyn Driscoll, D-Billings, said such shots could lead to dangerous places.
“Buried in this resolution is the same confrontational language and ideals that the Freemen and Timothy McVeigh stood for,” she said. “This resolution sends us down a similar path as the Freemen.”
Some wanted the 35-minute debate to continue, but the House voted to close the debate.
The resolution failed on a 50-50 vote. All 50 Republicans voted for the resolution. All 50 Democrats voted against.
Daniel Person can be reached at email@example.com.
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