In a column on Tuesday's op-ed page, House Speaker John Boehner said Congress shouldn't be graded based on how many laws it passes. "We ought to be judged on how many laws that we repeal," he told Los Angeles Times columnist Doyle McManus.
It's no secret that congressional Republicans have repeatedly tried — and failed — to rescind the Affordable Care Act. What isn't as widely known is that they're also trying to undermine state laws, including California statutes.
We recently highlighted the efforts of Rep. Steve King of Iowa to block a California law to improve conditions for hens on egg farms. It turns out that his amendment is just one of several Washington-knows-best measures that stand in contrast to a perpetual theme of GOP campaigns — lessening the reach of the federal government.
In practice, it seems that Republicans are content to use the levers of federal power to contravene decisions made by elected officials closer to home, especially when it will allow allied interests to avoid local regulations without losing access to local markets.
A report in Sunday's Los Angeles Times identified six California laws that are being targeted in Congress. They are:
; A law banning inefficient light bulbs.
; A 2009 statute extending voter-approved standards for chicken cages to any eggs sold in the state regardless of where they are grown.
An egg farming group supports national standards, but King's amendment instead bars states from enforcing local standards on farm products imported for sale.
; King's amendment also could undermine California's six-year-old ban on the sale of foie gras produced by force-feeding ducks or geese.
; A transportation bill recently approved by a House committee would shift authority over California's high-speed rail project from Sacramento to Washington.
; A measure passed last year by the House, but stalled in the Senate, would have prevented the state from enforcing water quality standards to protect endangered species.
; A bill pending in the Senate to give the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency greater authority to regulate chemicals would, in turn, strip states of the ability to adopt their own, stricter regulations.
California officials are especially troubled by the chemical legislation, a bill put together by Republican David Vitter of Louisiana and the late Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat.
"We have programs in place that are very effective and have moved the marketplace to benefit not just California but the entire world," Debbie Raphael, director of the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, told the Times. "This ... puts all that at risk."
There may be good reason to question some of these state laws and programs. For example, we have deep reservations about high-speed rail.
But states and communities traditionally have had the authority to set a higher bar for environmental and consumer protection, and Congress shouldn't throw Washington's weight around to stop them.