Biden suits get mixed results for Missouri Senate candidate

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — In just 20 months, Republican Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has filed 25 lawsuits against Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration, challenging policies on COVID-19 vaccinations, climate change, immigration and education, among other things.

That puts Missouri behind only Louisiana in the number of lawsuits against the Biden administration.

Schmitt’s wins are roughly equal to his losses so far. But Schmitt has made court cases a central theme in his high-profile campaign for an open U.S. Senate seat.

“Since Joe Biden took over the White House, Eric has been one of the leading state attorneys general in holding the Biden administration accountable,” Schmitt’s campaign website states.

Schmitt’s legal roadblock against the federal government contrasts sharply with his approach during his first two years in office, when he filed only one complaint against the administration of Republican President Donald Trump.

It also marks a significant shift from how Missouri attorneys general have historically run the office, though it’s more in line with recent national trends. Attorneys general in Republican and Democratic-led states have increasingly fought with the federal government over the past decade.

Schmitt said it was his responsibility “to push back against the policies of the Biden administration.”

“The attorney general’s office standing between Missourians and radical and excessive government is a hallmark of federalism, and the states have a vital duty to control the federal government,” Schmitt said in a statement to The Associated Press.

His Democratic Senate opponent, Trudy Busch Valentine, said Schmitt wasted taxpayer resources “filing endless lawsuits seeking publicity for things that rarely have anything to do with the critical issues facing Missouri. “.

Missouri’s campaign season effectively began when Republican U.S. Senator Roy Blunt announced on March 8, 2021 that he would not seek re-election. Less than three hours later, Schmitt announced he was leading a dozen states in a lawsuit challenge to a Biden directive on calculating the “social cost” of greenhouse gas emissions for federal regulations.

The timing of the two announcements may have been coincidental — the lawsuit had been ongoing for weeks, Schmitt spokesman Chris Nuelle said. But that wasn’t the last time Schmitt filed a complaint.

The following week, Schmitt joined other states in a lawsuit challenging Biden’s revocation of license for Keystone XL pipeline.

Then on March 24, 2021 – the same day, Schmitt officially announced his candidacy for the Senate – Schmitt has joined a dozen other states in a lawsuit challenge Biden’s moratorium on new oil and gas lease permits on US lands and waters.

He followed up with his fourth lawsuit in as many weeks against the Biden administration – a case alleging that the US Treasury Department was threatening to adopt an overbroad interpretation of a law prohibiting the use of federal pandemic relief funds to offset state tax cuts.

The initial flurry of lawsuits led to months of legal wrangling, with mixed results.

A judge dismissed the Keystone pipeline case this January after the company abandoned the project. A federal appeals court in July also upheld the dismissal of the Treasury Department lawsuit, saying Schmitt’s office has shown no prejudice warranting the lawsuit.

After an appeals court lifted a nationwide injunctiona district judge in August imposed a limited injunction prevent enforcement of Biden’s moratorium on new oil and gas leases in the 13 states that have sued, including Missouri.

The first case filed by Schmitt – challenging the social cost of greenhouse gases – was dismissed by a federal judge Last year. A panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in June but has yet to rule.

Schmitt’s overall win-loss record is close to even so far, though many cases await rulings from trial judges or appeals courts.

His most recent lawsuit – challenging Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan — was removed from his position last Thursday by a federal judge who said the six Republican-led states suing had raised “significant and significant challenges” but had not shown prejudice giving them grounds to sue. The next day, an appeal court temporarily blocked Biden administration to waive student loans as it considers appeal from states.

Schmitt was previously part of a winning team of states that halted Biden’s COVID-19 vaccination policy for employers with more than 100 workers. He also joined other states in blocking the Biden administration from ending pandemic-related restrictions on migrants. asylum seeker at the southern border, although this case is under appeal.

The cost of Schmitt’s federal legal battles is unclear, as they are treated as regular duties of state employees.

But “when you spend your time on these kinds of national issues, that necessarily means you’re not spending time or paying attention to other things that the office is doing,” said Jim Layton, a top lawyer from 1994 to 2017. under Democratic state attorneys general Jay Nixon and Chris Koster.

Schmitt’s office said other duties continued as normal. He filed lawsuits alleging consumer fraud, just like his predecessors, and sought to shut down a private boarding school on allegations of abuse, among others. He also filed nearly 60 lawsuits to overturn mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions imposed by public schools, cities and counties.

Schmitt’s frequent lawsuits put him at the forefront of a national trend. States collectively filed 55 multi-state lawsuits against the federal government in the first 22 months of Biden’s administration, data shows. compiled by Paul Nolette, chair of the political science department at Marquette University. Almost all are from Republican-run states.

But that’s far fewer than the 160 multi-state lawsuits filed against the Trump administration, when Democratic-controlled states led the barrage. New York has filed 109 lawsuits against the Trump administration.

Before Trump, states filed a median of 24 lawsuits in multiple states per presidential term, from Republican Ronald Reagan to Democrat Barack Obama. Missouri was usually only involved in one or two of them.

“We never really had a chance to think about where the federal government was doing things that we didn’t approve of,” said attorney Jim Deutsch, chief deputy under Missouri Attorney General William Webster in 1989. to 1993. Webster and then President George HW Bush were both Republicans.

Layton said attorneys general function more like the CEO of a large law firm defending state agencies and statutes. But they now seem more focused on public policy impact, he said.

“As the country has become more partisan, I think it’s become more common for attorneys general to operate that way,” Layton said.

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