- The Washington Times - Monday, January 4, 2021

Republican attorneys general across the country are gearing up an initiative to undercut the liberal agenda of the Biden-Harris administration.

They say it will be the last line of defense against massive government overreach.

With Democrats potentially controlling all the levers of power in Washington after Tuesday’s Senate runoff elections in Georgia, Republicans are looking to their 26 state attorneys general to keep in check President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s policies on business, the environment and immigration.

“If we lose the Senate, we are not the last line of defense; we are the only line of defense,” Adam Piper, executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association, told The Washington Times. “It’s going to be first and goal at the half-yard line, and we are going to have to hold the line.”

But even if Republicans hold on to a thin majority in the Senate, the attorneys general will work to stop Mr. Biden’s executive actions and other policy moves that pass the upper chamber.

The initiative, dubbed “Save and Defend,” borrows heavily from the Republican attorneys’ general playbook against the Obama administration.

The legal assaults were largely successful. During President Obama’s eight years in the White House, Republican attorneys general sued the administration 78 times and won 60% of those cases, according to data from Marquette University associate professor Paul Nolette.

The Republican attorneys general were successful in derailing several Obama-era agenda items, including multiple immigration proposals, and say they have tweaked and expanded their strategies to challenge Mr. Biden’s policies.

Instead of a purely legal war, Save and Defend will include policy and communications components to pressure lawmakers and inform the public.

“Save and Defend is going to be a pretty comprehensive initiative that we Republican attorneys general will engage in,” said Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr. “Once we get a chance to roll that out and put some meat on the bones, it is going to be a primary focus for us Republican AGs.”

Mr. Carr described the initiative as part of the “maturation process” of Republican attorneys general who honed their skills during the Obama era.

“We know there will be holdovers from those years invited back to the Biden administration. We know the playbook of relying heavily on executive orders,” Mr. Carr said. “By getting out in front, launching the initiative and getting a coalition of Republican AGs thinking about these issues, we can be prepared to be the last line of defense.”

Republican attorneys general say they are more prepared for the incoming Biden administration than they were during the first two years of the Obama administration.

The top lawmen in red states now communicate and coordinate regularly in preparation to block Mr. Biden’s moves.

Mr. Carr, a Republican, said not every issue will warrant a legal response. They will not pick legal arguments based on political expediency, he said, pointing to the legal onslaught that Democratic attorneys general unleashed on President Trump.

During Mr. Trump’s four years in office, Democratic attorneys general sued his administration 138 times, according to Mr. Nolette’s data. Lawsuits were filed over Mr. Trump’s rollback of transgender health care regulations, automobile emissions, the 2020 census, efforts to repeal Obamacare and other issues.

“During the Trump years, our Democratic colleagues just sued constantly,” Mr. Carr said. “We don’t want to file lawsuits just based on headlines. We are going to look at it in terms of quality, not quantity. They never accepted Trump was president and just sued to block everything he did.”

The Democratic attorneys general won about 79% of their lawsuits that have been decided, though roughly 60 cases are still under review.

Those results point to tough challenges for Republican attorneys general in the courtroom. Mr. Trump appointed more than 150 district judges and three Supreme Court justices over the past four years, but courts still tend to tilt leftward.

Republicans will largely target Mr. Biden’s efforts to enact the Green New Deal, reverse Mr. Trump’s immigration policies, reduce or redirect law enforcement funding, and any response to the coronavirus crisis that might infringe on the Constitution.

In particular, Republicans are concerned that Mr. Biden will resurrect Mr. Obama’s “phone and pen strategy.” Instead of waiting for Congress to act on his proposals, Mr. Obama used his pen to sign executive orders and his phone to secure support from outside groups to pressure lawmakers.

“The administration is going to do things through executive orders that it is not allowed to do, and that is where we as state attorneys general have a chance to step in and be the guardrails for the rule of law and principles of federalism,” Mr. Carr said.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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