IT’S LIKE A WHOLE OTHER COUNTRY…. The New York Times notes this morning, “It has long been part of Texas folk mythology that because the state was once an independent republic, it has the option of seceding. But historians and law professors say there has been no serious argument since the Civil War on behalf of a legal basis for a state’s secession.”
Well, I’m afraid “serious argument” is a subjective matter. Since some Texas officials, including the state’s two-term governor, raised the prospect this week of leaving the United States, there’s been some renewed interest in Texas’, shall we say, options.
Disgraced Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) conceded this week that Texas can’t just secede from the Union. He added, however, that he sees a possible avenue for Texas to become its own country: “Texas was a republic. It joined the Union by treaty. There’s a process in the treaty by which Texas could divide into five states. If we invoke that, and the last time it was voted on was 1985, the United States Senate would kick us out and nullify the treaty because they’re not going to allow 10 new Texas senators into the Senate. That’s how you secede.”
I suppose it’s worth noting that DeLay’s math is wrong. Texas, like all states, currently has two senators. If it became five states, it would have eight new senators, not 10.
But more important, of course, is whether DeLay’s “analysis” makes any legal/historical sense. Brian Beutler looked into it.
First, Texas did not join the Union by treaty. They joined by joint resolution of Congress. According to Dr. Felix D. Almaraz, a professor of Texas history at the University of Texas, San Antonio, DeLay is correct that Texas can, in theory, divide into as many as four additional states (five total) and has tried and failed to do so from time to time. […]
But there’s a problem with that. According to Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution, “[n]ew states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.”
But even if Congress couldn’t vote down the proposition, Steven Teles, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland who studies federalism, says that, to the best of his knowledge, “[t]here is no provision in the U.S. Constitution for ejecting a state from the Union, just as there is no provision for secession. Becoming a state, from the point of view of the Constitution, is a one-time-and-one-time-only affair.”
Texas, it appears, isn’t going anywhere. Perhaps Rick Perry can think of a new way to whip his right-wing base into a pre-primary frenzy.