Political News

Trump pick for top environmental post once wrote Texas would be 'better off' as an independent republic

Posted October 26, 2017 3:46 p.m. EDT

— President Donald Trump's nominee to be White House senior adviser for environmental policy wrote an essay in 1995 in which she argued that because of federal overreach, including environmental regulations, Texas would be better off as an independent republic.

Kathleen Hartnett White, the nominee to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality, authored the essay for a 1995 edition of the now-defunct Texas Republic magazine marking the 150 year anniversary of Texas statehood. In her essay, White called the sesquicentennial of Texas statehood "not a happy occasion."

White's past writings on politics and policy, particularly as they relate to the federal government's role in regulating the environment, could be a subject to scrutiny during the Senate confirmation process. If confirmed, White would oversee environmental policy across the government. In her 1995 essay, White singled out "onerous" environmental regulations such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act as examples of federal overreach on states' rights.

CNN's KFile obtained a full copy of White's essay from Edward H. Sebesta, an expert of the Texas secessionist and neo-Confederate movements who is writing a book on the Texas Secession movement. White was a rancher at the time she authored the essay. Before that, she had served as the director for private lands for the National Cattlemen's Association.

White did not respond to a CNN request for comment. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has not yet scheduled a confirmation hearing for White. Spokespeople for the committee's Republican chairman, Wyoming's John Barrasso, and ranking Democrat, Delaware's Tom Carper, did not immediately respond to requests to comment.

"Although I reverently pledge allegiance to the United States, with regret I hazard the claim that Texas would be better off today as an independent republic free of the yoke of the present federal government," White wrote in 1995. "I pledge allegiance to my country and to the 'republic' 'for which it stands -- a republic composed of states sovereign within their own borders -- a republic with a national government of very limited, specifically enumerated powers -- a republic that actively upholds the 10th Amendment of its Constitution, guaranteeing states' rights against federal encroachment.

"The current federal government, in my opinion, has grossly departed from the republican vision of national government that inspired the signers of the U.S. Constitution and the early Texans who chose annexation."

In her essay, White wrote that federal government began to transform after the Civil War, which saw the expansion of federal powers during Reconstruction. This expansion, White argued, led to a resentment among Texans.

"Reconstruction policies and laws justified the broad exercise of federal powers. Originally acting as a government with the narrowly circumscribed powers of a republic composed of states largely sovereign unto and among themselves, the national government began to acquire massive, centralized power, actively intervening in state affairs," White wrote.

"If Texans viewed the federal government as impotent and aloof before the Civil War, resistance to the victorious Yankees and their interventionist 'know what's best for Texas' ways took hold after the war," she continued. "Congress began to pass one after another of the now innumerable federal laws implemented by huge federal bureaucracies manned by millions of bureaucrats writing volumes of regulations - federal mandates that directly affect and dominate the internal affairs of the states."

White further argued that the federal income tax, unfunded mandates, federal money with conditions, and direct federal regulation are all examples of "federal domination." White specifically identified federal environmental laws as "graphic examples of federal shackles on basic state rights in Texas," arguing that "the U.S. Congress and the courts have stretched the commerce clause to preposterous lengths."

She concluded her essay by writing, "The desire of many Texans to be free of the federal yoke is far more than historical nostalgia for the Lone Star Republic. It is a well-warranted desire, shared by increasing numbers in every state, to reduce the domain of federal power and to return to the understanding of federalism that informed the founding of the United States as a republic. The sesquicentennial of Texas statehood is not a happy occasion."

Read the full essay here.