William and Mary Law School

Cuccinelli Says States' Attorneys General Are "Last Line of Defense" Against Federal Government Encroachments

  • Attorney General Speaks
    Attorney General Speaks
    Va. Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli spoke on Sept. 15 as a guest of the Law and Public Policy class.
    Photo by Jaime Welch-Donahue

Va. Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli spoke to a standing-room-only audience of students, faculty, and staff at the Law School on Sept. 15 as a guest of the Law and Public Policy class.

"The duty of upholding the law of Virginia and both the constitutions of Virginia and of the United States ... is the first thing in my oath of office," Cuccinelli said in the opening remarks of his talk. "One of the ways I have [fulfilled that duty] during my tenure is by pushing back on the federal government when it breaks the law or oversteps the boundaries of the Constitution, which it seems to do with unusual frequency by historical standards. "

In his opinion, Americans "no longer have a federal government of limited powers.  There are very few limits on where the federal government can reach.  We have something much closer now to a central government that plans and controls virtually every aspect of our economy and influences every aspect of our lives."

The federal government in recent decades, he argued, "has been increasing power whether it was under Republican control or Democrat control. ... Today people are getting fed up with that expansion, they see what it does in their lives. And, the idea of federalism is reemerging in the real world to put needed reins on Washington and states are now playing a leading role in pushing back when the government breaks the law or oversteps its constitutional boundaries."

In that context Cuccinelli spoke about his opposition as attorney general to several recent federal actions, including: President Obama's healthcare bill; the Environmental Protection Agency's 2009 Endangerment Finding on greenhouse gases; and the National Labor Relations Board's suit against the Boeing Company in South Carolina; also, the Obama administration's scrutiny of states' surface mining permitting, and the Federal Communications Commission's attempt to regulate the Internet.

"We don't have enough folks who are principled restrainers of the federal government in Washington, and when that is the case state attorneys general become the last line of defense," he said.

Cuccinelli began serving as attorney general of Virginia in Jan. 2010. Prior to his election as attorney general, he practiced law at Cuccinelli & Day in Fairfax, Va.  From 2002 to 2010 he represented a portion of Fairfax County in the Senate of Virginia.  He earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Virginia and an M.A. in international relations and J.D. from George Mason University.