State Lawmakers at Odds Over Anti-Health Care Reform Lawsuit
Attorneys general in a number of states are at odds with eitherÂ their governor or state legislature over whether to join in a lawsuit being prepared by 14 states challenging the constitutionality of the new health reform law, the AP/Boston Globe reports (Cooper/Chereb, AP/Boston Globe, 3/30).
The attorneys general on March 23 launched the lawsuit just hours after President Obama signed the Senate health reform bill (HR 3590) into law.
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) filed one suit -- joined by attorneys general from 13 other states -- against the mandate requiring U.S. residents to purchase healthÂ insurance coverage or pay a fine or tax.
The suit charges that the "Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage." The suit also claims that the law violates the Constitution's 10th Amendment and, in a non-constitutional argument, that implementing reform will cost billions of dollars to states because they will be forced to expand Medicaid eligibility under the plan (California Healthline, 3/24).
The debate over whether to join the lawsuit has arisen in the following states:
- Arizona: Attorney General Terry Goddard (D)Â has resisted requests from Gov. Jan Brewer (R) to sue. Brewer has appealed to the state's GOP-controlled Legislature for the authority to circumvent Goddard and file suit. Committees in both the House and Senate on Tuesday approved the governor's request. Republican lawmakers have said the new health reform law violates the Constitution and would place an undue burden on the state's Medicaid program, which has experienced significant cuts this year (AP/Boston Globe, 3/30).
- Arkansas: Gov. Mike Beebe (D) and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) declined a request by 33 Republican state legislators to join the suit. McDaniel said, "State budgets are tight enough right now without bringing actions that are entirely driven by political motivation rather than sound legal justification" (Slevin, Washington Post, 3/30).
- Georgia: Attorney General Thurbert Baker (D) has refused to join the lawsuit, stating that the claim that the mandate is unconstitutional is "frivolous" and "a waste of taxpayer money," the New York Times reports. However, 31 Republicans in the Georgia Legislature on Tuesday signed a resolution calling for Baker's impeachment. According to the Times, the impeachment is unlikely because Republicans do not have enough votes in the state Senate to approve the action (Brown, New York Times, 3/30). Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) has said he would bypass Baker by appointing a "special attorney general," likely a pro bono lawyer or legal team, to file the lawsuit on the state's behalf, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (McCaffrey, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/30).
- Nevada: Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) on Tuesday refused Gov. Jim Gibbons' (R) demand to join the pending lawsuit. Masto said the case likely would be unsuccessful. Gibbons said he would "explor[e] his options" to move forward with the lawsuit on his own (AP/Boston Globe, 3/30).
Meanwhile, Republican attorneys general in Colorado, Washington state and Wisconsin have attempted to join the lawsuit, despite objections from Democratic governors. In addition, Republican lawmakers in Kansas and Kentucky have called for their states to sue, and Missouri's lieutenant governor made a similar request (AP/Boston Globe, 3/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.