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Federal health care? Not so fast, say states
Posted By Drew Zahn On 03/22/2010 @ 2:17 pm In Front Page | Comments Disabled
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum
Let the lawsuits begin.
Twelve U.S. states are reportedly ready to sue the federal government over the massive health-care overhaul passed in the House yesterday, claiming it constitutes a major overstep of federal power.
“The health-care reform legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last night clearly violates the U.S. Constitution and infringes on each state’s sovereignty,” said Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican.
“On behalf of the state of Florida and of the attorneys general from South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Pennsylvania, Washington, North Dakota, South Dakota and Alabama,” McCollum announced, “if the president signs this bill into law, we will file a lawsuit to protect the rights and the interests of American citizens.”
Virginia’s Republican Attorney General, Kenneth Cuccinelli, has also vowed to bring suit, claiming Congress’ constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce doesn’t extend to requiring Virginians to buy health insurance.
“If a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person by definition is not engaging in commerce,” Cuccinelli said in a statement. “If you are not engaging in commerce, how can the federal government regulate you?”
And in the 12th state, Idaho, Republican Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter signed a measure last week requiring the state’s attorney general to file a suit challenging the mandate as soon as the health-care overhaul becomes law.
At the heart of the constitutional objections to “Obamacare” is the belief that a federal takeover of health care violates the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which specifically says any powers not granted the federal government (like establishing health care) are reserved as the sovereign area of the states.
The Tenth Amendment reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
A constitutional think tank called the Tenth Amendment Center explains, “A reading of the Constitution through the original understanding of the Founders and Ratifiers makes it quite clear that any national health-care plan, or national public option, is not something that was delegated by the people to the federal government.
“The courts, politicians and many commentators have interpreted (and re-interpreted) the Commerce Clause, the general Welfare Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause in ways not intended by the Founders so as to justify such programs under the Constitution,” the Center continues. “They are most certainly wrong.”
The argument has found proponents among the states’ attorneys general.
“The entire endeavor is inconsistent with the notion of a limited federal government,” writes Cuccinelli in an American Spectator column. “Furthermore, the coercion of individual citizens and the co-opting of state legislatures violate the plain text of both the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.”
“The health care legislation Congress passed tonight is an assault against the Constitution,” said South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster in a statement yesterday. “A legal challenge by the states appears to be the only hope of protecting the American people from this unprecedented attack on our system of government.”
Outrage among the states over perceived Tenth Amendment violations has been percolating for some time, leading many to take action even before yesterday’s vote.
In an analysis titled, “Sovereignty measures and other steps may indicate an upsurge in anti-federal sentiment in legislatures” presented at the National Conference of State Legislatures, Suzanne Weiss reports,
“Formal protests against federal encroachment on states’ authority and prerogatives under the 10th Amendment – in the form of sovereignty resolutions or memorials – were considered by legislators in 37 states (in 2009).”
“Although many of them never made it out of committee or failed on initial floor votes, roughly half were approved in at least one legislative chamber,” her report continued. “And in seven states – Alaska, Idaho, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee – the measures passed in both the House and Senate.”
Regardless of whether through state laws, amendments or lawsuits in court, opponents of the health-care package passed yesterday are vowing the fight to protect the Constitution is far from over.
“There’s no fixing the government health-care takeover Democrats forced through on Sunday. It must be repealed,” writes Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., in a USA Today editorial. “When a president and a Congress collude to violate the Constitution and ignore the American people, everything our nation stands for is at risk. It’s not too late to undo the damage.”
Furthermore, DeMint’s allies in the fight aren’t wasting any time in taking up his call to action.
Richard Thompson, president of a national public-interest law firm known as the Thomas More Law Center, and Attorney General McCollum have both announced plans to file legal challenges to the bill’s constitutionality as soon as President Obama signs it into law, which is expected tomorrow.
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