State vows to fight D.C. on healthcare

Published 9:58 am Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Minutes after President Barack Obama signed into law a national healthcare plan, 13 state attorney generals, including Alabama’s Troy King, filed a lawsuit claiming the landmark bill is unconstitutional.

King said he and his staff had been participating in conference calls with attorney general offices in other states Monday discussing the possible lawsuit.

The effort, which was spearheaded by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, will challenge the constitutional integrity of the bill.

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“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 McCollum in a Monday morning press conference.

The Republican attorney general and Florida governor candidate said the lawsuit was based on two areas of constitutional violation.

“To fine or tax someone just for living … that’s unconstitutional. There is no provision in the Constitution giving Congress the power to do that,” he said.

McCollum was referring to the mandatory purchase of health insurance required by the bill that would force violators to pay a tax or fine.

McCollum also said the overhaul violates the 10th amendment rights of the states in that it “manipulates the states into doing things the states can’t afford.”

McCollum added that he expected additional states to take legal action, as well.

While Rep. Bobby Bright, D-Montgomery voted against the bill he said he is hesitant to jump on board with a full-scale appeal.

“While I strongly disagree with many aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and voted against the bill, I believe it’s premature to discuss repealing a bill that was just passed and has yet to be signed into law by the President,” he said. “A wholesale repeal, or legal challenge, of the bill ignores the fact that this legislation contains some good parts, many of which will go into effect soon.”

Bright did confirm that some parts of the bill need reworking.

“I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure changes are made to the deeply flawed parts of this bill, such as the taxes and individual mandates, while keeping the aspects that enjoy widespread support and will have a positive effect on my constituents.”

The U.S. House passed the bill on Sunday night. Alabama’s entire House delegation in Washington D.C. voted “no” on the healthcare reform plan. In Alabama, state representatives presented a bill in Montgomery that would allow Alabamians to vote whether or not they wanted to participate in the federal mandate. House Bill 498, co-sponsored by Reps. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster; Mike Hill, R-Columbiana; and Blaine Galliher, R-Etowah, was established under the idea of the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states “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.”

Ward said Congress and the federal government has long hidden behind the 10th Amendment’s commerce clause, but through issues such as gun control, court rulings have increasingly rolled back many previous decisions in favor of the federal government.

“We think this is an overreach of the commerce clause,” Ward said. “It’s an overreach of the federal government into people’s personal lives.”

Ward said the states already have enough problems picking up the financial deficits left behind by federal programs such as Medicaid, and the current federal health care mandate will only increase that burden.

“This is going to expand on that tremendously over the next decade,” Ward said.

Ward said he hopes to have the bill on the ballot in November.

Republican candidates for Governor in the state were quick to condemn the healthcare plan.

“…the Democrats in Congress passed President Obama’s health care bill and reaffirmed that they are out of touch with the people of Alabama and the country,” said Bradley Byrne. “Instead of focusing on job creation, which should be priority one, they have passed a budget-busting bill that will cost the people and businesses of Alabama hundreds of millions in the coming years.”

Greenville’s Tim James said the law tramples on the rights of every American. “Basically, the U.S. Constitution protects individuals from being forced to buy health care,” said James. “Obama’s plan calls for hiring 16,000 IRS agents to investigate Americans to make sure we have ‘government approved’ health care. If we don’t follow Obama’s plan, we face federal fines and more.”

Members of the Tea Party, a grassroots organization to combat excessive government spending, vowed revenge at the polls in November when a number of congressional lawmakers are up for re-election.

Brenda Bowen, of Greenville, told the AP, that the Tea Party would “be more determined than ever to see that this country is governed the way the constitution intended.”

Contributing: Ryan Charles, Troy Messenger; Austin Phillips, Shelby County Reporter; Kevin Pearcey, The Greenville Advocate