Missouri House urges State AG to join health care fight

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January 13, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri: Nearly two months after Republicans made significant gains both nationally and in surrounding Midwestern states, Missouri lawmakers have started the new year off with the passage of a non-binding resolution urging the State's Attorney General, Democrat Chris Koster, to enter the national battle over federal health care reform.

The day after the State House Rules Committee voted in favor of a non-binding resolution, strictly along party lines, calling upon the state's attorney general to challenge the constitutionality of the newly enacted federal health care reform measure, State Representatives, by a 115-to-46 vote, approved the same resolution.[1][2] The resolution, sponsored by Republican State Representative Ward Franz, the Majority Caucus Leader, requests that Koster decide whether to join the twenty-plus other states in opposition to the individual mandate imposed by the new federal law, or file his own separate lawsuit, as Virginia has done.

Grassroots political organizations such as the Show-Me Institute and United for Missouri have also ramped up the pressure against the state's top litigator. Earlier this month, the Show-Me Institute, a free-market think tank, sent out an "urgent call for action" requesting its supporters to contact the state attorney general's office to demand that Koster join twenty-plus other state attorneys general in filing suit against the federal government over health care reform.[3] According to Carl Bearden, executive director of United for Missouri, a 501-c-4 organization "committed to educating and mobilizing citizens about the impact of economic policy on the state and the impact of the federal government exceeding its Constitutional limits on achieving growth, opportunity and prosperity," more than 750 emails were sent from supporters to members of the State House in favor of the resolution.

This marks the second time within a year that State Representative Franz has pushed forth legislation of this kind. Nearly three months after President Obama signed into law his controversial health care reform bill, the one that narrowly passed the United States House of Representatives just two days prior, in March 2010, members of the Missouri House of Representatives, speaking at a hearing for the Special House Standing Committee on General Laws, discussed calling upon Koster "to sue the federal government for violating the constitution with its passage" of the insurance mandate.[4] In speaking to the committee, Franz stated that he had been told by the state attorney general himself that he had no plans to follow through with such litigation even if requested by the general assembly to do so.

On Thursday, July 8th, 2010, Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder, along with three state residents, filed suit in federal court challenging provisions of the federal health care legislation. Specifically, Kinder argued that the cash-strapped state could not "afford the huge financial burden of this bill."[5] Four days later, however, State Attorney General Koster filed a motion in federal court to try and block Kinder from getting the state embroiled in the national healthcare debate. Koster argued that "Kinder should not be allowed to sue in his official capacity and wants that part of the lawsuit dismissed."[6] A spokesman for the lieutenant governor countered by saying that Kinder has a statutory duty to defend seniors in Missouri and that part of the federal law would do considerable harm to them, in particular the significant cuts that will be made to Medicare spending in order to cover the cost the new entitlement program.

However, the overwhelming approval of Proposition C, a measure aimed to block the federal government from requiring people to buy health insurance and banned punishment for those without health insurance, in August 2010 dealt a serious blow to Koster's efforts.[7][8] With slightly over seventy-one percent of voters supporting the referendum, the results were a clear refutation of the Obama White House and national Democratic leadership. Upon closer examination, the statistics of the primary voter turnout made the situation even worse for Democratic politicians. Though Republicans clearly outnumbered Democrats (577,000 Republican voters against 315,000 Democratic electors), the turnout meant that "a significant amount of Democrats either supported the ballot measure repudiating ObamaCare, or didn’t bother to cast a vote to defend the program."[9] Furthermore, Proposition C garnered more votes then either of the major party primaries for the United States Senate combined.

With this in mind, Koster "filed a notice of withdrawal of his motion to intervene in the lawsuit" headed by Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder.[10] A statement released by Kinder noted that the state attorney general "has allowed the lieutenant governor to continue the lawsuit in his official and personal capacities."[11]

Nanci Gonder, a spokesperson for the state attorney general, acknowledged the vote, saying that the "attorney general's office is aware of the vote in the House and we are monitoring the situation in both chambers," but refused to elaborate any further.[2]

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