JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri's attorney general was absent from a House General Laws committee hearing where representatives discussed calling on him to sue the federal government for violating the constitution with its passage of health care legislation.
Attorney General Chris Koster had said previously he would look into the matter. But at the hearing Tuesday, resolution sponsor Rep. Ward Franz, R-West Plains, said Koster has said he will not pursue a lawsuit against the federal government.
Representatives discussed state sovereignty, fiscal responsibility and the Civil War at the hearing about a resolution that would encourage Koster to make Missouri a party to existing lawsuits by more than a dozen other states against the new federal health care law.
Koster was not available for comment Tuesday.
Franz said the debate isn't on policy, but on the size and scope of the federal government.
"Whether you support or oppose the recently passed federal health care bill, I think it's important that we make a stand and say 'enough is enough,'" Franz said.
Rep. Beth Low, D-Kansas City, said asking Koster to file suit against the federal government seemed unnecessary because Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder already pledged to take up the issue. Adding another elected statewide official, she said, would be a poor usage of taxpayers' resources.
Franz said Koster's involvement with the suit would make it a more well-rounded effort on the state's behalf.
Some Democrats on the committee said the resolution was a manifestation of the state sovereignty struggle.
"At what point are we going to allow that portion of history to rest and move on as one nation?" Low asked Franz. "I thought the answer was received in 1865, but 150 years later, apparently, we're still having it."
Rep. Mark Parkinson, R-St. Charles, said the comparison of the two eras in the country's history wasn't valid.
"I think this analogy with states' rights dealing with the Civil War is incredibly flawed because the federal government before the pre-Civil War era didn't mandate that everyone purchase a slave," he said
That discussion evolved into one about state secession.
Rep. Don Calloway, D-St. Louis, questioned what merit Franz saw belonging to the Union.
"What do we get out of being in the Union?" he asked. "Would you be in favor of seceding?"
Franz initially responded that he would be interested in secession if things continue the way they are, but eventually refocused on what he said was the need for Missouri's voice to be heard.
"I'm not saying we need to leave the Union," Franz said. "I just want us to be heard, and this is the only way that I feel like we will be listened to."
No action was taken on the resolution.