Missouri House urges lawsuit against federal health care overhaul

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 | 6:54 p.m. CST; updated 10:04 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 11, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY — By a near party-line vote, Missouri's House voted to call upon both the state's governor and attorney general to join a lawsuit by 20 other states challenging the federal health care law passed by Congress last year.

"[If] the provisions of this act are determined to be unconstitutional, then the citizens of Missouri will not have an unfair and penalizing mandate forced upon them and states' rights will be preserved," said Rep. Ward Franz, R-West Plains, who sponsored the resolution.

The resolution is not legally binding but simply a call to action for the state's executive leaders to either join the existing lawsuit or begin their own.

Neither Gov. Jay Nixon nor Attorney General Chris Koster — both Democrats — were immediately available for comment on the resolution.

The Democratic Attorney General's Office offered a one-sentence statement on the issue: "The Attorney General's Office is aware of the vote in the House and we are monitoring the issue in both chambers."

Last April, Koster failed to attend Franz's legislative hearing about the resolution. Koster had first said he would look into suing over health care reform, then later said he would not pursue a lawsuit against the federal government, according to a previous Missouri Digital News report.

In July, Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder sued members of the Obama administration who enforced the provisions of the health care reform law.

Rep. Jean Peters-Baker, D-Kansas City, argued the only effect of the resolution is the state's cost in helping pay for lawsuit that she said will proceed regardless of Missouri's participation.

"So, while we are here in this chamber today, we are not creating a job," Peters-Baker said. "We are not impacting unemployment. We are voting on a resolution that is legally nonbinding and that has an actual, real cost to taxpayers."

The resolution passed 155-46. No Republican voted against the resolution, and Democrats split by a margin of four-to-one against it.

The resolution calls into question the constitutionality of the federal health care reform, citing:

  • Misuse of the Commerce Clause, which the existing lawsuit states does not authorize the federal government to mandate health care.
  • Violation of the 10th Amendment, which allows the federal government no authority beyond the powers granted in the Constitution, such as mandating states to expand Medicaid.
  • Inability of the states to bear the increased costs to Medicaid without reimbursement from the federal government.

The lawsuit also contains general statements about the unconstitutionality of giving "excessive authority" to the federal government and ignoring the rights of the states and citizens.

The resolution is in part a response to Proposition C, the ballot measure Missourians overwhelmingly approved in August, declaring that no law can require them to have health insurance or be penalized for a lack thereof.

The measure sought to remove Missouri's obligation to participate in President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law March 23.

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