JEFFERSON CITY — On the day the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal the federal health care law, the Missouri Senate passed a resolution urging Attorney General Chris Koster to join a lawsuit against the federal government's health care law.
"Missouri was the first state in the entire nation to give its citizens the right to vote on (health care), and we received from our voters an overwhelming 71 percent majority that sent a megaphone message to Washington, D.C., that we want to make our own health care decisions, we do not want them coming from Washington, D.C.," said the resolution's sponsor, Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County.
"While other (attorneys general) in the nation have voluntarily joined this lawsuit as plaintiffs on behalf of their citizens in their states ... our (attorney general) has not stepped in to defend these citizens," Cunningham said.
The nonbinding resolution calls for Koster to join existing lawsuits with attorneys general from other states, team up with Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder — who filed a similar lawsuit in July — or to file his own separate lawsuit. The existing lawsuits challenge the constitutionality of the health care law, passed in March, which requires all adult Americans to purchase health care or face penalties for noncompliance.
Last week, the state House of Representatives passed a similar nonbinding resolution, calling for action from the lieutenant governor and Gov. Jay Nixon. The Senate passed the resolution with a voice vote.
Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis, said the lawsuit defends the civil liberties and constitutional rights impeded upon by the federal health care law.
"These very limited powers that we've delegated to the federal government are just that — they're limited. This is what you have authority over, and everything else goes back to the people and the states," Lembke said.
"What the federal government is saying to the people through Obamacare is that we're gonna mandate what you do with your property. You're gonna take these resources, your property that you've gone out and worked for, and you're gonna buy this product," he said.
Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Jackson County, was the only one to speak against the bill. Justus said it was a waste of time to pass a nonbinding resolution to send a message to an independent branch of government and time would be better spent discussing economic reform and jobs. Regardless of Missouri's participation, the result of the lawsuit will still affect the state in the same way, Justus said.
"Whether Missouri gets involved in it or not, the result of the litigation will be binding on the state of Missouri," Justus said. "So for instance, if they decide that the federal mandate is unconstitutional, then Missouri's law that we passed in August of last year will stand. If they decide in that lawsuit that the federal mandate is constitutional then Missouri's law will be thrown."
To join the lawsuit would simply mean another expense to the state, Justus said.
"There is absolutely no sense in us as a state using taxpayer time and taxpayer money to join a lawsuit that we absolutely will have no effect over. It's gonna be won or lost, and it will apply to Missouri," she said.
Cunningham, however, defended the necessity of Koster's joining the existing lawsuit.
"If our attorney general gets in as a plaintiff, it gives him a seat at the table. He can change things. He has the ability to really have his input in there, which is our input, our citizens' input," Cunningham said. "Additionally, if he gets in, it could make a difference in the outcome of this lawsuit. So is it important, does it matter? You bet your boots it matters."