Gov. Tim Pawlenty sent a letter to Attorney General Lori Swanson on Monday urging her to file suit against the federal government to block health care reform from coming to Minnesota. Swanson’s office says the bill hasn’t even become law yet and the individual mandate doesn’t take effect for four more years.
Pawlenty’s request joins Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Nebraska, Texas, Pennsylvania, Washington, Utah, North Dakota, and South Dakota in challenging the health reform bill.
“It appears that Congress may be overstepping its bounds by forcing individuals or businesses to buy insurance,” Pawlenty wrote. “I respectfully request that you review the legal issues being raised by these unprecedented federal mandate and join other attorneys general to protect the constitutional rights of our citizens.”
But Swanson’s office said it’s in no hurry to explore legal action, since the bill isn’t technically law yet.
“The legislation in question still has to be signed by the President and reconciliation has yet to be passed by the Senate,” said Swanson spokesman Ben Wogsland. “The individual mandate does not go into effect until 2014. Our Office has not yet read and analyzed the 2,400 page bill that passed the House yesterday. The Attorney General’s Office operates in the legal arena and we are not going to make any legal comments until we have had the opportunity to review the 2,400 page bill.”
Pawlenty’s cites one bit of documentati0n for his push for legal action: A 1994 Congressional Budget Office report that states: “A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States.”
Pawlenty says the CBO was making a legal opinion about health care mandates, but it was not. The report, titled, “The Budgetary Treatment of an Individual Mandate to Buy Health Insurance,” was simply exploring the effects a mandate would have on the federal budget. CBO is not charged with evaluating laws based on constitutional principles. That report can be read here: (PDF)
The full text of Pawlenty’s letter:
As you may be aware, attorneys general in at least 12 states have indicated they plan to file lawsuits to block implementation of the federal health care reform legislation on constitutional grounds.
The legislation passed by congress requires individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a fine. Such a sweeping federal mandate has never before been enacted. In fact, when such a mandate was previously considered, a 1994 report from the Congressional Budget Office said, “A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States.”
It appears that congress may be overstepping it’s bounds by forcing individuals or businesses to buy insurance. I respectfully request that you review the legal issues being raised by these unprecedented federal mandate and join other attorneys general to protect the constitutional rights of our citizens. These efforts will help maintain a proper balance in the relationship between states and the federal government.
While I support improving and reforming our health care system, this bill is overly focused on expanding access and will do little to improve overall health care quality or contain costs. Congress would have been wiser to use Minnesota’s market-driven, patient-centered, and quality-focused reforms as a model.