On Tuesday, November 16, 2010, a bipartisan group of over 75 lawmakers from 27 states announced that they will be filing a "friend of the court" brief defending the constitutionality of the new health care law, in response to the constitutional challenge being led by 20 right-wing state Attorneys General in federal court in Florida. Speaking on a telephone press conference announcing the filing of the brief, lawmakers who signed on to the brief stressed their differences with the right-wing Attorneys General trying to repeal the law, their belief that the law is constitutional, and their continuing work to implement the law effectively at the state level.
"As state lawmakers, we seek to protect the expanded coverage, cost reductions, and guaranteed security for millions of Americans in the new health care law," said State Sen. Jack Hatch (IA), Chair of the Working Group of State Legislators for Health Reform. "The state Attorneys General who filed this political lawsuit want a judicial 'do-over' on health care reform at the expense of working families all across America. They are threatening the gains Americans have already made - like no pre-existing conditions for children - while putting future benefits at risk."
Other legislators discussed the critical importance of defending the health care law as they work on its implementation in their own states.
"Washington state's Attorney General has gone forward with his action over the objection of both the legislative leadership and the Governor," said State Sen. Karen Keiser(WA). "The new health care law will provide enormous benefits to citizens of WA, and having our state Attorney General try to undo those benefits is perplexing and really unbelievable."
"Today, in a state like Arizona, with a Governor and a state legislature that is hostile to providing affordable health care for working families, it's important to note that we still have a number of legislators like myself who have proudly joined this amicus brief and are standing up for Arizona's families and their right to have access to affordable health care," added State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ). "We are pleased and honored to be a part of this amicus brief, and we feel confident that we will succeed on the legal merits presented."
Elizabeth Wydra, Chief Counsel for the Constitutional Accountability Center, highlighted the clear constitutionality of the law, and noted that the arguments in the brief - to be filed on Friday - focus on "deeply and fundamentally flawed" claims by the Attorneys General bringing the lawsuit.
"From a legal perspective, the Constitution gives broad power to the federal government to act when a national solution is necessary or preferable, while at the same time preserving the vibrant role of state and local governments to create policy responsive to local needs and customs," said Wydra. "This role is protected by the Constitution. [The arguments of the Attorneys General] are deeply and fundamentally flawed in light of the fact that Medicaid is a voluntary federal-state process, so it's hard to see how states are being coerced here."
State Rep. Garnet Coleman (TX) noted that such a proposal - to opt out of Medicaid entirely - is currently being floated by Texas conservatives, and is proof that the state is not being "coerced" into an unconstitutional arrangement.
"Our hope is that they don’t opt out, but clearly it’s a proposal that’s on the table here in Texas," said Coleman. "We feel that, in the case of the 6 million uninsured in Texas, that they should have the opportunity for insurance, just like everyone else."
(Read the State Legislators' Motion for Leave to File as Amicus Curiae (pdf) in Florida v. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.)