Q&A with a state attorney general: fatal flaws in healthcare bill
The Monitor talks to Rob McKenna, the Republican attorney general of Washington State, who is one of 14 attorneys general who say the new healthcare bill violates the US Constitution.
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Critics, including Mr. McKenna's own governor, say the challenge is a sour-grapes political stunt by mostly Republican attorneys general. But McKenna spoke with the Monitor by telephone at some length about why he supports the challenge, and why he feels the healthcare reform law is a dangerous and unconstitutional expansion of Congress's power over American citizens.
QUESTION: In the early coverage of this issue, a lot of feeling has been expressed that this is just political theater and not real, meaningful legal action. What are your thoughts on that?
ANSWER: It’s typical of opponents to use ad hominem attacks because they don’t like the fact that the suit was brought. But there’s very little content of substantive and legal nature in their criticisms. The fact of the matter is that the individual insurance mandates in the bill are unprecedented in American history.
The federal government has never attempted to require the American people to buy a particular product in the private sector. It’s not supported by the Commerce Clause [which grants Congress the authority to regulate interstate commerce]. The 10th Amendment says it's not a power granted to the federal government but is reserved by the people, so there is, in fact, some serious concerns, which is why 13 AGs [attorneys general] have joined this challenge.
Q: Are you in close contact with those others?
A: Of course, we’ve been talking for the last few months. We started talking as a result of the Nebraska compromise – or the "Cornhusker kickback," as it’s sometimes called. And two of us got together, and others joined us. Fortunately, they [the US House and Senate] promised to remove that provision, so they probably wont have to address that through litigation…
Q: Legal experts have said, “that train left the station 70 years ago when courts began to expand Congress’s ability to regulate commerce…”
A: First of all, we are talking about forcing people to enter the stream of commerce, not about those already in, and need to be regulated. This will force people to go into the private market and buy a product on penalty of fine or going to jail…. That is unprecedented, and there is no principal distinction between forcing Americans to go out into the private sector and buy a private product and forcing them to buy anything else that Congress gets in its mind to do.