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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.

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer, Staff writer / March 24, 2010

Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna is one of 14 state attorneys general challenging the constitutionality of the federal healthcare bill signed by President Obama Tuesday.

Jim Bates/Seattle Times

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Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna has decided to join 13 other state attorneys general in a legal challenge to the federal healthcare bill signed into law by President Obama Tuesday.

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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.

Healthcare reform: Who wins when governor, attorney general clash?

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…”

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