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McKenna v. health care reform, Part 2

OLYMPIA -- So the day after Attorney General Rob McKenna announced he was joining the lawsuit to challenge federal health care reform, things got ramped up a few notches.

President Obama signed the bill, and Vice President Joe Biden weighed in that this was a BFD.

McKenna didn't personally answer most media inquiries about his decision, but his staff posted FAQs on the AG Web site and he did do an interview with KING-TV.

Gov. Chris Gregoire repeated her criticism of McKenna's decision, both at an afternoon press conference and in a separate KING-TV session.

The Washington Policy Center, a conservative think tank, released a review of health care reform that contends it would hurt Washington residents.

State Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, said he was introducing a bill to keep federal health care mandates from taking effect in Washington, and directing the attorney general to sue to enforce them.(Interesting, considering Benton, who is running against U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, has not been in Olympia for the special session.)

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Eastern Washington, came out in support of fellow Republican McKenna. So did state Sens. Janea Holmquist, R-Moses Lake, and Val Stevens, R-Arlington, who mentioned they had introduced earlier in the session a bill that would keep federal health care mandates from taking effect in Washington. (But doesn't require an AG to enforce that, like Benton's bill does. Their bill got no hearing, and no vote in the regular session, but was resurrected for the special session.)

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, sent McKenna a letter asking him to reconsider, and called Benton's legislation "more theatrics than substance" and said it has "zero chance" of passing in the special session, which is mainly relegated to the budget. The Legislature is at recess until Thursday, so Republicans have a bit of time to strategize a way to try to bring it up, if they are so inclined. (And no, recess for legislators does not include kickball and snacks.)

The Washington State Labor Council asked him to drop the lawsuit. (Yeah, organized labor telling a GOP attorney general to do something...that'll do it.)

The State Democratic Party filed a public records request for any correspondence or other documents involving McKenna's decision to join the lawsuit, saying the public has a right to know if he was doing this on behalf of the National Republican Party or the insurance industry.

And with that, you're pretty much fully briefed. Go inside the blog to see the details, watch some dueling video of the gov and AG, or leave a comment.

McKenna's interview with KING-TV:

Gregoire countered on a separate interview:

National Health Care Reform Plan Will Have Troubling Consequences in WA

Medicare cuts, higher taxes, and hundreds of thousands still uninsured

 Spokane – The national health care reform plan signed into law by President Obama today will have far-reaching effects across the nation and right here in Washington state.

 Washington Policy Center, a non-partisan public policy research organization with offices in Seattle, Olympia, Spokane, and Tri-Cities, is analyzing the new law.  Dr. Roger Stark, a retired surgeon and a health care policy analyst with WPC, has made some startling findings about its impact in Washington state:

 ·         The uninsured rate was 13.2% last year in Washington state. Half of these people are in the 18-34 y/o range. The new law will force 432,000 young healthy people into insurance they may not want, need, or be able to afford.

·         205,000 WA seniors will be forced out of Medicare Part C.

·         Because of the 21% cuts in Medicare reimbursements to providers, WA seniors will have a more difficult time finding a physician.

·         130,000 WA residents have Health Savings Accounts. The new law restricts the amount they can contribute to their HSAs and because of limitations on high deductible insurance plans, may totally eliminate HSAs.

·         Between 300,000 - 480,000 people in Washington state will still lack health insurance.

·         The number of people on Medicaid will increase by 280,000 for a total cost of Medicaid to WA taxpayers of $36 billion over the next 10 years.

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Chris Cargill (WPC’s Eastern WA office director) at 509-570-2384 or


Benton introduces Health Care Freedom Act for Washingtonians
‘The cornerstone of real health care reform must be preserving and protecting the people’s right to make their own health care choices.’

OLYMPIA…Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, introduced a bill today to prohibit a federal mandate on Washington citizens to purchase health care.

 “Congress has no power to require Americans to purchase health care insurance,” Benton said. “My bill will likely be duplicated across the country as states defend their citizens and states’ rights under the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

 “Under the federal health care reform bill signed today by the President, Washington citizens will be assessed a monetary penalty if they don’t have health care insurance by 2014 – the amount goes up yearly as long as a person chooses not to buy health care insurance.

 “My bill would prevent any fine or penalty from being imposed on individuals and families who are unable or choose not to purchase a health care plan. The state attorney general would be required to protect our citizens from this clearly unconstitutional intrusion of the federal government.

 “Congressional Republicans and Republican lawmakers in our state have offered promising and thoughtful solutions to the myriad of problems that plague our health care system and force people into the category of ‘uninsured’ – but they have been universally ignored.

 “It is just outrageous that Democrat members of the U.S. House and Senate would even concoct this money-grabbing scheme when they have repeatedly shot down ideas to make health care insurance affordable.

 “The cornerstone of real health care reform must be preserving and protecting the people’s right to make their own health care choices.”

- 30 -

McMorris Rodgers Supports Attorney General’s

Challenge to Constitutionality of Health Care Bill

“Unconstitutional Federal Requirements Should Be Overturned”

Washington, DC - Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference, released the following statement after Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna decided to join a multistate challenge to the constitutionality of the radical health care bill signed by President Obama today.

“I agree with Attorney General Rob McKenna that the requirement for people to buy health insurance is an ‘unprecedented federal mandate’ that violates the commerce clause and the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

Under the controversial law, the Obama Administration will be hiring over 16,000 new I.R.S. agents to monitor people’s private health insurance.  Those who are convicted of willfully evading the insurance requirement can be fined up to $100,000 and imprisoned for five years.

 “I voted against this $938 billion, 2,700-page bill for many reasons, and one of the most important reasons is that it will ‘erode the freedom of the American individual.’  I commend Attorney General McKenna for standing up for the citizens of Washington State who have the constitutional right to decide what is the best health care for themselves and their families.”


Washington State Legislature
For Release:                                            For Interview Contact:
March 23, 2010                                 
Sen. Janéa Holmquist
 Sen. Val Stevens

Senators applaud McKenna for joining in health care lawsuit
Holmquist and Stevens urge lawmakers to pass their measures to protect Washingtonians from Congress’ unconstitutional mandates
OLYMPIA… State Senators Janéa Holmquist and Val Stevens today vowed to continue their fight to defend Washingtonians from the federal health care measure signed today by President Obama. They also applauded the efforts of Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna and attorneys general – including one Democrat – in at least 13 other states for joining in a lawsuit to protect people and employers from being forced to purchase insurance under the new law.
“Attorney General McKenna is demonstrating leadership and courage in fighting this unconstitutional bill and joining in a multi-state lawsuit to challenge it in court,” said Holmquist, R-Moses Lake. “As elected state officials, we have sworn an oath to uphold the United States and Washington state constitutions. We have an obligation to defend the rights of the citizens of our state.”
The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that any powers not specifically granted to the federal government, nor prohibited by the Constitution to the states, are reserved for the states and the people.  Nowhere in the Constitution is the federal government given the authority to compel private citizens to purchase something as a condition of citizenship, including health care coverage.
“It is the attorney general’s job to defend the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment,” said Stevens, R-Arlington. “He doesn’t need the governor’s approval to do that. It’s simply the right thing to do. Besides, I don’t recall that Governor Gregoire, when she was attorney general, had to consult the governor before joining other states’ attorneys general in the tobacco lawsuit.”
Legislators introduced measures to protect Washingtonians

Holmquist and Stevens have introduced legislation to guarantee Washingtonians protection against President Obama’s nationalized health care plan. Known as the Washington State Health Care Freedom Act of 2010, Senate Bill 6535 would protect employers and workers who refuse to participate in nationalized healthcare from possible fines and penalties. The bill would also make null and void in Washington any federal law, rule, order or other act by the federal government violating the provisions of the bill.

This measure is the companion bill to House Bill 2669 sponsored by Rep. Bill Hinkle, R-Cle Elum,  Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, and Rep. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake.
Senate Joint Memorial 8220, a state constitutional amendment sponsored by Stevens, would put these same protections into the Washington State Constitution, via a vote of the people
“I am concerned about this very serious threat to the freedom of Washington state citizens,” Stevens said. “Our best hope is our Tenth Amendment protections. With a strong states’ rights platform in our state Constitution, we can keep the freedom to control our lives. Without it, we’re at the mercy of whatever administration is in power at the moment.”
Holmquist, a co-sponsor of SJM 8220, agrees.
“When the federal government exceeds its constitutional authority, a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy,” Holmquist said. “Without that remedy, the people would be forced to live under the unlawful and excessive control of the federal government.
“There is nothing to stop the Legislature from responding to this unprecedented move by Congress. This special session is costing taxpayers close to 14,000 dollars a day, and has produced very little to show for it. We are already here. We should vote on these measures immediately and do something this special session to protect the rights of our citizens.

For Immediate Release
March 23, 2010
Contact: Dwight Pelz, (206) 583 0664, (206) 853 5880

 State Democratic Party

Requests McKenna Documents on Health Care Lawsuit

 Washington State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz today today filed a Public Records Request with the office of Attorney General Rob McKenna for "all documents relating in any way to your decision to join in bringing or threatening a lawsuit challenging some or all of the historic health-care legislation approved by the House of Representatives on March 21, 2010 ("Health Care Legislation")"

 "The public has a right to know whether McKenna generated this idea himself or whether he is acting on behalf of the National Republican Party or the Insurance Industry.", said Pelz.  'We need to know more about his communication with the Southern Attorneys General and the Florida-based Republican law firm that have been hired to spearhead this effort."

 The law firm that will work on the lawsuit for all 13 states is Baker and Hostetler of Orlando. The firm was originally retained by South Carolina, which started preparing for the lawsuit earlier, and will work on an hourly rate, not a contingency fee basis, meaning the firm will be paid whether the states win or lose.

 Participating plaintiffs in the lawsuit include attorneys general from South Carolina, Florida, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Michigan, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Washington State, Idaho, and South Dakota. The suing attorneys general are Republicans except James "Buddy" Caldwell of Louisiana, who is a Democrat.

 "It is particularly disturbing to see McKenna coordinating his actions with South Carolina, the state that stole the Boeing jobs.". said Pelz.

 As an example the Request calls for:

Email, telephone logs or records, notes, agendas, meeting minutes, or other documents constituting or reflecting communications between your office and any state or national Republican Party or committee (including without limitation the NRSC, NRCC, RGA) official or any person associated, affiliated with, employed by, or acting on behalf of such party or committee regarding a potential legal challenge to the Health Care Legislation or concerning the Health Care Legislation in any way. 


"We are also requesting materials that project how much this legal witch hunt will cost the taxpayers.", said Pelz.  "At the end of the day we hope Rob McKenna will return to his job of protecting the consumers of Washington State." 


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