OLYMPIA — Hundreds of people turned out Saturday to show their support for state Attorney General Rob McKenna and his decision to join a lawsuit with a dozen other states trying to overturn sweeping federal health care legislation.
The Washington State Patrol estimated that 850 people rallied at the State Capitol in Olympia. The Tea Party rally came a day after a smaller demonstration urged McKenna to drop his participation in the lawsuit, which many legal experts describe as frivolous political posturing.
“My name is Rob McKenna, and I represent you,” McKenna told the crowd, to loud cheers. “These are your steps, your building and your government.”
McKenna, who has been mentioned as a potential GOP candidate for governor in 2012, addressed the crowd for about 15 minutes. He stressed individual freedoms and rights, and said the federal government can’t “force us to go out and buy what they tell us to buy.”
The federal health care law signed last week by President Barack Obama requires people to obtain health insurance starting in 2014, and McKenna says it’s unconstitutional to require people to buy a commercial product.
Many legal experts have called that argument futile because the law frames the mandate as a tax, which the government has clear authority to do.
McKenna also questions the constitutionality of requiring states to expand their Medicaid programs to accept more enrollees at what he predicts will be a high cost for state taxpayers.
Supporters carried American flags as well as the nation’s old “Don’t Tread on Me” flag. They hoisted signs reading “Repeal the bill,” “Give me liberty not debt,” and “No gangster government.”
Republican state Sens. Mike Carrell and Val Stevens and Republican state Rep. Tom Campbell followed McKenna, and other speakers included conservative talk-radio hosts Kirby Wilbur and David Boze. Two right-of-center groups, Americans for Prosperity and We the People of Vancouver, helped organize the event.
Dave Reese, 57, of Seattle, said he attended because he thinks the health care legislation is unconstitutional and worries about how it could affect an already-slow economy.
“At a time when we’re in recession, it could plunge us into deeper holes than we can foresee right now,” he said.
There were no anti-McKenna demonstrators.