November 17, 2010 in City

Legislator opposes health care suit

State senator says McKenna overstepped authority
By The Spokesman-Review

OLYMPIA – As Attorney General Rob McKenna prepares to convince the state Supreme Court why he can fight federal health care reform, a state legislator joined a group trying to tell a federal court that he shouldn’t.

McKenna is scheduled to be in the state’s highest court Thursday, defending his decision to add Washington to a federal lawsuit trying to stop portions of the new health care law.

The justices will be asked to decide whether McKenna could make Washington state a party to the federal challenge to a law that Gov. Chris Gregoire, the city of Seattle and others contend is good for the state and its residents.

“The attorney general has gone forward over the objections of the legislative leadership and the governor,” state Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, said Tuesday.

But it’s mainly the Democratic leadership who object. Republicans in the Legislature generally supported his decision, as did U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. In a recent filing with the state’s high court, McKenna argues that as the elected legal officer of the state, he – not the governor – is authorized “to represent the state in all courts in all legal matters in which the state is interested.”

While the state Supreme Court is mulling those arguments, a federal judge will be asked to expand the participants in the underlying federal case in which McKenna and attorneys general from 19 other states are challenging the new law.

Keiser, the co-chairwoman of the joint panel trying to figure out how to implement health care reform in the state, said Tuesday she is joining legislators from 25 other states in trying to intervene in the federal case with a “friend of the court” brief. Gregoire and the governors of Colorado, Michigan and Pennsylvania received permission last week to file a friend of the court brief in the federal case.

The governors were mainly defending the federal government’s authority to require people to obtain health care. The legislators will be arguing the states aren’t being unconstitutionally forced into the Medicaid system because it’s voluntary. They can opt out and give up the federal matching funds.

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