OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and Attorney General Rob McKenna took to the airwaves to square off on McKenna's decision to join a lawsuit against part of the new health care reform law.
Both appeared in separate live interviews on KING 5 News at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
McKenna, a Republican, is one of 13 attorneys general who has filed suit, saying the mandate that all Americans obtain health insurance is unconstitutional.
"For the first time in national history, the federal government will require the American people to go into the private markets to buy a private product that the federal government has approved of," said McKenna. "We don't see how they have the authority to do this."
Watch: McKenna's entire interview
Gregoire, a Democrat, was attorney general before McKenna. She says she doesn't see it that way.
"I just don't agree with his legal analysis. But most importantly, I'm worried about the fact that he's decided that, on the behalf of the people of the state of Washington, he's going to challenge health care reform when millions of Washingtonians will benefit from that health care reform," said Gregoire.
Watch: Gregoire's entire interview
McKenna says this is about protecting citizens' rights.
"All of the attorneys general have a constitutional obligation to defend their state constitutions and the federal constitution and the rights of their people under the rights of those constitutions," said McKenna.
Gregoire says those who benefit from the law need to be represented, too.
"Those Medicare recipients. Those who don’t have health insurance. Those with pre-existing conditions. He can't say he represents them. They need a voice in that courtroom. I want to make sure that courtroom hears their voices," said Gregoire.
McKenna says the mandate will force people who don't want to buy health care to purchase it. Gregoire insists that those who don't have health insurance will end up having their health care paid for by those who do have insurance. The difference, she says, is that those with insurance will continue to pay escalating premiums.
McKenna says if the AGs win the lawsuit, it will not scuttle the entire bill.
"The individual insurance mandate is one provision in a 2,400 page bill with $1 trillion in federal spending, 70 or 80 new federal boards, commissions and agencies being created and we're challenging one aspect of it. We're not challenging the policy," said McKenna.
Gregoire thinks it could be damaging to the bill.
"Basically, his lawsuit not only talks about that provision, but also the provision having to do with Medicaid and the states, the combination of which gut the health care reform legislation that the Congress and the president just passed and, to me, that's just unfair to the almost one million Washingtonians."
Gregoire also says she was blindsided by the move and is upset that McKenna did not consult her, the Speaker of the House or the Senate Majority Leader about his intent to sue.
A new KING 5 News poll released Tuesday finds Washington residents are statistically split over whether the state should sue.