Democrats blast McKenna over health care challenge


by KING / Staff and Associated Press

Posted on March 22, 2010 at 5:12 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:45 AM

SEATTLE -- Democrats are blasting Republican Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna over his decision to challenge the constitutionality of the health care overhaul bill.

State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz says McKenna "should be more concerned about the health of Washington's families than about the ideology of his right wing backers."

Gov. Chris Gregoire says McKenna did not consult her before his decision Monday to join at least nine other states challenging the bill passed by Congress. She says McKenna does not represent her and "totally disagrees" with his opinion, and she'll fight his lawsuit. 

McKenna says he has the authority to challenge the law without the governor's approval.

The House voted 219-212 late Sunday to approve the overhaul, which would extend coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans and make a host of other changes.

Members of Congress who voted for the health care overhaul bill are gathering Monday morning at the White House to see President Barack Obama sign the historic legislation.

Seattle 5th grader, Marcelas Owens, will stand on stage with Obama when he signs the historic health reform legislation into law. Marcelas received an invitation to attend the bill signing from the White House.  Marcelas has been advocating for health care in honor of his mother since she died in 2007.

For the first time, most Americans would be required to purchase insurance, and face penalties if they refused. Much of the money in the bill would be devoted to subsidies to help families at incomes of up to $88,000 a year pay their premiums.

"The individual insurance mandate is unprecedented in American history in requiring the American people to go out and buy a product in the private market," said McKenna.

Every House Republican and 34 House Democrats voted against the bill. All the attorneys general who have announced they are planning to sue, including McKenna, are Republicans.

Gregoire, a Democrat, supports the legislation and says she disagrees with the McKenna's opinion.

"He did not call and consult me," said Gregoire, "I don't know who he represents. He does not represent me."

McKenna said he does not need Gregoire's "blessing" to file a lawsuit on behalf of the state.

"My role is to defend the State Constitution and the people of the state," said McKenna, "That includes defending the state from inappropriate actions by the federal government."

McKenna says the 10th Amendment protects states from being forced to follow federal laws that are not covered by the U.S. Constitution.

"That's why the federal government has never imposed an auto insurance mandate, has never imposed a drinking age minimum, has never imposed a motorcycle helmet law," said McKenna.

Gregoire said she plans on filing a legal brief in opposition to the state's lawsuit.

Other states planning to challenge the bill are Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah.