Democrat blasts AG Abbott over stance on Senate health care bill

Chris Rizo Jan. 4, 2010, 3:39pm

Barbara Ann Radnofsky (D)

Greg Abbott (R)

AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline)-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is wrong to consider possible legal action over a deal that got Senate Democrats their final 60th vote on a federal health care overhaul, his Democratic challenger says.

In a statement, Democratic attorney general candidate Barbara Ann Radnofsky accused Abbott, a Republican, of political grandstanding in agreeing to probe a deal that grants Nebraska a permanent exemption from paying the higher Medicaid expenses that all other states in the nation would be required to pay, under the Senate-approved plan.

"Even if the bill emerged as a law, the Texas attorney general has no power to intervene. He has no standing, legally, to challenge the law or political horse-trading in the U.S. Senate. It is bad lawyering, grandstanding with no legal basis," Radnofsky said in a statement.

She added: "If the Texas attorney general had standing, he should have fought against unfair distribution of our federal highway tax dollars. Texas has been and remains a net donor to the other states."

The final vote last month to approve the Senate health care bill came from U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat, who was able to spare his state higher Medicaid costs in the legislation drafted by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in exchange for his vote.

The Senate legislation requires that the states provide Medicaid coverage to anyone making up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level -- a move that will likely expand the number of Medicaid-eligible persons throughout the country and increase the financial burden on the states since they bankroll part of the program.

In a statement, Abbott said he was outraged by the deal, which has become known as the Nebraska Compromise.

"Because it disadvantages Texas taxpayers, the Texas Attorney General's Office will explore all available avenues to challenge and overturn this legally problematic provision," Abbott said. "Our democratic system of government depends upon transparency and openness--this backroom deal goes too far and must be challenged because Texas deserves better."

Abbott, a former state Supreme Court justice, was first elected the state's chief legal officer in 2002 and was reelected handily in 2006. Radnofsky unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2006, losing to Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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