N.M. House GOP asks AG to challenge health care law

By Chris Rizo | Apr 15, 2010

Gary King (D)

Thomas Taylor (R)

SANTA FE, N.M. (Legal Newsline) - Republicans in the New Mexico House of Representatives this week urged state Attorney General Gary King to join a lawsuit challenging landmark federal health care legislation signed into law recently.

The 25-member House Republican Caucus, in a letter to the Democratic attorney general, said he should challenge the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which President Barack Obama signed last month.

The law, among other things, will require that most Americans have medical insurance beginning in 2014 or face financial penalties.

Republican House members, in their letter, decried the insurance mandate as a violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the authority to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the several states and with Native American Indian tribes.

They accuse the Obama administration of "assuming un-delegated powers" in enacting the health care overhaul, marking an unconstitutional exercise of power.

"This is the first time in American history that we can remember our federal government violating the Constitution and punishing New Mexicans, and all American citizens, for any kind of economic inactivity," the GOP caucus's letter said. "The Constitution does allow for Congress to regulate interstate commerce, but does not allow them to tell Americans what they must purchase."

The federal health care law also will require businesses with more than 50 workers to provide employees medical coverage or pay a $2,000-a-worker penalty if any of their employees get government-subsidized plans on their own.

"There is a lot of diversity in the states, and one size doesn't fit all," House Minority Floor Leader Thomas Taylor, R-Farmington, said in a statement. "The United States Constitution specifically reserves powers to the states, and that was done for a reason. Congress should take another look at this legislation because it violates the Constitution."

A spokeswoman for the attorney general, Lynn Southard, said the mammoth health care bill is being analyzed by officials in their office, and once the review is completed in the coming weeks King will be in a "better position" to determine whether the state should sue.

The attorney general, she added, is aware of lawmakers' concerns about the 2,407-page law and how the statute will affect New Mexicans.

"He is taking the issues seriously," Southard said.

In all, officials from 20 states are challenging the insurance mandate and other provisions in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. The multistate challenge is led by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican.

The states involved in the lawsuit are Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Washington, Idaho, South Dakota, Indiana, North Dakota, Mississippi, Nevada and Arizona. The Virginia attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, separately filed a challenge in his state.

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