ATLANTA (Legal Newsline) - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, a Republican-turned-Democrat, is siding against President Barack Obama's health care reform package.
Koster filed an amicus brief Monday in the multistate lawsuit challenging the law, supporting the 26 Republican state attorneys general and governors who filed it. Koster switched from the GOP to the Democratic Party in 2007 when he was a state senator and was elected attorney general in 2008.
The lawsuit challenges a provision of the Obama's law that requires individuals to pay a $695 yearly penalty if they do not purchase health insurance. A federal judge in Florida ruled the mandate is unconstitutional earlier this year, and the federal government appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
"Upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's individual mandate as a legitimate exercise of congressional power under the Commerce Clause would imbue Congress with police powers rejected by the Founding Fathers and never before permitted by the Supreme Court," Koster wrote.
"Within the health care arena, the power to penalize one's decision not to purchase health insurance is indistinguishable from granting Congress the power to penalize individuals for not obtaining an annual check-up or prostate exam, for not vaccinating one's children, or for not maintaining a specific body-mass.
"Outside the health care arena, granting Congress such new power would... allow Congress not only the authority to penalize a farmer's planting of wheat, but also grant Congress the power to penalize a farmer's decision not to plant wheat."
Koster's position supports the stance voters in Missouri took on Aug. 3. The Health Care Freedom Act earned 71 percent of the a vote in a special referendum and authorized Missourians to opt out of the federal health care plan.
Before that, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder filed a challenge of the federal law, and Koster moved to intervene. Koster said he was intervening because he is the exclusive representative of the State in litigation. After the Aug. 3 vote, Koster withdrew his motion.
In January in the multistate case, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson found that Congress was unconstitutionally regulating economic inactivity and, because the mandate is too integral a part to be separated, he voided the entire legislation. He called it "a difficult decision to reach."
In his ruling, Vinson wrote, "If Congress intends to implement health care reform -- and there would appear to be widespread agreement across the political spectrum that reform is needed -- it should do a comprehensive examination of the Act and make a legislative determination as to which of its hundreds of provisions and sections will work as intended without the individual mandate, and which will not."
"It is Congress that should consider and decide these quintessentially legislative questions, and not the courts."
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has scheduled oral arguments for June 8. Three randomly selected judges will hear the arguments, instead of the full roster of judges, as requested by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was also successful at the district court level with his challenge of the law. He is currently asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the federal government's appeal, thus skipping a decision from the Fourth Circuit.
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at email@example.com.