JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline) - Republican-turned-Democrat Chris Koster, Missouri's attorney general, still has his somewhat-moderate stance on President Barack Obama's health care reform law.
In an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, Koster says a mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance or face a $695 annual penalty is unconstitutional. However, he stops short of saying the mandate is an essential part of the overall package.
A lawsuit filed by 26 states says the mandate is unconstitutional and the rest of the reform package should be declared void. Koster says the mandate can be removed while the rest of the law stands.
It is the same stance Koster took in April 2011 when he filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which ultimately agreed with his argument.
"This has been a challenging decision, but ultimately one that must be decided on the law alone," Koster said in a release. "I do not believe the Commerce Clause can be used by Congress to force consumers into a market unwillingly."
Ed Martin, the Republican challenging Koster in this year's election, calls Koster "Obama's lawyer" and said in a statement reported by PoliticMo.com that Koster is not representing the views of Missourians.
"There can be no question: Missourians have rejected Obamacare and Chris Koster needs to stop playing politics and oppose all aspects of Obamacare," Martin said, according to the report. "To play games with legal briefs to win political points is the height of arrogance and beneath the office of Attorney General."
Koster was a Republican legislator in the state until 2007, when he switched to the Democratic Party. He was elected attorney general in 2008.
Voters in Missouri have let their elected officials know how they feel about the mandate. In August 2010, 71 percent voted in favor of the Health Care Freedom Act in a special referendum. The act authorized Missourians to opt out of the federal health care plan.
The state Legislature is still considering a proposed amendment that would block the mandate from taking effect in the state. Basically, the results of the vote would be made into law.
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 vote, Koster withdrew his motion, but the case went nowhere.
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at email@example.com.