As soon as they passed national health care, a chorus line of lawmakers claimed that Democrats are being threatened, even spat upon, by unwashed minions of Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. As if spitting and epithets were not enough, a gaggle of state attorneys general, including Washington state’s Rob McKenna, began courting the Tea Party vote by announcing legal challenges to health care reform.
We may see new hate speech provisions to protect vulnerable lawmakers.
One of the issues that the Attorney General’s Office will raise is state sovereignty. Tenth Amendment Resolutions have recently passed in more than a few states, but have no chance of being enacted in our state.
Gov. Chris Gregoire wants to hamstring McKenna from spending money for the lawsuit because the 13 state attorneys general are aiming their lawsuits directly at her party. The fact that McKenna is also aiming at becoming the first Republican governor in Washington since 1980 makes it all particularly poignant for the pundits.
None of the pundits dispute, however, that requiring citizens in Washington state to buy insurance from private insurers raises important constitutional issues. Another issue that underlies many current political tensions is the imminent financial collapse of states like California. If California gets bailed out, the new program will make TARP look like Jason in the “Friday the 13th” movies, on steroids!
The fact that many states and cities are already addicted to federal stimulus money raises the issue of how states like Washington will say no to upcoming innovations by which state sovereignty passes from hoary footnote into a legal version of planned obsolescence.
Asserting sovereignty while a state is spending federal tax dollars is analogous to a rebellious teenager who wants to be his own man while living at home and purchasing goods and services on his parents’ credit card.
In the 1941 case of United States v. Darby, the court held that the Tenth Amendment was intended “to allay fears that the new national government might seek to exercise powers not granted, and that the states might not be able to exercise fully their reserved powers.”
The attorney general is sworn to uphold the U.S. and Washington State Constitutions. The first question he should have asked is whether the power to force Washingtonians to buy medical insurance is delegated to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution. Not the case? The powers “are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
Of course, McKenna has to factor in political calculations. The governor already has her hands full with a $2.8 billion budget deficit and negotiations that force her party to reassess its spending calculations. The Democrats’ health reforms could not work without coercing the insured (i.e., the people of the United States) and insurance companies. Each succeeding crisis potentially becomes a rationale for new measures that undermine the Bill of Rights.
My guns feel infinitely safer with an attorney general (or a governor) that anticipates how the health care mandate might produce its own version of “Friday the 13th” the movie.