McCollum Will Sue if Congress Passes Health Care
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum said Tuesday that he will sue if a health care package is passed by the U.S. Congress, a possibility that appeared in doubt as voters in Massachusetts cast ballots in a special election that could end national Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate.
With polls indicating a possible Republican upset in typically-Democratic Massachusetts that would end the slim margin by which Democrats were able to pass their sweeping health care overall, McCollum announced in Tallahassee Tuesday the results of a pre-emptive legal review of the legislation that he had ordered last month.
Proposed provisions requiring citizens to carry health insurance would violate the U.S. constitution, McCollum argued, and promised the state would sue if that requirement remains in the final bill.
McCollum said the government can require people to get car insurance – because it is a condition of being able to drive. But with health insurance, there’s no similar activity for that to be conditioned on.
“You can penalize them for not getting insurance, you can say you’ve got to have a driver’s license, you can do a lot of things because you’re engaged in some activity,” McCollum said. “(With health care), you’re just sitting here,” he continued. “You’re doing absolutely nothing, and they’re putting a penalty on you. There’s no activity.”
In announcing his legal opinion that the health care bill as written is unconstitutional, McCollum joined a cadre of Republican attorneys general considering suing if the Democratic bill becomes law. Many are, like McCollum, eyeing higher office in their states.
However, McCollum said Tuesday that even some Democratic AGs were looking at the highly partisan bill as well, though he would not name them.
“We’ve talked to some of the other attorneys general and their offices and their staffs and…I believe both Democrats and Republicans will join in this lawsuit if this becomes necessary,” he said. “I think there’s a general understanding among most attorneys general that the reasoning that we put in this letter (to Congressional leaders) is correct. Whatever you think about the legislation or the health care issue, this analysis we believe is on very firm ground.”
McCollum said his opposition to the federal health care plan was on legal rather than political grounds. However, he also laid out a series of disagreements with the national Democrats’ approach to crafting the bill, saying instead he supports the use of health savings accounts.
“I think it’s a privacy issue, it’s an individual choice issue,” he said. “I don’t think this approach to solving the health care problem is a good idea. I believe that we ought to take an entirely different approach where we have more reliance on independent responsibility by those who are the recipients of care.”
McCollum has sought repeatedly to use the health care debate in Washington to tie his likely Democratic gubernatorial opponent, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, to the national party. His campaign on Tuesday again attacked Sink for her silence on the plan. She has thus far declined to take a public position on the bill.
But McCollum did not promise he would campaign on an alternative solution, either.
“I have a health care advisory board, and they met for the first time on Friday,” McCollum said when asked if he had a plan for extending health care to uninsured Floridians. “I’ve asked them to make recommendations for me to be prepared to govern. That will take some time for them to do and sift through. During the course of the campaign, I may well lay out something. I may not. I don’t know yet.”