Column: AG says Alabama will defend rights over healthcare bill

Published 3:32 am Thursday, April 15, 2010

By By Troy King
Alabama attorney general

I have never publicly taken a position on whether we ought to have health care reform in this country or not. I have said that if we are going to have it, it must be done in a way that is constitutional, through a transparent process that respects the rights of the states and the people. For better or worse, healthcare reform has now come.   
This past March, a new universal healthcare regime, entitled the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” (“the healthcare law”) was hastily pushed through Congress and signed into law by President Obama before anyone even had a chance to read its 2,400 pages.  Many Americans, me included, were shocked at the manner in which a bill that affects 1/6th of the American economy was rammed through Congress using procedural maneuvers, vote buying, and arm-twisting.  In addition, backroom deals like the “Cornhusker Kickback” and the “Louisiana Purchase” have only further shaken the people’s confidence in their elected government. Most disturbing of all though is that this healthcare law is an unconstitutional usurpation of power by the federal government at the expense of state and personal rights. It is a shameful state of affairs when you cannot look your children in the eye and be proud of what their government has done. We must now do as our state motto commands and to dare defend our rights.  
I, along with a bipartisan group of 12 other attorneys general from across the country have filed a lawsuit challenging various provisions of the healthcare law. Other states have since decided to join. We have hired one of the brightest legal minds in the country, a lawyer and constitutional scholar named David Rivkin, to represent the states. We will not rest until we have stopped the federal government from trampling the Constitution. 
In this legal challenge, we have argued, among other things, that the so-called “personal mandate,” a provision requiring every American to purchase health insurance or pay a tax penalty is unconstitutional. The Constitution does not authorize the federal government to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents purchase healthcare coverage or anything else for that matter. This shocking power-grab would leave no individual decision-making of our citizens beyond the reach of federal powers.  Such sweeping federal power would not be similar to a state car insurance law that requires anyone choosing to exercise the privilege of driving a car on state roads to purchase car insurance. Instead, it would be like requiring every American to buy car insurance whether they drive a car or not. In an effort to bring costs down, every single uninsured person is required to purchase a health insurance plan. In addition to the financial burdens it will cause families, much of the costs will be borne by the taxpayers of the states, who will be forced to pay for millions of new Medicaid enrollees as a result of this personal mandate.  This onerous encroachment will force Alabama taxpayers to pay millions of additional dollars at a time when state government faces severe budget cuts to offset shortfalls in its already-strained budget. Alabama will not sit idly by while Washington tramples our rights.
We will remind the Congress and we will remind the federal government that they are not the ultimate source of authority in this country. We, the people, are.  Indeed, Alabama will dare to defend its rights.