AG says challenges to health care law unconstitutional

Tuesday, April 6, 2010 at 4:51pm

Tea party-backed legislation challenging national health care reform in Tennessee stalled in the House Tuesday with the state attorney general saying the measure probably is unconstitutional.

The House Commerce Committee adjourned without voting on the so-called Health Freedom Act. The legislation, which has been cheered on by dozens of tea party activists this month in demonstrations at the Capitol, purports to nullify the new federal law. It also orders state Attorney General Bob Cooper to defend Tennesseans who are penalized for disobeying the law's mandate that all Americans buy insurance.

In a new opinion, Cooper stated "a court likely would determine" the state legislation is unconstitutional because federal laws supersede those of the states under the Constitution's Supremacy Clause.

Cooper also said the attorney general would not defend Tennesseans who disobey the federal law. The "attorney general has a duty to defend the constitutionality and validity of state legislation except in those instances where the attorney general is of the opinion that such legislation is not constitutional," he wrote.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, urged the Commerce Committee to adopt his measure despite Cooper's opinion.

"The AG is one man’s opinion," he said. "This is something we can allow the courts to settle. ... Any bill that we pass can be challenged on its constitutionality, and this one very well may be at some point, but it would be my intention to go forward with this bill."

But the committee adjourned after Rep. Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, began slowly reading the three-page opinion out loud in a kind of filibuster. Earlier, Naifeh tried to amend the bill to say that anyone who chooses to disobey the law also loses any right to participate in any other federal health care program, including Medicare.

"If they don’t want the government fooling around with them, this ensures that the government is not going to fool around with them," Naifeh said before the committee tabled his amendment.

Republican lawmakers also are urging the attorney general to join 14 other states in suing to block national health care reform. Those states charge that the law exceeds Congress’s powers to regulate commerce, violates 10th Amendment protections of state sovereignty, and imposes an unconstitutional direct tax. Cooper is reviewing whether to join that lawsuit, according to his spokeswoman, Sharon Curtis-Flair. 

7 Comments on this post:

By: Dragon on 4/6/10 at 4:03

Section 2. That government being instituted for the common benefit, the
doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd,
slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.

By: cmarcus45 on 4/6/10 at 4:55

I, and others, left comments earlier that now do not appear here. Really not digging the 'new' NCP . . . . . .

By: dick658 on 4/6/10 at 8:45

I guess the Paper cherry picks what is posted on here, sad note especialy in the times of such mass communication.

By: cmarcus45 on 4/6/10 at 9:17

I am really surprised the previous comments have not reappeared by now. I was very, very slightly critical of the article -- perhaps that was the problem. Sad. Either way, there's a difference between the Supremacy Clause pre-empting the proposed state legislation and challening the federal law for 10th Amendment concerns. To blend or confuse the two is intellectually dishonest.

By: idgaf on 4/7/10 at 3:22

This AG should learn the Constitution and legal precedent. The Federal Government has no authority to compell citizens to buy something under threat of punishment and their takover of health care is questionable.

Hope you saw Beck last night and saw the socialist influence that barry had his whole life and the people (socialist) that surround him now.

People did not vote for a "change" to socialism. This guy is gobbling up as much as the private sector he can get away with and the dems are helping him. There are no moderate dems anymore.

By: govskeptic on 4/7/10 at 6:23

Tennessee's Attorney General should be an elected position.
This type "establishment" , "don't rock the Boat" opinion is what we always get from a position that is selected by the
members of the Tenn Supreme Court. Additionally it is an
important position with virtually no power. This could be
corrected with a Constitutional Amendment which the
legislature or a vocal minority of refuses to tackle!

By: Dragon on 4/7/10 at 12:05

The supremacy clause begins "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; ...."

If the laws are not pursuant to the Constitution (unconstitutional), then the supremacy clause does not pertain. Since no legal authority has ruled on the constitutionality, then TN is free to pass its own laws that contradict.