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Progressive Legislators Challenge Right-Wing Obstruction on Health Care

Even as right-wing state legislators and attorneys general from various states unleash a barrage of attacks in an attempt to halt federal health reform before it starts, progressive state legislators and officials have been pushing back, highlighting the benefits that states will receive and the increased provision of quality and affordable care for families through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 

Most of the right-wing efforts have consisted of state Attorneys General joining lawsuits against the Obama Administration challenging the constitutionality of reform, and state legislators supporting purely symbolic and patently unconstitutional bills attempting to nullify federal law -- bills promoted by the insurance company-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Constitutional experts across the ideological spectrum have deemed both the lawsuits and bills "meritless" and "irresponsible", and progressive legislators have been pushing back strongly against this right-wing obstruction by highlighting the partisan and frivolous nature of these tactics. In doing so, progressives are placing the focus back where it belongs: on the effective implementation of the Affordable Care Act at the state level so that families will start to see the benefits of the federal reforms as soon as possible.  A few examples:

  • Washington legislative leaders have highlighted the political nature and wasteful cost of the anti-health care lawsuit being brought by Attorney General McKenna, sending him a letter asking him to reconsider his decision, and noting the possibility of restricting his ability to spend taxpayer dollars on the lawsuit through the budgetary process. 
  • Texas legislators sent Attorney General Abbott a letter questioning his expenditure of taxpayer money on the suit without legislative authorization.
  • Virginia officials and lawmakers have successfully pressured Attorney General Cuccinelli by requesting public records on Attorney General Cucinelli's involvement in his own separate lawsuit, and highlighting the many hours that will be wasted "tilting at this windmill" by the Attorney General's taxpayer-funded staff. 
  • Pennsylvania legislators sent letters to Attorney General Corbett, who has joined the multi-state lawsuit, to explain exactly which priorities his staff will be ignoring as a result of having to concentrate on the suit.
  • Maine legislators successfully rejected an effort by conservative lawmakers to force the Attorney General to sign on to the suit, and Kansas lawmakers successfully rejected an attempt to amend the state constitution to nullify federal reform.
  • In Louisiana and Alabama, African-American lawmakers have taken the lead in pushing back against the obstructive tactics of anti-reform forces.  In Louisiana, the 27-member Legislative Black Caucus asked Democratic Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to withdraw from the multi-state lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of federal health care reform. Caucus Chairwoman Regina Barrow pledged to file an amicus brief on behalf of the people of Louisiana in the case presenting a counterargument to the Attorney General's views, and to oppose any legislative attempts to hinder Louisiana's participation in Affordable Care Act. In Alabama, the Legislative Black Caucus, whose membership comprises one-quarter of all legislators in the state, spoke out against a conservative-led effort to pass a state constitutional amendment to nullify the federal plan.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the bill's passage, the political environment seems to be growing more friendly for those working to effectively implement reform, and more dangerous for those who opposed reform and are now working for its obstruction, nullification, or outright repeal.  In several states, including Florida, Idaho, and Utah, lawmakers working against federal reform are now being criticized in their local press. Progressives are starting to take advantage of this shift in public perception.  In Arizona, progressive lawmakers have been leading the fight to restore their state's Childrens' Health Insurance Program that was cut days before the signing of federal reform, and calling out Gov. Brewer and conservative legislators for focusing on a frivolous lawsuit instead of the needs of children in their state.

For talking points on arguments some are using to challenge the Attorneys General lawsuits, please click here.