Legislators Voice Support For Health Law in Court

This past week, 154 legislators from 26 states joined together to send a message to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals now considering a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act: that the framers of the Constitution themselves would have supported the law, and that they will not sit idle while the health security of their constituents is endangered by continuing partisan political attacks against legislation from the right wing. The legislators’ amicus brief supports the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, arguing that the district court ruling was “based on a fundamentally flawed vision of the constitutional role of our federal government and its partnership with the States – a vision that contradicts the original meaning of our Founding charter.”

The legislators’ brief joined a host of filings backing the Affordable Care Act, including a governor’s brief led by Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, a brief signed by California Attorney General Kamala Harris and her counterparts from nine other states, and briefs from many advocacy groups such as the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, and American Heart Association.

Iowa State Senator Jack Hatch, Chair of the Working Group of State Legislators for Health Reform, said, "it is clearly the federal government's responsibility to address national concerns and protect the American people, and legislators across the nation are saying this law is not about government overreach but about protecting the health security of their constituents.”Another signer of the brief, Minnesota State Representative Erin Murphy, added that “to suggest that the state of Minnesota should, or legally even could, ignore the health law before the federal courts have weighed in is a dangerous and telling precedent... the extent to which the Tea Party has taken hold of the health care debate for the Republicans is quite startling.”

In a press release, Doug Kendall, the president of the Constitutional Accountability Center (who filed the brief on behalf of the group of legislators), outlined the core argument of the brief – that the Affordable Care Act “is not only a constitutional exercise of the federal government’s power, it is an example of cooperative federalism at its very best,” noting that the state legislators “strongly disagree with the state Attorneys General and Governors, some from their own states, about both the constitutionality of the ACA as well as the wisdom of the law, which they believe will strongly benefit their states.”

The brief also addresses the blatant attack on Medicaid expansion (currently taking place both in the states and at the federal level) by reminding the court that Medicaid is voluntary for any state, that states are not coerced into electing to participate in the program, and that it is strictly up to each individual state to decide what is best for those most vulnerable populations in need of coverage. In light of the radical proposal recently unveiled by Wisconsin U.S. Representative Paul Ryan to convert the program to a block grant and severely restrict the money that states receive from the federal government, state leaders should watch as the case progresses through the courts.

Full Resources from this Article

Legislators Voice Support For Health Law in Court

Full Text of State Legislators’ Amicus Brief
Progressive States Network – Release: 154 Lawmakers to Appeals Court: Framers Would Have Backed Health Law
Constitutional Accountability Center – The States, Health Care Reform, and the Constitution
Constitutional Accountability Center – Strange Brew: The Tea Party’s Errant Constitutional Attacks on Health Care Reform
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities – Medicaid Funding Formula Under Ryan Plan Likely Even Worse than Advertised

This article is part of PSN's email newsletter, The Stateside Dispatch.
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