Friday, April 23, 2010

"Seattle asks Supreme Court to withdraw state from health care lawsuit"
The City of Seattle asked the state Supreme Court Thursday to require Attorney General Rob McKenna to withdraw Washington from a multistate challenge to the constitutionality of the health care reform legislation Congress passed last month.

"Mr. McKenna would not have used the name of Washington State if he didn't think it would further the cause of health care reform opponents," City Attorney Peter Holmes told Friday.

Holmes said he'd spoken to Mayor Mike McGinn, who supported his decision. He also conferred with seven of nine city councilmembers -- Sally Bagshaw and Sally Clark outstanding. Those seven support his actions, and Holmes said he believes "every city councilmember is upset with McKenna's actions.

Holmes said Seattle is the first city to take action against the multistate challenge.

"Mr. McKenna is a good man and a good lawyer," Holmes said. "But he overstepped his bounds because of partisan politics."

Last month, McKenna said he would join 12 other state attorneys general in trying to repeal the new, comprehensive national health care measure Democrats passed the previous night.

"I believe this new federal health care measure unconstitutionally imposes new requirements on our state and on its citizens,” he said in a statement last month. “This unprecedented federal mandate, requiring all Washingtonians to purchase health insurance, violates the Commerce Clause and the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"I'm concerned that the measure unconstitutionally requires all Washingtonians to purchase health insurance and places an extraordinary burden on our state budget by requiring Washington to expand its Medicaid eligibility standards in violation of our state's rights guaranteed under the10th amendment."

According to the city's petition, McKenna has "only the powers expressly given by the state legislature," none of which "grant authority for (him) to make the State of Washington a plaintiff in the Florida case without a request by the governor or any other state officer."

Gov. Chris Gregoire has since collaborated with three other governors in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder opposing the lawsuit and saying they "will stand by your efforts to protect this most historic improvement of health care for every citizen of this nation."

Holmes said he didn’t think there was any merit to the lawsuit, filed in Florida. He said health care reform would help urban centers such as Seattle, and agreed with statements in a City Council resolution supporting health care reform.

The city’s resolution also urged the Legislature to restrict McKenna’s budget authority to prevent any state funds from being spent opposing federal health care reform.

“This historic act by President Obama and Congress should in no way be undermined by a partisan political agenda,” stated Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin. “Seattle citizens who lack health care insurance or who are underinsured need this necessary and reasonable step toward providing health care for all citizens.”

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