Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna wrote a column this week to answer critics of his decision to join the federal lawsuit to overturn national health reform.
Critics have said McKenna is trying to have it both ways – by claiming he doesn't want to strike down the whole Affordable Care Act passed by Democrats a year ago (while Democrats point out its virtues). McKenna says he just wants to strike the mandates for individuals to buy policies from insurance exchanges and to spare states from having to pay additional costs under Medicaid's expanded coverage.
But that's at odds with the motions filed by the 26 suing states (including McKenna for Washington) that seek to invalidate the whole national reform. And after a Florida judge struck down the law as constitutional alst month, McKenna backed a 26-state motion to deny a stay of proceedings at the district court level in Florida.
"Rob McKenna needs to choose. Either he believes the entire law should be thrown out, or he should drop his lawsuit," Aisling Kerins of the Seattle-based liberal advocacy group Fuse said recently after the judge granted a stay that lets reform proceed.
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So far, McKenna contends it is worth the risk to challenge the mandate that individuals buy insurance from government-run exchanges or pay a fine, while knowing that the courts could toss out everything.
His piece on the Crosscut online-news site explains how he thinks courts can only strike down the mandate to buy insurance ( briefs from the 26 states in the Florida suit say that is not possible):
McKenna's Olympia spokeswoman Janelle Guthrie added Wednesday: "If it's constitutional, he'll concede that he's wrong."
Gov. Gregoire's office disagrees with the arguments from McKenna, who is widely seen as his party's leading candidate for governor next year. A few federal rulings have upheld the Affordable Care Act, rejecting arguments from those, including McKenna, whose lawsuit language seeks to overturn it entirely.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has filed a notice of appeal in the 11th federal circuit court of appeals in Atlanta. That means the Florida ruling tossing out Obamacare is stayed – for now, awaiting action in that higher venue.
Gregoire's counsel, Narda Pierce, says Gregoire and allies who support the health reform act have filed friend of court briefs in the 6th circuit and 4th circuit cases already under appeal. Another is expected in the summer – if the 11th circuit case from Florida is expedited.