Mo. AG: Health care mandate should be struck down
April 11, 2011
ST. LOUIS -- Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has entered the fray over the federal health care law, filing a brief that argues the bill's individual mandate exceeds Congressional authority.
After months of remaining publicly neutral on the issue, Koster, a Democrat, filed a friend of the court brief Monday in a federal case in Florida where several states have joined together to combat President Barack Obama's health care plan.
The attorney general's move against the health care mandate is sure to raise eyebrows among progressives, some who have been wary of Koster's party credentials since he defected from the GOP a year before running statewide.
In a letter to state House and Senate leaders, Koster said his position is "not based on any opposition to the expansion of health coverage for uninsured Americans."
"To the contrary, I favor the expansion of health coverage," Koster wrote.
However, Koster cited Proposition C -- the successful August ballot measure that sought to exclude Missouri from the health care mandate -- to conclude that federal and state law are "in conflict."
He also argued that the healthcare mandate goes beyond Congress' ability to regulate commerce between states.
"Therefore, it follows that the federal courts, in reviewing this aspect of the law, must either expand Congress’ Commerce Clause authority, justify the provision on alternate constitutional grounds, or strike down the individual mandate," Koster wrote in his letter to the General Assembly.
The actual 35-page brief itself veers into the ethereal, comparing the argument against a health care mandate to Henry Thoreau's self-imposed sojourn from civilization in 1845.
In essence, the brief argues that Congress does not have the ability to penalize citizens for inactivity, whether its not obtaining healthcare insurance or not fishing on Walden Pond.
Koster does offer some consolation to supporters of the health care law, arguing that even if the mandate provision is struck down, it should not invalidate the entire law.
Republicans have been pressing Koster for months to weigh-in on a similiar federal case in Missouri launched by Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder. The Florida case, though, is much further along in the judicial process.
Koster, who took office in 2009, is up for re-election next year. It will be interesting to watch the political reaction Koster's brief elicits from members of his current party -- who have defended and fought for the president's health care bill -- and his old party, whose plaudits for Koster may make it harder to unseat him in 2012.
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