Florida Republicans Move Swiftly to Reject Forced Health Care
Around the State
Republicans, with Attorney General Bill McCollum leading the charge, are preparing to specifically challenge the federal mandate that every citizen have health insurance coverage.
Last week, McCollum unveiled plans to sue the federal government as soon as the health care legislation passed. He asked other states to join him.
"Presumably one of the provisions penalizing individuals who do not buy health insurance will be in any final legislation which becomes law, and if so, I intend to pursue litigation to challenge it.”
McCollum held a news conference Monday morning announcing he is prepared to file once President Barack Obama signs the legislation, which he is expected to do Tuesday.
"The health care reform legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last night clearly violates the U.S. Constitution and infringes on each state's sovereignty," McCollum said.
Nine other state attorneys general have already joined the pledge to sue and other states are said to be considering it. States already committed include, South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Pennsylvania, Washington, North Dakota, South Dakota and Alabama.
While McCollum is organizing a national push back against the new health-care law, Republicans in the Legislature are mobilizing at the state level.
On Monday, Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando, brought a bill to the House Health and Family Services Policy Council supporting McCollum’s proposed litigation. The measure was approved on a 7-5 vote along party lines.
Eisnaugle said, “Bill McCollum has recognized the right of all Floridians to make their own health-care decisions.
“Individual health-care mandates are unconstitutional and inconsistent with the principles this country was founded on. The right to make our own health-care decisions is one of the most important rights we have.”
Rep. Peter Fitzgerald said there were challenges to Social Security in 1937 and to Medicaid in 1966 and 1967 that also relied on questioning the federal role with individual mandates. Fitzgerald said the Supreme Court rejected the challenges. “The constitutional argument is groundless,” Fitzgerald said. “This is fundamentally a political bill.”
Referring to the debates over state rights in the nineteenth century, the Sarasota Democrat said, “There is no constitutional argument unless you believe John C. Calhoun was right instead of Abraham Lincoln.”
In addition to McCollum’s efforts, there is a proposal working its way through the Legislature that would place the issue on the November ballot and allow voters to decide if they want the constitutional right to opt out. The ballot amendment would pass only if 60 percent of voters supported it.
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustace, that would place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, allowing Floridians to choose not to have health insurance.
Baker said his measure meets a constitutional test under the 10th Amendment, because it "is solely about individual rights.”
Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, disagreed. Gelber said the federal supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution trumps state law.
The House took up the issue Monday afternoon. An hour after the council voted to support McCollum’s lawsuit, the Health Care Regulations Policy Committee voted approval of the amendment.
“An individual mandate that forces citizens to purchase health care is wrong and unconstitutional.” Plakon said, “This is the first time in American history that Americans are forced to buy a product from a company.”
The committee passed the proposal on a 10 to 3 vote along party lines.
Baker said, “I’m very optimistic this is going to pass,” noting that he has received support from citizens all across the state. The House legislation, he pointed out, attracted scores of co-sponsors. “The support for this is simply incredible.”
Republicans across the state were vocal in their disappointment Monday.
Gov. Charlie Crist lambasted the bill for being “comprised of secret back room, sweetheart deals" buttressed by "a last minute [presidential] executive order," and concluded by calling the legislation "a direct affront to the American people.”
Crist said, “Americans deserve better than this liberal, partisan legislation that amounts to a government take over of health care while raising rates, raising taxes and significantly cutting Medicare."
The frontrunner for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink was more supportive of the legislation. “Though it is certainly not perfect, these long-overdue reforms are better than Washington continuing to do nothing to improve America's health care system."
“If allowed to stand, the health-care bill that was arrogantly rammed through by Democrats in Washington will raise taxes, increase deficits, cut Medicare and expand Medicaid while imposing unconstitutional mandates and financial penalties on the American people,” said House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach. “I applaud Attorney General McCollum for fighting this federal intrusion with vigor and tenacity."
“House Republican leaders are once again siding with special interests and trying to kill major health-care reforms approved by Congress,” said House Minority Leader Franklin Sands, D-Weston. “Floridians will reject any attempt to destroy important federal health programs like Medicare, Social Security and the changes passed by Congress this week. The Republicans’ scare tactics have failed before, and their scare tactics will fail again.”
Kevin Derby, a reporter for Sunshine State News, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 727-0859.