Missouri attorney general rebukes federal health care law
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Missouri attorney general rebukes federal health care law

Date: April 11, 2011
By: Jamie Hausman
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Despite his party's support for President Barack Obama's health care plan, Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster filed a "friend of the court" brief Monday that aims to remove the mandate requiring most Americans to obtain health insurance.

Koster wrote in the brief that upholding the individual mandate would "imbue Congress with police powers rejected by the Founding Fathers and never before permitted by the Supreme Court."

The brief was filed in response to resolutions passed in the statehouse in January that called on the attorney general to challenge the constitutionality of the health care law and to defend Proposition C. 

Unlike filing suit, the amicus brief filed by the attorney general merely serves as a secondary opinion; it does not hold the weight of being a plaintiff or defendent. Rep. Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, defined an amicus brief as not very significant.

"They don't carry that much water to be honest with you," he said. "It's like somebody saying, 'Yeah, me too.'"

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder released a disatisfied statement in response to Koster's action. In it, he said Koster does not effectively advocate for the interests of Missouri citizens.

"Koster’s amicus brief in the Florida case, while welcome, is a day late and a dollar short," Kinder said.

Kinder went on to say that the mandate is not severable from the act, and thus Koster's wish of keeping the act intact without the central provision is not a feasible option. His statement called on Koster to take on more direct action. It is, however, too late for Missouri to join the lawsuit because it is already in the appeals process.

"It is crucial that leaders of our state are willing to get in the battle for Missourians' constitutional rights and freedoms, and not just comment from the sideline," Kinder said.

House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, disapproved of the fact that Koster pinpointed only one issue in the act.

"His involvement in the process is political in nature, and he has taken a political calculation," Tilley said. "And I would say his political calculation is incorrect if he's identifying just one provision of the bill that's unconstitutional."

Koster's office offered no additional comments and said the document speaks for itself.

Obama's plan, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, mandates that an individual should maintain a minimum amount of coverage or pay a fine. Missouri voters responded to the act in August 2010, when they voted to pass Proposition C, a referendum prohibiting mandatory participation in the health care system. 

Koster's brief was filed as an addition to a case filed in Pensacola, Fla., by Republican attorneys general and governors from 26 states. Koster is technically the only Democrat who is directly involved in the case. The Attorney General of Wyoming is a Democrat, but the lawsuit was an action taken by the Republican governor. The Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta is hearing the litigation. So far, three lower court judges have upheld the act, while two, including U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson, have taken issue with the central provision of the health care act and ruled it unconstitutional.

The mandate for health insurance is the act's central provision. Koster said he would support the act if legislators cut out that mandate.

House Democratic Floor Leader Mike Talboy, D-Jackson County, said he does not agree with Koster's reasoning in the brief but acknowledged that Koster did what he felt was necessary.


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