JEFFERSON CITY — On the day the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on repeal the federal health care law, the Missouri Senate passed a resolution urging Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster to join a lawsuit against the federal government's health care law.
"Missouri was the first state in the entire nation to give its citizens the right to vote on it (health care), and we received from our voters and overwhelming 71 percent majority that sent a megaphone message to Washington, D.C. that we want to make our own health care decisions, we do not want them coming from Washington, D.C.," said the resolution's sponsor, Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County. "While other AGs (attorneys general) in the nation have voluntarily joined this lawsuit as plaintiffs on behalf of their citizens in their states ... our AG has not stepped in to defend these citizens."
The non-binding resolution calls for Koster to join an existing lawsuit, whether it be with attorneys general from other states, to team up with Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder who filed a lawsuit in July or to file his own separate lawsuit. The existing lawsuits challenge the constitutionality of the health care law, passed last March, which requires all Americans to purchase health care or face penalties for non-compliance.
Just last week, the state House of Representatives passed a similar non-binding resolution, calling for action from the lieutenant governor and Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. The Senate passed the resolution Wednesday with a voice vote.
Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis, said the lawsuit defends the civil liberties and constitutional rights impeded by the federal health care law.
"These very limited powers that we've delegated to the federal government are just that — they're limited. This is what you have authority over, and everything else goes back to the people and the states," he said. "What the federal government is saying to the people through Obamacare is that we're gonna mandate what you do with your property. You're gonna take these resources, your property that you've gone out and worked for, and you're gonna buy this product."
Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Jackson County, was the only one to speak against the bill. Justus said it was a waste of time to pass a non-binding resolution to send a message to an independent branch of government and time would be better spent discussing economic reform and jobs. Regardless of Missouri's participation, the result of the lawsuit will still affect the state in the same way, she said.
"Whether Missouri gets involved in it or not, the result of the litigation will be binding on the state of Missouri," Justus said. "So for instance, if they decide that the federal mandate is unconstitutional, then Missouri's law that we passed in August of last year will stand. If they decide in that lawsuit that the federal mandate is constitutional then Missouri's law will be thrown."
To join the lawsuit would simply mean another expense to the state, Justus said.
"There is absolutely no sense in us as a state using taxpayer time and taxpayer money to join a lawsuit that we absolutely will have no effect over. It's gonna be won or lost, and it will apply to Missouri," she said.
Cunningham, however, defended the need for Koster joining the existing lawsuit.
"If our attorney general gets in as a plaintiff, it gives him a seat at the table. He can change things. He has the ability to really have his input in there, which is our input, our citizens' input," Cunningham said. "Additionally, if he gets in, it could make a difference in the outcome of this lawsuit. So is it important, does it matter? You bet your boots it matters."