Kansas Attorney General Refuses To Sue Federal Government Over Health Care Reform

Steve Six Yesterday, Kansas Attorney General Steve Six announced that his office would not be joining other states’ attorneys general in suing the federal government on the allegation that the new health care law is unconstitutional. From his statement:

The attorney general’s office has completed its legal review of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Based on that extensive analysis, I do not believe that Kansas can successfully challenge the law. Our review did not reveal any constitutional defects, and thus it would not be legally or fiscally responsible to pursue this litigation. […]

Legal precedent demonstrates that throughout our nation’s history, the U.S. Supreme Court has been reluctant to overturn legislative acts unless a clear and direct constitutional violation is shown. Article I, section 8 of the U.S. Constitution expressly gives Congress the power to legislate on matters affecting interstate commerce. The Supremacy Clause makes these laws supreme, regardless of any state laws or state constitutional provisions to the contrary. No serious argument may be advanced that the healthcare industry and all those who participate in it — including doctors, nurses, patients and insurers — are not part of interstate commerce. […]

I do not believe it is in the best interest of Kansas to divert resources from these vital legal matters to pursue a lawsuit driven by political differences and policy debates, a lawsuit that I believe has little to no chance of success and will squander scarce resources in a time of severe budget shortfalls.

Six has been under tremendous pressure by conservatives in his state to join in the right-wing lawsuit over health care reform. Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), who sent a letter to Six urging him to sue last week, called yesterday’s announcement “extremely disappointing.” More on the opposition that Six faces within his state:

[Republican state Rep. Aaron] Jack and 21 other Republicans in the Kansas House are sponsoring the resolution requiring Six to file a legal challenge. A 1975 state law allows one chamber to direct the attorney general to challenge the constitutionality of a state or federal statute. […]

Some GOP legislators want to amend the state constitution to prohibit Kansas from requiring individuals or businesses to buy health insurance. It’s designed to block implementation of the federal law in Kansas and put the state in a better legal position for a challenge.

Six, however, joins an increasingly vocal block of state-level public officials who are calling out the political stunts conducted by the attorneys general suing the federal government. Attorneys general from Kentucky, Georgia, Nevada, Ohio, Iowa, and Arizona have all refused to join the suit, saying it would be a frivolous waste of scarce taxpayer dollars. Additionally, in Oregon, both Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) and Attorney General John Kroger (D) have have promised to “take legal action to defend the constitutionality” of the law.