Minnesota Attorney General Refuses Pawlenty’s Request To Challenge Constitutionality Of Health Reform

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson with Governor Tim Pawlenty

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson with Governor Tim Pawlenty

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson (D) has rebuffed Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s request to challenge the constitutionality of health reform, and has announced that she will instead file a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the federal government. In a formal letter responding to Pawlenty’s request, Swanson defended the the new law:

Having carefully reviewed the applicable Supreme Court precedent and other legal authority, it is my legal opinion that health care — which comprises over one-sixth of our country’s economy — substantially affects interstate commerce. See Gonzales, 545 U.S. at 17 (noting that Congress has the authority to regulate even purely local activities if the local activities are prt of a “class of activities” that have a substantial affect on interstate commerce). The United States government has been involved for years in many aspects of health care, including Medicare and Medicaid, both of which were enacted in the 1960s, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, enacted in the 1970s, and the Public Helath Service Act, enacted in 1944.

Pawlenty said “he would file papers opposing the controversial bill, setting Minnesota up as one of several states where the political leadership is divided over the legality” of health care reform, Pioneer Press reports. In her letter, Swanson decried the partisan division over the lawsuits. “In states like Washington, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Colorado Democratic Governors have questioned the motives of the Republican Attorneys General who filed the lawsuit…in states like Georgia, Nevada, and Mississippi, Republican Governors have questioned the motivates of the Democratic Attorneys General who have not filed lawsuits,” the letter said.

Indeed, a growing number of Attorneys General are refusing to participate in the lawsuits, arguing that the effort would “waste taxpayer dollars on a political stunt.” Today, the St. Petersburg Times characterized Attorney General Bill McCollum’s efforts– he is leading the gang of 14 (perhaps 15) AGs — as a political stunt, saying “this is more about the Republican’s campaign for governor and rallying the party base than about sound constitutional reasoning.” The editorial pointed out that McCollum filed the suit in Pensacola instead of Tallahassee to “have the case heard by a judge appointed by a Republican president.” “This looks like judge shopping and offers further evidence that the lawsuit is more about Republican Party politics than constitutional principles,” the paper notes.