Pawlenty Tries To File Amicus Brief Against Health Law

Back in April, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson (D) rebuffed Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s (R-MN) request to challenge the constitutionality of health reform and filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the federal government. “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,” and is thus constitutional, Swanson wrote in a letter to Pawlenty defending her decision.

Unentered by this legal analysis, however, Pawlenty (along with Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri (R)) has filed a legal brief “seeking permission to submit a friend-of-the-court brief in support of a suit originally filed by Florida and joined by 19 other states”:

The governors have a “obligation to their citizens to safeguard these protections against federal abuse of the spending power,” said the filing by Pawlenty and Carcieri, which was written by a lawyer from the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Their brief would focus on the failure law’s amendments to Medicaid “to meet one of the traditional restrictions on Congress’s spending power, the requirement that statutes be clear and unambiguous in what they require of States,” it said.

The document argues, “Although the Act indicates that the federal government will initially pay for some Medicaid expansions, the states are advised that they will pay for 10 percent of some unspecified costs in four years, and there is no indication that the states will not pay more in succeeding periods.”

As Politico’s Kendra Marr rightly notes, “Pawlenty’s move, which comes just weeks before his eight-year term in office ends, could be the opening shot of a bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.”

The Affordable Care Act has been his target for some time and this brief is only the latest in a series of very public and calculated efforts — the frequent public condemnations, the executive order prohibiting state agencies from applying for funds — to manufacture a history of opposition. Predictably, Pawlenty appeared on Fox News’ ‘On The Record’ yesterday to talk about his brief just hours after filing it. “I feel strongly about this, Greta. I think if we allow the federal government to do this, it’s basically the end of the understanding that we’ve had throughout the history of this country in federalism,” he said.

Pawlenty wasn’t too concerned about the future of federalism or the specificity of the law’s spending requirements earlier this month, however, when he relied on a loophole in his executive order to allow the state to apply for federal funds from the Affordable Care Act. So far, Minnesota has received some $11.1 million in ACA grants.