Following Judge Roger Vinson’s ruling against the Affordable Care Act, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) has “asked his attorney general to advise him on whether implementing and enforcing the federal health care overhaul would put Parnell in violation of his oath of office,” toeing a line several conservatives have advanced in the wake of Monday’s ruling:
Parnell told reporters that he took an oath to support and defend the constitutions of the United States and Alaska. While the Republican governor concedes the issue is expected to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, he said he has a duty to uphold the law and wants Attorney General John J. Burns to advise on what that duty is after the Florida ruling.
“I’m caught between a federal government that says, ‘You must pursue this, you must pursue this,’ and I have the duty to uphold the rule of law,” he said. [...]
Before the judge’s ruling, Parnell said he didn’t “out of hand” reject all provisions of the law. He said he had pledged to review each aspect and deadline individually.
But he said he did not pursue “anything” related to the individual insurance mandate, which he said would have undermined the state’s position in the lawsuit and his belief that the provision is unconstitutional.
“And now, of course, the judge has said that that individual mandate is so closely tied with almost every provision,” he said. “So, again, I’m asking, I need some clarification on what the effect of the lower court’s ruling is.”
It’s surprising to see Parnell cower to the ruling of a single, unelected, district judge from the main land, but then again, the entire Republican response to Monday’s verdict has been designed to magnify and dramatize the importance of Vinson’s decision. Begin acting as if the ruling has any real legal consequences for the implementation of the law and you’ll convince the public that the question of constitutionality has been all but settled. It’s all about shifting perceptions.
But the problem for states like Alaska and Florida is that despite all their political posturing, this is a single district court decision that is in direct conflict with two other district court rulings upholding the constitutionality of the law. Vinson did not issue an injunction against implementation and found that just two state — Utah and Idaho — had any standing to challenge the law. Dismissing these facts may play well politically, but practically it’s slowing down the implementation process and hampering state flexibility (since their refusal to implement the measure will cause the federal government to intervene).