Yesterday, ThinkProgress reported that nearly 70 percent of the state officials suing the federal government over the constitutionality of the health care reform law are either running for re-election or gunning for higher office. Even conservative legal scholars have said these lawsuits have little chance in succeeding and appear to be nothing more than political theater.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) — a prospective candidate for the GOP nomination for president in 2012 — has said recently that he would join the lawsuit despite the misgivings of Minnesota’s attorney general. But last night on Fox News, Pawlenty himself admitted that the lawsuit is political in nature:
VAN SUSTEREN: It doesn’t sort of escape me that the people who have filed are all Republicans, with the sole exception of the attorney general in Louisiana is a Democrat. I think he’s probably the only — is he the only Democrat who has joined this?
PAWLENTY: As far as I know. You know, of course, there’s probably some political overtones to it, but I think it’s also, frankly, Greta, philosophical. We have a group of people like me who view the federal government should have a limited role. There’s a bunch of people who have a different view. And that’s what the courts are for, to hash out these differences. So let’s get it on.
These state officials’ main argument in bringing about the lawsuit is that the federal mandate to buy health insurance in the new reform law is unconstitutional. Pawlenty has made this argument as well, saying last night that the mandate is “a dramatic overreach by our federal government.” But Pawlenty himself is a recent convert to this view, who just last year “effectively positioned federal mandates within the boundaries of the law.” From ABC’s This Week last September:
STEPHANOPOULOS: So just to be clear, are you suggesting that any parts of the plan as the president has laid it out are unconstitutional?
PAWLENTY: Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a legal issue.
“I think it’s fair to declare this a bona fide, grade-A flip-flop,” Newsweek’s Andrew Romano noted, adding that “[i]t’s simply an opportunistic play for political advantage.”