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Georgia Governor Circumvents Attorney General, Appoints Special Lawyer To File Health Care Lawsuit

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"Georgia Governor Circumvents Attorney General, Appoints Special Lawyer To File Health Care Lawsuit"

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Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue

Georgia has announced that it is joining the 18 other states suing the federal government over the constitutionality of health care reform, despite Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker’s (D) insistence that any such lawsuit would be without “legal merit.”

Last month, Baker — who is also running for the Democratic nomination for Governor — rebuffed Governor Sonny Perdue’s (R) calls to file a lawsuit, telling Perdue, “Considering the state‘s severe budgetary crisis, with vital services like education and law enforcement being cut deeply, I cannot justify a decision to initiate expensive and time-consuming litigation that I believe has no legal merit.” But Republicans persisted, drafting legislation that would have forced the attorney general to sue the federal government and introducing a bill to impeach Baker for refusing to take part in the lawsuit.

Having failed to force Baker’s hand, however, Perdue has now appointed Frank Jones, a lawyer in private practice, as a special assistant attorney general to file the suit. As Baker explained to Rachel Maddow last month, ” I could find absolutely no basis to file a lawsuit”:

BAKER: I took a look at the Constitution of the United States. I took a look at applicable law. I looked at all of the claims that are being raised around the country. I could find absolutely no basis to file a lawsuit. We took a look at the Commerce Clause. Commerce – the legislature has a broad expansive power when we talk about the Commerce Clause. There‘s been a lot of discussion about the government taxing and spending for this effort. Listen. That question has been settle since 1937 in this country. Congress absolutely has the power to do it.

At least 20 different states are now suing the federal government over health care reform (19 have joined the Florida suit and Virginia is pursuing its own case). The tactic has created a rift between Governors and their AGs. Republican Governors have questioned the motives of Democratic Attorneys General in Georgia, Nevada, and Mississippi and at least three other Governors — Govs. Jim Gibbons (R-NV), Jane Brewer (R-AZ), Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) — have announced that they would sue the government over the objections of their AGs.

Earlier this week, Georgia’s insurance commissioner John Oxendine, a Republican who is also running for Governor, said that the state won’t participate in the first phase of a new federal health care law which requires that states establish interim high-risk pools to provide coverage for individuals cannot find affordable coverage in the individual health insurance market.

Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.

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