Even before President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, right-wing state attorneys general were announcing their intentions to sue the federal government over the constitutionality of health care reform. Virginia’s Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli — who is also an avowed Tea Party loyalist — was the first one out of the gate with a lawsuit, going to Richmond’s federal courthouse to the file papers less than five minutes after Obama signed the legislation. Eighteen other states have also now joined Florida’s similar lawsuit.
These lawsuits are frivolous. Even conservative legal scholars have acknowledged that they have no chance at succeeding and seem to be nothing more than political theater. ThinkProgress has done an analysis of the states suing the federal government and founded that indeed, political motivations do seem to be driving the suit:
— Of the 16 attorneys general in the lawsuits, 11 are either running for re-election or higher office. Four, including Florida’s Bill McCollum, are campaigning to become governor, and seven are up for re-election this year.
— Four Republican governors have gone around their attorneys general who have refused to sue and joined the lawsuit themselves. Half of them are up for re-election this year, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty (MN) is considered a potential GOP nominee for president in 2012.
— South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster (R), who is running for governor, is circulating a video touting his role in the health care lawsuit, which may “open the suits to the charge of playing politics.”
StateNamePolitical AmbitionsFloridaBill McCollum, attorney general (R)Running for governorMichiganMike Cox, attorney general (R)Running for governorPennsylvaniaTom Corbett, attorney general (R)Running for governorSouth CarolinaHenry McMaster, attorney general (R)Running for governorArizonaGov. Jan Brewer (R)Re-election as governorNevadaGov. Jim Gibbons (R)Re-election as governorMinnesotaGov. Tim Pawlenty (R)Possible 2012 presidential candidateAlabamaTroy King, attorney general (R)Re-election as attorney generalColoradoJohn Suthers, attorney general (R)Re-election as attorney generalIdahoLawrence Wasden, attorney general (R)Re-election as attorney generalNebraskaJon Bruning, attorney general (R)Re-election as attorney generalNorth DakotaWayne Stenehjem, attorney general (R)Re-election as attorney generalSouth DakotaMarty Jackley, attorney general (R)Re-election as attorney generalTexasGreg Abbott, attorney general (R)Re-election as attorney generalGeorgiaGov. Sonny Perdue (R)Not up for re-election in 2010IndianaGreg Zoeller, attorney general (R)Not up for re-election in 2010LouisianaBuddy Caldwell, attorney general (D)Not up for re-election in 2010UtahMark Shurtleff, attorney general (R)Not up for re-election in 2010VirginiaKen Cuccinelli, attorney general (R)Not up for re-election in 2010WashingtonRob McKenna, attorney general (R)Not up for re-election in 2010Missouri’s lieutenant governor, Tennessee’s lieutenant governor, Wisconsin’s attorney general, and Mississippi’s governor have indicated that they are interested in signing on to the Florida lawsuit as well, although several of them need to overcome legal and political challenges to do so.
At least 11 attorneys general from Kentucky, Kansas, Arkansas, Ohio, Iowa, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Montana, Oregon, and West Virginia have all refused to join the suit, saying it would be a frivolous waste of scarce taxpayer dollars. The attorneys general from Arizona, Georgia, Minnesota, and Nevada have also all decided against suing, but they were overruled by their governors. Tennessee and Missouri’s attorneys general have also opted against joining the suit, but their lieutenant governors are now trying to go around them.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also recently called out the political motivations driving the lawsuits, stating that they have been “filed by Attorneys General in states where they have also some interest in higher office. I’m going to let the lawyers go debate the situation. [But] we are confident that the legal standing of the law is solid and that this has more to do with politics than policy.”
— Amanda Terkel and Nick McClellan