Virginia AG opposes ‘deem and pass,’ will sue to block health mandates

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is urging Democrats in Washington, D.C., to reconsider the use of the “deem and pass” rule to approve health care reform and is threatening a state suit against any such comprehensive bill.

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Cuccinelli, a Republican, calls the “deem and pass,” or “self-executing rule” procedure something that “would raise grave constitutional questions.”

Citing Pelosi’s justification that such a measure would shield members of Congress from a recorded vote on a health reform bill, Cuccinelli said the move is “improper” under the U.S. Constitution and to be valid, the Senate’s bill would have to be accepted by the House in a form “that is word-for-word identical.

“Should you employ the deem and pass tactic, you expose any act which may pass to yet another constitutional challenge,” the attorney general wrote. “A bill of this magnitude should not be passed using this maneuver. As the president noted last week, the American people are entitled to an up or down vote.”

If a comprehensive health reform bill is approved on Capitol Hill, Cuccinelli has also announced that his office would sue to block its actions, most notably an individual mandate to secure private health insurance.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has on his desk the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act, approved by both the state Senate and House of Delegates and awaiting his signature.

The measure would prohibit the federal government from imposing the individual mandate on Virginia citizens or imposing a fine for failure to secure health coverage, likely setting up a Supreme Court battle over federal versus states’ rights.

While Virginia’s legislature was the first to pass an anti-mandate bill in the U.S., Idaho Gov. C.L. Otter was the first chief executive to make such a bill law, putting his signature on a similar measure March 17.

According to the Martinsville Bulletin, Cuccinelli said the Virginia bill “will give us more basis to challenge” a federal insurance mandate, if approved, and that “I intend to file suit” to challenge such a mandate’s constitutionality.