Oklahoma Republicans plan health reform suit without attorney general

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Mirroring a move by Georgia Republicans, party leaders in Oklahoma have decided to proceed with a suit challenging new federal health reform guidelines after the state’s attorney general refused to do so himself.

Chris Benge

Oklahoma House Speaker Chris Benge and Senate President Pro-Tem Glenn Coffee announced that they will file a lawsuit “against the heavy-handed, federally mandated health care” recently signed into law by President Barack Obama.

The state’s Democratic attorney general, Drew Edmondson, said recently he would only enter a multi-state federal suit against the new health guidelines if required by legislative action. Edmondson is a candidate in the upcoming Oklahoma governor’s race.

“The process employed by Congress to secure passage of this bill reeked of partisanship,” Edmondson said in a statement. “The health care bill is the flawed result of a flawed process, but that alone does not make the law unconstitutional. This office does not enter lawsuits lightly nor do we enter lawsuits based on political expediency.”

Oklahoma House Joint Resolution 1054, currently up for a vote by the whole body, includes a statutory change that would allow Oklahomans to opt out of mandated health insurance. The resolution also authorizes Benge and Coffee to file a suit against the U.S. Congress, Obama and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to block provisions under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from taking effect.

Hiring the right attorney

Benge, who represents Tulsa, Okla., called the challenge to federal health reform so important “we do not want the attorney general, who has made his position on the lawsuit well known, to represent Oklahomans who neither want nor can afford this legislation.

“Our concern is that the attorney general’s effort would be lackluster, at best. We have an obligation to our citizens to challenge this unconstitutional bill, which will lead to unprecedented control of a large portion of the U.S. economy,” said Benge. “The high taxes required in the law will be a burden that we cannot afford,” he said in a statement. “The federal government does not have a good track record when it comes to estimating costs of similar programs.”

Coffee, who represents Oklahoma City, agreed, saying Edmonson has “made it abundantly clear” he wants no part of a federal suit, so “why would we want to retain an attorney to represent our case when he doesn’t believe in it?

“This is a serious attempt to challenge the constitutionality of Obamacare, and we need an attorney who will aggressively represent the case advocating on our behalf,” he said. “Some will question the cost of fighting this case in federal court. But the cost will be miniscule compared to the billions of dollars this ‘reform’ will cost Oklahoma taxpayers over the coming years.”

Republicans in Georgia recently took a similar step, with Gov. Sonny Purdue hiring “special attorneys general” to join 18 other states in a federal suit challenging the constitutionality of federal health reform.

The announcement by Benge and Coffee did not indicate whether Oklahoma would join the multi-state suit already filed in Florida or file one on behalf of the state alone, as is being done in Virginia.

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