Conservatives look to stop healthcare reform on state level

Some Republican lawmakers believe Democratic proposals are unconstitutional, and they have a plan

Published September 28, 2009 10:45PM (EDT)

Passage of the Democrats' healthcare reform proposals still isn't assured. But some lawmakers on the state level aren't waiting around hoping the overhaul will go down to defeat -- they're laying the groundwork for a legal challenge in case it does become law.

The New York Times reported Monday that "a small but growing group of lawmakers is pressing for state constitutional amendments that would outlaw a crucial element of the health care plans under discussion in Washington: the requirement that everyone buy insurance or pay a penalty."

The effort is part of a larger movement on the right that seeks to roll back the federal government's reach and give more power to the states. Legislatures around the country have seen the introduction of resolutions that say the feds have overstepped the boundaries placed on them by the 10th Amendment and attempt to reassert state power. Some of those resolutions have been successful, with the help of polticians like Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

But, like the 10th Amendment movement, this latest push seems doomed, at least in the courts -- which is where these lawmakers ultimately want to prevail. The Times spoke with several legal experts who dismissed the idea that the amendments under discussion would have any effect. Even Randy Barnett, a Georgetown Law professor who thinks there are real questions about the constitutionality of requiring people to have health insurance, told the paper, "While using federal power to force individuals to buy private insurance raises serious constitutional questions, I just don’t see what these state resolutions add to the constitutional objections to this expansion of federal power."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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