News: CJ Exclusives

N.C. Republicans File Brief Challenging ObamaCare

GOP argues law is unconstitutional because of ‘vague’ Medicaid costs

Thwarted in their attempt to pass a state law exempting North Carolina residents from the federal health care law’s individual mandate, Republicans in the General Assembly have resorted to legal action.

On Wednesday, legislative leaders joined Minnesota in filing a friend-of-the-court amicus brief in a 26-state lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care law. The case is being heard in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“The federal government has encroached on individual liberties and states’ rights,” said Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, in a statement. “We will not roll over when federal authorities abuse their power and pass unconstitutional laws.”

House Majority Leader Paul “Skip” Stam, R-Wake, said his colleagues were looking for a constitutional argument that no other state had made. Their final decision: contend that ObamaCare is unconstitutional because the impact of its Medicaid mandates on state budgets is too vague.

“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 fundamentally transforms the Medicaid Program and in so doing, effectively usurps control over the States’ budgets and legislative agendas, crowding out spending on other state priorities,” the brief says.

The development comes two months after Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat, vetoed legislation that would allow residents to opt out of ObamaCare’s requirement that every American purchase health insurance by 2014, or face penalties. It also would compel Attorney General Roy Cooper to join the multi-state lawsuit.

In early March, the House tried to override Perdue’s veto, but the attempt fell four votes short of the needed 72-vote majority.

Rep. Tom Murry, R-Wake, a primary sponsor of the ObamaCare opt-out bill, framed the brief as a pro-jobs move on the part of Republicans.

“If small businesses are making decisions right now about what’s going to have to happen in January of 2014, and if they’re having to make those decisions today, they’re not adding jobs because of this potentially unconstitutional individual mandate,” he said.

On the other hand, Democrats say that ObamaCare will insure 1 million uncovered North Carolinians and create new jobs in the health care sector.

David N. Bass is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.