Attorney General Suthers should serve Colorado, not GOP

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers is one man in 10,000.

On his MSNBC broadcast Monday night, Keith Olbermann quoted this aphorism by Dutch playwright Maurice Maeterlinck: “At every crossroads on the path that leads to the future, tradition has placed 10,000 men to guard the past.”

Hearing that proverb only minutes after reading the attorney general’s announcement that he would sue the government to stop health care reform, I couldn’t help but think of Suthers as one of the 10,000 defenders of the past.

Just when the state should be looking at ways new or expanded health care programs will help alleviate some of Colorado’s medical care problems, Suthers wants to open a new front in the Republican war against health care reform.

Having failed in Congress, GOP opponents of health care reform are now looking to the courts as their next line of defense. Not that there is anything political in Suthers’ decision.

As he explained in his announcement, “I understand that many citizens of Colorado will allege that this lawsuit is politically motivated. It is not. I am not reacting to any group or constituency.”

Professing the most idealistic of motives, Suthers assures Coloradans “my decision is based on my belief that the individual health care mandate is an unprecedented expansion of the power of the federal government that could undermine the rights of the states and their citizens for generations to come.”

There is obviously nothing political in the fact that Suthers will be joining a dozen other Republican attorneys general who also pledged litigation to stop health insurance reform.

Nor should the fact that this is the second threat by these 12 crusaders to bring a lawsuit against health care reform be interpreted as evidence of concerted GOP political action.

Their first threat came last December when Suthers and his counterparts threatened to sue the government because the “Nebraska Compromise” was unconstitutional.

Forged to win the vote of Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, the “compromise” exempted Nebraska from paying its share of Medicaid expansion costs. Exempting a single state from its share of Medicaid expansion, the Republican attorneys general argued, did not serve the general good of the country.

At the time, Democrats “derided the effort as a naked partisan play designed to thrust the GOP attorneys general — a handful of whom ... are running for governor in 2010 — into the spotlight,” according to Politico.

As Suthers told Politico, “How do Democratic attorneys general look citizens in the eye and say, ‘It’s OK for you to pay Nebraska Medicaid expenses so we can round up enough votes on health care.’ “

In the final analysis, House Democrats agreed with the GOP criticism and stripped the Nebraska exemption from the bill. The GOP critics could have declared victory and gone home at that point, but they were unsatisfied.

Instead, these 12 defenders of the status quo quickly invented a new constitutional question and posed new threat to derail health care through the courts.

Their latest complaint is that the mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional. “You can stretch it (the Constitution)  all to hell,” says one supporter of the lawsuit, “but you can’t make me buy a car or anything.”

No doubt lawyers can be found to argue both sides of this question, but the overnight switch from the Nebraska Compromise to the individual mandate as a cause of action suggests this coterie of Republican attorneys general is looking for any opportunity to slow progress toward health care reform.

While the Republican attorneys general attempt to drag health care reform into court, Reuters reports, GOP legislators in 36 states have introduced “bills and resolutions … seeking to limit or oppose various aspects of the reform plan through laws or state constitutional amendments.”

In the face of convincing evidence of a planned GOP attack on the legality of health care legislation, Attorney General Suthers should drop the pretense that he is fulfilling his duty to citizens of Colorado by trying to deny them the benefits of health care reform.

As Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania bluntly said, “It’s a waste of taxpayer money and its nothing more than political grandstanding.”

Bill Grant lives in Grand Junction. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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