NASHVILLE -- Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, stepped up demands Tuesday that state Attorney General Bob Cooper join 13 other states in opposing implementation of new federal health care reforms.
"The United States Constitution does not give the federal government the authority for this massive power grab that will reduce individual liberty and strangle state government finances," said Lt. Gov. Ramsey, who is Senate speaker. "Politicians in Washington may have temporarily lost their minds, but we still have our sanity out here in the states and we need to take action to roll this law back."
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama signed the health care reform bill into law.
In response to the federal bill, Lt. Gov. Ramsey also urged a House subcommittee to pass the Tennessee Health Freedom Act, which contends the federal law's mandate that everyone have insurance coverage is unconstitutional. The bill also directs Mr. Cooper to oppose the mandates in court.
The federal bill expands health care insurance to millions of Americans, including at least a quarter million people in Tennessee, according to TennCare estimates.
Cooper spokeswoman Sharon Curtis-Flair said in an e-mail that the attorney general has instructed his staff to "begin a thorough detailed analysis" of the federal legislation. She noted the reforms may change during the congressional bill reconciliation process.
Moreover, she said, while Mr. Cooper is "mindful of the concerns" voiced by Lt. Gov. Ramsey and other lawmakers, "this is complex legislation that will be implemented in stages over the coming decade."
The Tennessee Health Freedom Act (House Bill 3433) is scheduled to be considered today in the House Industrial Impact Subcommittee.
On Monday, Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, for whom Mr. Cooper once served as legal counsel, noted that provisions of the federal law won't take effect until 2014 and Mr. Cooper will have plenty of time to sort it out.
The governor also said he doesn't see the Tennessee Health Freedom Act getting very far in federal courts.
"Arguing that the Congress doesn't have the right to do something like this is pretty much an uphill fight in this day and age," the governor told reporters.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...