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Pro-reform attorneys general on the offense

By Suzy Khimm

While the GOP repeal drive continues to crumble, some pro-reform state officials are now stepping up to defend the legal status of the Affordable Care Act. In states such as Georgia and Kentucky, Democratic attorneys general who support reform are now at loggerheads with state governors bent on joining the lawsuit against the federal government over its constitutionality. But there are pro-reform state officials who are becoming even more aggressive about getting out front and defending the bill.

On Friday, Politico published an op-ed by Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray and Iowa's attorney general, Tom Miller, explaining why they refused to file anti-reform lawsuits and why Congress "has ample power" to legislate under health care. And they don't shirk from defending the constitutionality of the mandate: "We live under mandates every day. Without them, society as we know it would disintegrate."

There's even one attorney general who's taking legal action in defense of health reform, as my Mother Jones colleague Andy Kroll noted last week:

Oregon's attorney general, John Kroger, announced yesterday that he's readying a massive defense alongside the state's governor to defend the constitutionality of Obama's health bill. (Both men are Democrats.) "The health care reform cases present some of the most important constitutional issues facing this generation," Kroger said in a statement.

And the Oregon Department of Justice is now trying to work with a coalition of states to file an amicus brief in defense of the health law's constitutionality.

In addition to pushing back against the conservative anti-reform message, such active support from state officials back home may also encourage national legislators who voted for reform to become more vocal about defending the health law. Fearing public backlash over their vote, some lawmakers seemed to be laying low over recess, as Politico has reported. But whatever the political implications may be, legislators at all levels -- state, federal and local -- need to commit themselves to defending and explaining the law to constituents back home if the implementation of reform is going to succeed.

Suzy Khimm is a journalist who covered health-care reform at the New Republic and is now a political reporter at Mother Jones.

By Washington Post editor  |  April 5, 2010; 4:51 PM ET
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Next: Reconciliation


No one knows how it will be implemented, what the transition period will look like, what kind of reduction in doctor availability seniors can expect, what the board which determines "effective" (legally allowed) practices will do, and so on. In fact, no one knows who really wrote the legislation. "Laying low" is the best strategy under these circumstances.

Posted by: truck1 | April 6, 2010 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Gallup: Obama’s approval on health care is 42% disapproval is at 54%.

Posted by: obrier2 | April 6, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

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