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Missouri lawmakers pass symbolic health care vote

By   /   January 10, 2011  /   News  /   No Comments

Republican lawmakers want Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, to join more than 20 other states from around the country, or file his own lawsuit challenging the federal health care reform law.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster

The House Rules Committee passed a non-binding resolution along party lines late Monday that calls on Koster to challenge the constitutionality of the federal health care reform law.

Seven Republicans voted to pass HR-39, while three Democrats voted against the measure. While the legislation had to pass through the committee to get to the House floor, the resolution ultimately does not carry any force of law.

“I truly feel that it is the will of the people to proceed and join the lawsuit,” said state Rep. Ward Franz, a Republican from West Plains, who sponsored the symbolic health care vote.

Democrats questioned the resolution’s ultimate purpose.

“I’m disappointed the first thing we are doing is a non-binding, symbolic resolution, rather than the hard work of representing the people of Missouri,” said Rep. Stephen Webber, a Democrat from Columbia. “I certainly hope we move in the direction of doing tangible things for the people of Missouri, and not resume politically motivated, non-binding resolutions in the future.”

The attorney general’s office did not respond to another request for comment from Missouri Watchdog.

Koster has been receiving a lot of pressure to join the lawsuit.

The grassroots organization United for Missouri sent out an “action alert” by e-mail to its supporters on Sunday.

More than 750 e-mails were sent to House members supporting the resolution as of late Monday afternoon, Carl Bearden, executive director of United of Missouri told Missouri Watchdog. “I would anticipate that number increasing even more as people return home from work and check their e-mails,” he said.

As reported by Missouri Watchdog, the free-market think tank Show-Me Institute sent out an “urgent call for action” last week, asking its supporters to contact the attorney general’s office directly. At the time, Koster had until Monday to declare his support for the multi-state lawsuit being heard in a federal court in Florida.

Brenda Talent, executive director of Show-Me Institute told Missouri Watchdog Monday that she spoke with someone from the Florida attorney general’s office. The state is now waiting a few more days before announcing the new states that have joined following the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tuscon this weekend.

The U.S. House has also put off a vote on repealing the health care reform law this week due to the shooting.

Franz, the sponsor of the resolution, said timing of getting Missouri involved in the lawsuit by the states dictated that the resolution be passed as quickly as possible as a decision in the case could come any day.

And supporters of the resolution cite Missouri voters sending a message to Washington D.C. by voting “yes” on Proposition C in August.  Prop C was the first statewide vote concerning the federal health care law. The ballot initiative aimed to block the federal government from requiring residents of Missouri to buy health insurance.

Backers of the federal health care reform law are not buying either argument.

“We’re appalled that the legislature is so brazenly spending taxpayer dollars on political gamesmanship,” said Amy Smoucha, a health care organizer for Missouri Jobs with Justice, a coalition of community, labor, student and religious groups. “This is a year when the legislature is contemplating cuts to education and vital services, and almost 10 percent of Missouri’s workers are unemployed. Instead of taking on the real work of creating jobs and improving the economy, Republican House leaders are putting on political shows held over from last year.”

By Brian R. Hookbrhook@missouriwatchdog.org, (314) 482-7944

Dick AldrichMissouri News Horizondaldrich@monewshorizon.org, contributed

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Brian formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.