Republicans intensify criticism of Edmondson’s action

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 14-Apr-2010

Oklahoma Republicans continued their criticisms of state Attorney General Drew Edmondson’s decision to stay out of federal litigation to challenge the constitutionality of the federal health care bill passed last month. Edmondson, a Democrat who wants to be governor of the Sooner State, said last week he would not join any litigation against the new law unless compelled to do so by legislative action.

Republican U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin cited a recent public opinion survey (from SoonerPoll) that found 56% of Oklahomans favor legal action against the new law. Nearly two-thirds (65%) disapproved of the new law, and 63% believe the measure will hurt the American economy.

Fallin, former lieutenant governor of the state, continues to pound the attorney general, her possible opponent, but has broadened her critique to include two more Democrats both Gov. Brad Henry and her successor in the state’s #2 job, incumbent Lt. Gov. Jari Askins. Askins is facing Edmondson for their party’s gubernatorial nod in this summer’s primary.

In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, Fallin said, “The Democratic leadership of this state is more interested in following their party leaders in Washington than representing the will of the people in Oklahoma. A clear majority of Oklahomans want Attorney General Drew Edmondson to join the lawsuit declaring the federal takeover of health care unconstitutional. Nineteen other attorneys general across the nation have already done so. But rather than join the fight against a bill that will reduce our freedoms and cost our state hundreds of millions of dollars, Drew Edmondson has chosen to take his marching orders from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama.”

Fallin continued, “Where are Governor Brad Henry and Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins? Where is the leadership on the part of our elected representatives? Oklahoma families and businesses do not want this bill, they do not want the quality of their health care eroded and they do not want liberals in Washington calling the shots in Oklahoma. I am extremely disappointed in our governor and lieutenant governor for the lack of leadership and resolve they have shown while their party leaders in Washington continue to spend the country into bankruptcy and worsen the fiscal crisis we are already facing in Oklahoma. They owe the people of this state more than their silence on the most important, and most ill-conceived, piece of legislation to come out of Washington in decades.”

State Rep. David Derby, an Owasso Republican, has also taken a rhetorical shot at Edmondson over the issue. Derby is advocating passage of Senate Joint Resolution, which would direct Edmondso to sue Congress, President Barack Obama and the Secretary of Health and Human Services to keep provisions of the new health care law from taking effect.

In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, Derby said, “The attorney general is putting his own political ambitions ahead of the wishes of his constituency. Yes, many Democrats would be offended if he voluntarily went forward with a lawsuit, but he can certainly be assured that there are multitudes in both political parties who would not be offended.”

Some critics of the new law have said it can best be undone through congressional repeal.

But Derby, in his statement, defended the idea of litigation:

“Surely, the 19 states who have already filed suit have found that there is cause to challenge the government from telling us that we have to buy something,” Derby said. “I think even if there is the possibility of one day reversing the reform in Congress, it is very important that we get a Supreme Court ruling on whether they even have the right to enact such a far-reaching individual mandate. The Oklahoma Legislature will not give up fighting this legislation.”

Derby’s statement noted that even among Democrats surveyed, 44 percent disapproved of the federal health care plan. The numbers grew when asked about individual mandates. The SoonerPoll found that 80 percent of those surveyed do not believe Americans should be penalized for refusing to buy health insurance.

Edmondson has characterized criticisms of his decision as political grand-standing, but has qualified some of those comments. He  characterized criticisms of the new law as “not frivolous, but not compelling.” He also contended constitutional arguments against the new law “might best be characterized as ‘weak.’”

In his press conference declining to intervene against the new law, Attorney General Edmondson said, “The process employed by Congress to secure passage of this bill reeked of partisanship. The health care bill is the flawed result of a flawed process, but that alone does not make the law unconstitutional. This office does not enter lawsuits lightly nor do we enter lawsuits based on political expediency.”

Note: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.