UPDATE: Corbett defends health care lawsuit as his Dem rivals pile on

By Alex Roarty
PoliticsPA Staff Writer
roarty@politicspa.com

HARRISBURG – Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett said Tuesday that his lawsuit to overturn the newly minted federal health care bill is rooted in legitimate questions about the bill’s constitutionality, not partisan politics.

Corbett, also the state’s leading GOP gubernatorial candidate, has faced a broadside of criticism from Democrats since announcing Monday he would join 12 other state attorney generals in the lawsuit. Democratic officials, ranging from Governor Ed Rendell to state Democratic Party Chairman T. J. Rooney, have derided the attorney general’s decision as political grandstanding.

“You guys are going to take whatever shots you want to take on this,” Corbett told reporters during an afternoon press conference. “I believe this is a 10th Amendment issue.”

He added: “If I wasn’t running for governor, would I be up here? Yes.”

At the heart of his lawsuit, the attorney general says, is what he called the federal government’s unconstitutional mandate that every citizen buy health insurance, which he would give Washington “unprecedented power” and “renders the 10th Amendment meaningless.” The commerce clause does not grant the government this right and other cases, such as United States v. Lopez and United States v. Morrison, have shown it cannot regulate non-commercial activities, he said.

Granting the federal government the power to force citizens to buy something, he argued, is a slippery slope.

“If the federal government forces you to buy this, can the federal government force you to buy anything else?” Corbett asked. “Right now we would say ‘No,’ but unless this is tested in the courts … Could we be forced to buy a certain brand of car? I would say no, and logic dictates that would be the case, but this has opened that door to at least the realm of speculation.”

Pennsylvania joins Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Texas, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and Washington in filing the suit. The suit is officially filed in the federal court in the northern district of Florida.

Corbett’s legal explanation will likely do little to quell criticism from Democrats that he’s playing politics with the attorney general’s office.

The state’s chief prosecutor faces Sam Rohrer in the Republican primary May 18. Rohrer, a state lawmaker from Berks County, has tried to portray himself as a more authentic conservative than the attorney general, who he has said lacks his fiscal conservative credentials.

Corbett remains the heavy favorite to win the GOP nomination, although polls continue to show more than half of primary voters still undecided.

UPDATE:

The attorney general’s Democratic gubernatorial rivals piled on to the criticism throughout the day Tuesday.

Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel, who has aggressively tried to stake ground as the field’s most liberal candidate, issued the first salvo in a morning press release, calling Corbett’s lawsuit “stupefying.”

“Mr. Corbett needs to concentrate on things here in Pennsylvania, instead of trying to negate one of the best and most significant pieces of legislation in the history of this country,” he said.

Hoeffel, who has not shied away from challenging Corbett on the campaign trail, called on his Democratic gubernatorial rivals to join in his criticism. Hours later, they did.

“Tom Corbett is working against Pennsylvania families by pursuing this lawsuit, which is a mistake and an unwise use of the Attorney General’s office,” said Dan Onorato, the Allegheny County chief executive, in a statement.

The Democratic front-runner called Corbett’s move a “political stunt.”

State Senator Anthony Williams, who called Tuesday’s passage of the health care bill a “historic moment,” also criticized the state’s chief prosecutor.

“It is disappointing to see the attorney general, whose job is to protect the law, attempt to undermine those goals and the law of the land,” said the lawmaker from Philadelphia. “And on top of that, he’s using taxpayers’ money to try and block progress. He will have to look millions of people who are suffering in the eye and explain why he’s putting politics ahead of their personal health.”

A spokesman for Jack Wagner told the news-service Capitolwire the auditor general felt similarly about the proposal.

The blunt criticism from each of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates suggest they see Corbett’s decision to join in the lawsuit as politically vulnerable in a general election, banking on the fact independent voters might see his move as political grandstanding.

The state Republican Party, on the other hand, saw the Democratic candidates’ criticism of Corbett as an opportunity to tie each to what they think is an unpopular bill.

“While our Republican gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Tom Corbett is fighting this unconstitutional piece of legislation, his Democratic challengers are endorsing it as good policy,” GOP Chairman Rob Gleason said in a statement. “Pennsylvanians don’t want to elect a candidate who will run our state like extreme liberal Nancy Pelosi.  We need to elect a leader who will look out for the best interests of the Pennsylvania taxpayer.  Pennsylvania needs a fighter like Tom Corbett!”

March 23rd, 2010 | Posted in Front Page Stories | 10 Comments

10 thoughts on “UPDATE: Corbett defends health care lawsuit as his Dem rivals pile on”

  1. SC says:

    For any of you who say this was unconstitutional, please say how, ie due process, equal protection, etc. Don’t just repeat the rhetoric, there is enough conservative banter out there.

  2. Craig says:

    Corbett is doing his job. Thank God he’s looking out for our rights, because Rendell sure doesn’t seem to care. The federal government violated the constitution; plain and simple. If the democrats wanted to force national healthcare on everyone, then our founders provided us with an easy and simple means to do so called Constitutional Amendment. No healthcare takeover law short of an amendment will pass constitutional muster.

    Pennsylvanian drivers are required to purchase automobile insurance because the state requires it… not the feds. And if we don’t want to pay anymore, all we have to do is stop driving and take public transportation. The feds are trying to force us to buy health insurance, which is a power that the states have not granted them… and they’re basically saying that if you don’t want to pay it, then either don’t be born in the first place or just die. This is the ultimate expression of the only two certainties in life: Death & Taxes.

  3. Lou says:

    What I find embarrassing is that there are people in PA who actually believe that what Corbett is doing is a bad thing.

    And I am tired of the auto insurance comparison. You can opt out of this mandate by not driving, whether your concern is monetary, safety, or environmental impact. Simple as that. There is no opt out for the health insurance mandate. Buy insurance or else. There is no third alternative.

  4. Barbara Lynch says:

    If it is illegal for a government to require its citizens to purchase something, then how is it that Pennsylvanians are all required to buy automobile insurance?

  5. John C. Frankhouser says:

    It a certainly a waste of time and money,at the taxpayers expense for a percieved political ambition.

  6. Ernie says:

    Will someone please keep track of exactly how much PA taxpayer money will be spent by Corbett in pursuing what is essentially a ploy to takes GOP votes away from his opponent in the gov. primary?

  7. C Mar says:

    I am opposed to your current lawsuit to repeal HCR and I am most upset that you would WASTE tax payer money on a political vendetta. What a waste of energy and time. Tell the people of PA that you intend to repeal this law and in turn their opportunity to obtain heathcare insurance if they have a pre-existing condition, tell the people of PA you are opposed tho their children being able to retain healhcare insurance and can’t be refused due to pre-existing condition, tell the good people of PA who don’t earn a lot of money that you don’t want them to benefit from an insurance pool to purchase low cost healthcare insurance. Tell the good people of PA you don’t care if the insurance companies drop you when you get sick….and so on and so. Go ahead, what is the unemployment rate in PA, waste our money with this frivolity. You certainly are making an impression no any moderates or independents – and it’s not a good one. This is beyond digust

  8. Bram R says:

    What an embarrassing argument. He could get away with it if he wasn’t Attorney General.

    Actually, he may still get away with it because of Bonusgate.

  9. sick of it all in DELCO says:

    maybe corbett is a birther too? guess hes trying to gloss over the fact that he only convicted on a very small number of the charges he brought in bonusgate prosecutions…now he’ll waste more staet resources…sick of it!

  10. Corri Gottesman says:

    What Corbett is doing is shameful. It is hard for me to believe this is about his concern for the constitution or the health care bill, which is very close to what the republicans offered. This is simply about being anti-Obama, trying to block any success under the Democrats (i.e partisanship that hurts our country) and puffing up his “campaign.”

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