Attorney General Chris Koster seems to be leaning toward joining Missouri’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the health insurance mandate.
Acknowledging the will of the state legislature, a vote by the people, and his fiduciary duty, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster inched closer to challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care law.
“We haven’t finally formulated what the plans are,” said Koster, following a question by Missouri Watchdog about his plans regarding the health care law during a press conference Tuesday in St. Louis.
Koster said his office is likely to do “something that recognizes the will of the legislature and recognizes that Missouri state law has now adopted” Proposition C, a legislatively-referred state statute, which challenges the federal health insurance mandate, passed by voters in August.
“Our office has a fiduciary duty to defend Missouri law. What we do, how we do it, is something that we are actively reviewing,” he said. “There’s a lot of subtleties and research that has to be gone through.”
We don’t know whether Koster thinks the mandate is sensible or constitutional. What we do know is that he’s caught in the middle on this one, and the lawyer in him argues that as the holder of a nonpartisan office, the general counsel to the state government, he is bound to pay attention to what the legislature and our laws require or urge him to do. Proposition C sought to have Missouri opt out of the insurance mandate. To that has been added the weight of SR27, urging him to join the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
I had hinted that Koster might not feel bound to join the lawsuit even if it passed:
My hope is that they [the senators] will act very judiciously. … And so we’re going to wait and see what they do on the floor. I think that, my belief is that, this is not unanimous within the full Republican caucus, that there are Republicans who don’t think that this the right time to pass such a resolution. And so we’re waiting to see what happens.
Republicans passed it, but only 10 of the 26 Rs in the Senate even stayed for the vote. So we have 10 out of 33 senators resoundingly in favor of SR27. That’s less than a third.
But I was too optimistic. Apparently his statement only meant: Maybe the Republicans will be judicious enough not to pass SR27.
I was similarly naive to think that Koster might not feel bound by the Prop C vote. Bunnie Gronborg, a St. Louis health care activist testified at the hearing last Tuesday. She told the committee, and after the hearing told Koster, that the turnout was so meager last August that, although the vote was almost 3 to 1 in favor of Prop C, the stats show that those voting for it constituted only 16 percent of Missouri voters. As someone who had done a lot of phone banking before the primaries, she knew that more than a few Democrats were confused about the wording of Prop C because she spent time explaining to many of them that if they favored reform they’d want to vote no.
Here’s what she said about her exchange with Koster:
Now when I told that to the Attorney General, he pointed out in a nice way that those people bothered to show up and vote or something like that. I know he has a point, but mine was that you don’t pander to 16%.
I’m certainly no expert on Missouri constitutional law. And I do understand Koster’s point about the nonpartisan role of an attorney general. But I also know that the legislation passed last Wednesday was a nonbinding resolution. You know, nonbinding, as in nonbinding. It’s a strong request–made by ten Republican senators.
Koster fears, perhaps rightly, that Republicans will yank the purse strings closed on his office if he ignores them. That could happen, I guess. But here’s something else that’s almost sure to happen. Democrats are going to be royally pissed off if he does this.
Many of them already refer to him as Koster the Imposter.