Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has joined the top prosecutors in at least seven states in calling for a court challenge of the constitutionality of the sweetheart deal that enticed Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson to vote for health care reform legislation in Washington.
“Today I am calling on Tennessee’s Attorney General to examine the constitutionality of federal legislation which singles out Nebraska for favorable treatment over 49 other states,” Ramsey said in a statement Tuesday. “Under the Senate-passed bill, Tennessee, along with our sister states, will have to pay for unfunded mandates forced by expanded provisions of Medicaid. Nebraska will not.
“If this provision is found to be unconstitutional, Tennessee should lead the way in filing suit against the federal government. At the very least, it is extremely unfair and an example of what is wrong in Washington. State leaders across the nation should band together and speak with one voice to stop the abuses heaped on our citizens by an out of control federal government.”
South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster said he and his counterparts in Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, North Dakota, Texas and Washington state already are looking at the deal, in which the federal government would pay the full cost of expanded Medicaid in Nebraska under the legislation. Gov. Phil Bredesen has said those costs to Tennessee’s state government could total $1 billion or more over five years.
Two Tennessee lawmakers — Reps. Susan Lynn and Debra Maggart — also asked Attorney General Bob Cooper to take “appropriate legal action” against the federal government if the bill becomes law.
"It is clear by the wording of the legislation itself that not every state would face a similar and equal burden," they wrote. "We see this as a violation of equal protection of the law, an affront to our sovereignty, and a breach of the U.S. Constitution."
The nonprofit Liberty Legal Institute said it is ready to help states that are considering filing suit against the government. "There are a lot of states that are concerned that this violated the 10th Amendment and they are weighing their options," the organization’s chief counsel, Kelly Shackelford, said in a statement.