The office of Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden won’t say if he will join with seven other Republican state attorneys general in their challenge of the federal health care bill passed by Congressional Democrats.
The call for nationwide investigations is coming South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster, who says his office will look into the constitutionality of the health care bill and the so-called “Nebraska Compromise.”
The health care bill, which passed the Senate on a party line vote Thursday morning, has been the target of Republican Senators’ ire for much of the year. Now, GOP leaders want to use any means necessary to defeat the measure. South Carolina Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint asked McMaster to investigate the bill and the special exemptions carved out for Nebraska and other states.
“We have serious concerns about the constitutionality of this Nebraska Compromise as it results in special treatment for only one state in the nation at the expense of the other 49,” wrote DeMint and Graham in a letter to McMaster. Read more about the comments from Republican leaders here.
Some Republicans question the constitutionality of the special deal cut by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to obtain the vote of Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, who was the last holdout in the Democrats’ 60-vote filibuster-proof majority required to pass the health care reform bill. During negotiations with Reid, Nelson was able to carve an exemption for the state of Nebraska from the Medicaid expansion section of the bill. The exemption would force taxpayers from other states to foot the bill for expansions to Medicaid in Nebraska.
Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, said the special exemption could cost his state an extra $20 billion over the next ten years.
McMaster said in a press release earlier this week that he will move forward with the investigation. He is also trying to organize more attorneys general from other states to aid him in the process. McMaster has been joined by Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, among others.
In Idaho, staffers in Wasden’s office say he is unable to act because there is nothing to act upon.
Kriss Bivens Cloyd, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General, said on Wednesday “there hasn’t been any legislation enacted, so there’s nothing for him to act on.” Cloyd refused to speculate if Wasden would join the in the investigations.
When asked if Wasden had been contacted by McMaster, Cloyd replied, “I don’t believe he has.”
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter was more forthcoming about his views on McMaster’s call for investigations. While co-hosting a Boise radio show Wednesday, Otter said that he “thinks we should” join in the fight and said that he had already been working on the issue from the Governor’s office.
Wasden’s office is encouraging citizens to work on the issue as well.
“We’re encouraging constituents to contact their congressional delegation in this state and in other states to voice their opinion on the matter,” Cloyd said.
Idaho’s Republican Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch voted against the legislation Thursday morning. Both of Idaho’s representatives in the House, Republican Mike Simpson and Democrat Walt Minnick, voted against the House version, which did not include the exemptions for Nebraska and other states, last month.
Read South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster’s press release here (pdf) and Senators DeMint and Graham’s letter to McMaster here (pdf).