Missouri Republicans renew pressure on Koster to take stand on health care law
Missouri's top Republicans are continuing to press state Attorney General Chris Koster to take action against the federal health care changes.
Three of the state Capitol's top Republicans -- Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, House Speaker Steve Tilley and Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer -- hand-delivered a letter this afternoon to Koster's office that asks him for a legal opinion as to whether the state must enforce the provisions of the law, many of which went into effect Jan. 1.
The letter asserts that Koster's decision is needed because some of the provisions could affect Missouri's budget, which now is before the state Legislature. Koster's office has yet to publicly respond.
Koster, a Democrat who switched parties in 2007, has been under public pressure from leaders of his old party (and privately from activists of his current party) for weeks to take a stand on the federal changes. He has remained publicly silent, even after both the state House and state Senate passed resolutions calling on Koster to join one of the lawsuits against the law, or to file one of his own.
In the letter, the trio of Republicans cite a recent opinion by a Florida judge declaring the law unconstitutional. A Virginia judge earlier issued a similar but narrower ruling, while two other judges have ruled that the law and its mandates do pass constitutional muster. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected decide the issue, although procedures indicate that it could years before the high court does so.
As the GOP officials: "Must state officials follow its unconstitutional dictates, or should we ignore them as we see the top officials of other states now doing?"
They also point to last summer's statewide passage of Proposition C, which sought to allow the state to exempt itself from the federal law. Many legal experts have said the state cannot do so
The Republican aim appears to be to keep pressing Koster, who is expected to seek re-election -- as a Democrat -- in 2012. So far, no challengers in either party have emerged, although some in both parties predict that his health care stance could play a role.
Koster spokeswoman Nanci GonderÂ said later that the attorney general and his staff are "considering Missouri's unique issues and legal concerns'' regardig the federal health care law and Proposition C.
As for today's letter, Gonder added, "We will respond after carefully considering the technical and legal questions raised."