Gov. Sonny Perdue today asked state Attorney General Thurbert Baker to join legal eagles in seven other states and review the constitutionality of the federal health care bill and whether exemptions allegedly promised by Senate Leadership to two Democratic senators meet the letter of the law.
The bill, which supporters say would help approximately 30 million Americans obtain health insurance, is scheduled for an 8 a.m. vote tomorrow in the U.S. Senate.
Perdue writes in a letter to Baker :
The leadership of Congress, particularly Senate leadership, understands the financial devastation that is looming for states, which is clearly evidenced by the special deals that have been cut for states that have Democratic Senators with wavering support of the reform. In order to calm the concerns, Senate leadership has granted special exemptions with additional federal dollars to cover the substantial increases in Medicaid costs for a few states while leaving the rest of us to foot the entire bill.
The governor references reports that Senate leadership struck a deal with Sens. Ben "Great Hair" Nelson of Nebraska and Mary "Can't Stop the Silver Fox" Landrieu of Louisiana, two Democratic lawmakers whose votes were crucial for its passage. After the chamber's bigwigs allegedly offered language that would permanently exempt Nelson's state from Medicaid costs and offer additional benefits to Louisiana, the two lawmakers supported the measure.
Sam Olens, a Republican attorney general candidate, has also urged Baker to investigate the matter.
The attorney general who's also a Democratic gubernatorial candidate could not be reached for comment. We've put in a call with Perdue's office to ask why the governor is asking the state to investigate federal legislation before it's even been enacted. We'll update when we hear word.
UPDATE 12/24, 10:43 a.m.: Well, our cell phone carrier decides to notify us late at night that we received a voicemail from Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley. Considering it's Christmas Eve, we're not gonna harangue the guy. Brantley and Baker spoke with the AJC yesterday about Perdue's request. Those comments and the governor's full letter are after the jump. And, oh yeah, the Senate passed the bill this morning.
In response, Baker indicated he wouldn't do anything until health care legislation runs its course.
"At this point we have no idea what will be in the law or even if there will be a final version of this law, so there is absolutely nothing to investigate, probe or challenge," Baker said. "No one can challenge the legality of legislation before it is enacted into law."
Bert Brantley, spokesman for Perdue, said it will be too late to fix the bill once Congress signs off.
If you wait until its final, its too late, he said. Whether it becomes a bill or not, these deals have still been cut. And carving three, four or five states out for special treatment is still a problem.
Perdue's letter to Baker:
The Honorable Thurbert Baker
Attorney General of Georgia
Dear Attorney General Baker:
RE: H.R. 3590 - Health Care Reform
The debate over healthcare policy in Washington, DC has reached a critical juncture now that 60 Senators have agreed to support the latest bill unveiled by Sen. Harry Reid over this past weekend. Under the House and Senate proposals, state spending on Medicaid will increase dramatically and Governors of both parties have repeatedly objected to the path we appear to be rushing toward. One of my Democratic Governor colleagues even called this bill the mother of all unfunded mandates.
The leadership of Congress, particularly Senate leadership, understands the financial devastation that is looming for states, which is clearly evidenced by the special deals that have been cut for states that have Democratic Senators with wavering support of the reform. In order to calm the concerns, Senate leadership has granted special exemptions with additional federal dollars to cover the substantial increases in Medicaid costs for a few states while leaving the rest of us to foot the entire bill. Senator Reids recent compromise to obtain the support of Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska is the most striking example where the federal government would cover one hundred percent of the cost of all newly eligible Medicaid enrollees in just the State of Nebraska. In addition, the health care legislation grants an additional $300 million in Medicaid aid to the State of Louisiana which secured Senator Mary Landrieus support a deal many are calling the new Louisiana Purchase.
Yesterday, seven Attorneys General from across the country confirmed that they are looking at the constitutionality of these special deals. As I have considerable concerns over the constitutionality of these recent actions, I respectfully request that you join your colleagues from Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas and Washington state in investigating the constitutionality of these special exemptions in the health care legislation and explore the availability of any legal challenges that Georgia could pursue to oppose this unconscionable scenario.
Congress appears to be on the cusp of making a decision that will have ripple effects for decades to come. Now is the time to ensure that any decision that is made has been thoroughly vetted and deemed to meet the intent and spirit of our countrys Constitution.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Governor Sonny Perdue
(File photo by Joeff Davis)
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