Health Care Nullification Bill Moving Through Idaho Legislature

February 4, 2011 10:36 a.m.

Another battle over attempts by Republican state legislators to nullify the federal health care reform law is bubbling up in deep-red Idaho, where legislation was introduced last week.

As the Spokane Spokesman-Review (located just on the other side of the Washington state border) reports, legislators in a key Idaho state House committee voted to advance the bill on a party-line vote, 15 Republicans for four Democrats. However, some GOP legislators said at the same time that they had reservations about the bill, and were voting for the bill in committee in order to allow for further debate.

The bill’s main sponsor, state Rep. Vito Barbieri (R) said: “The question becomes, is the Legislature going to become a rubber stamp of everything that the government decides to do, or is the Legislature going to be able to interpose between onerous laws that the federal government decides to implement and its citizens? That’s the question before us.”

However, this move is also being strongly opposed by the few Democrats in Idaho’s state legislature — and the office of the state attorney general, a Republican.Idaho previously passed a bill last year to outlaw the individual health insurance mandate, going against the federal health care law. However, that bill and its text appear to be more a means to instigate the lawsuit against the federal government — the new one is much broader in its assertion of a state right to nullify federal laws.

However, legislators were also informed by the office of state Attorney General Lawrence Wasden — a Republican who is one of the state attorneys general challenging the constitutionality of health care reform — that unilateral nullification by the state of Idaho is illegal.

And as the local Fox affiliate in Boise has reported, Wasden himself was very clear:

“Can a state pass a statute that un-does or nullifies a federal law?” Wasden postulated. “… the answer is ‘no.'”

In addition, the attorney general’s office issued an opinion at the request of a Democratic legislator, written by Assistant Chief Deputy Brian Kane, which in the space of four pages provides a full refutation of all the bases of nullification. Kane also wrote: “The alpha and omega of the nullification theory, in sum, rest upon rejecting the principle that the United States Constitution as the supreme law of the land.”

However, the Republican sponsors of nullification in Idaho were not to be deterred. This past weekend, a group of state Representatives co-authored a strongly worded rebuttal in the Idaho Statesman. It reads in part:

Too many people are under the mistaken impression that the state government must in every case be a mere rubber stamp of the federal government. We see this year after year and time and time again

The bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., really believe that their superior knowledge is the instrument of an emerging “Shangri-La.” This attitude is killing our state and the principles under which our country was founded. Be it the introduction of predatory wolves, health care, mining, air and water quality and myriad other subjects, the federal government has butted into areas not delegated under the U.S. Constitution. We must act. The time is now.

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