A prolific litigator, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced Friday that “after extensive legal research and careful balancing of the costs and potential benefits,“ he denied a request from all of the state’s Republican senators to join a lawsuit challenging the federal health reform law.
“The Act falls well within Congress’ power and is therefore constitutional,” Blumenthal said Friday afternoon in a press release.
The lawsuit filed by 19 attorneys general alleges that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act infringes on the constitutional rights of Americans by mandating they have health care coverage or pay a tax penalty.
Aside from opining that the Act is within Congress’ power, Blumenthal who is also running for U.S. Senate, said it falls well within the powers of the Commerce Clause.
“A conclusion that the Act violates the Commerce Clause would require a reversal of over 70 years of settled Commerce Clause jurisprudence and doctrine extending back through the creation of Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid and countless other vital and popular federal programs that have been the law of the land for decades,” Blumenthal said.
However, “Even in the unlikely event that claims asserted by other states were to succeed, any relief and conclusions as to the Act’s constitutionality would apply with equal force to Connecticut, at no litigation expense to our taxpayers.” Blumenthal, who supports federal health reform, said.
An extremely divisive political issue, state Sen. Dan Debicella, R-Shelton, who signed onto the letter in March, said Blumenthal was playing politics.
“It’s clearly a questionable law given the fact that so many other attorneys general are suing,” Debicella, who is running against U.S. Rep. Jim Himes in the 4th Congressional District, said. “The Attorney General is probably making a political call on this rather than reading the constitution.”
“Regardless of your personal beliefs or philosophies you are bound by duty to protect and defend the people of this state, the small employers who will be penalized or put out of business by the mandates, the large insurance companies that call our state home and employ tens of thousands of our residents in an industry that will eventually be eliminated by government intrusion into our free markets, and the private citizens who will ultimately have to pay the $1.3 trillion price tag,“ the letter Debicella and 11 other state senators sent to Blumenthal in March read.
Blumenthal said he concluded the lawsuit would have “virtually no chance of success” and “could be costly to the state.”
While noting Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell did not join her fellow Republicans in making the request for legal action, Blumenthal said she has already sought to transfer 45,000 recipients of a state funded medical program to Medicaid, which is expected to save Connecticut at least $53 million over the next 15 months.
In light of these savings, and several other legal considerations, Blumenthal said filing a lawsuit to undermine the Act could financially harm Connecticut.