Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson’s decision not to enter a lawsuit challenging the recently passed national health care law is a pragmatic, measured move on an issue that has created a storm of right-wing, extremist hyperbole here and across the country.
According to media reports and a press release, Edmondson’s reasons for not litigating are clear and rational: (1) It would be difficult to prove the new law is unconstitutional, (2) the state, which faces a budget crisis, should not waste resources on it, and (3) Florida has already filed a lawsuit and any ruling on that suit would be applicable to Oklahoma.
In a press release, Edmondson noted that 17 lawyers in his office studied the new law before he made his decision. Edmondson said:
This lawsuit is not a slam dunk, not by a long shot. That’s why I chose a reasoned review over a knee-jerk reaction. It’s easy for elected officials and political candidates with no seat at the table to posture, but it’s an entirely different thing to sue Uncle Sam. There are consequences that must be weighed.
Edmondson, a Democrat and a candidate for governor this year, is already taking heat for his decision from Republican leaders even though he called the new law a “flawed result of a flawed process,” which “reeked of partisanship.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, an Oklahoma City Republican, immediately issued a hyperbolic, political statement about Edmondson’s decision. This is the statement:
Today we have taken a giant step backwards. By filing this lawsuit, we could thwart the liberal left’s push to encroach on the liberties of all Oklahomans. Attorney General Drew Edmondson has refused to make this bipartisan move to challenge the constitutionality of Obamacare. But we as a legislature will continue to fight for the state of Oklahoma and not allow the government to strip away our liberties one mandate at a time.
Note all the GOP buzzwords and terms, including “Obamacare” and “liberal left” and “liberties.” How is it even possible to have a rational discussion about the health care issue with such over-the-top rhetoric, which doesn’t present any real facts? How has the bill affected Coffee personally so far? Why doesn’t he explain specifically how it has harmed him and his family? How have his personal liberties been stripped away?
So it goes in Oklahoma these days when a reasonable, centrist state official gets criticized with the right-wing “liberty” harangue for making an obvious good call to save state resources during a massive budget crisis.
So far, 19 states, including Florida, have filed lawsuits challenging the new law. A state resolution, which is pending, would essentially order Edmondson to litigate. Edmondson has said he would enter the Florida lawsuit if the resolution makes it through the legislative process. Meanwhile, several local Republicans have a filed a lawsuit challenging the new law and the state’s legislature has passed a bill that would allow Oklahoma to opt-out of the new program.
Edmondson’s decision is a sound one and shows real courage. He obviously knew he was going to take political heat for his decision. Given the massive amount of national and Oklahoma legal and legislative challenges to the new law it makes good sense to save state resources on an issue that will eventually be resolved no matter what the state does.