OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma House voted Tuesday to override Democratic Gov. Brad Henry's veto of legislation intended to let Oklahomans opt out of a new federal health care law, but the chance that an override vote would also succeed in the Senate appeared slim.
Without debate, House members voted 72-24 to override Henry's veto of a bill authorizing Oklahomans to opt out of the health care law that requires Americans to purchase health insurance. The measure also authorizes legislative leaders to hire an attorney to sue the federal government to keep the law from taking effect.
The House originally approved the bill 71-27 and more than two-thirds of its 101 members voted to override a Henry's veto.
But the bill's author, Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, said it will be difficult to override the veto in the Senate, where the bill passed 25-17. At least 32 senators, two-thirds of the 48-member chamber, must agree to override a veto.
"It's tight," Ritze said after the House vote.
The measure's Senate author, Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso, said he hopes some conservative Democrats will join the Senate's Republican majority to override the vote. Six senators, three Republicans and three Democrats, missed the vote in which the Senate passed the bill, including some who would support an override vote, he said.
Brogdon said he expects the Senate to vote no later than Thursday.
Senate Democratic Leader Charlie Laster of Shawnee voted with 16 other Democrats against the bill and said he does not think any of them will change their mind. He called the measure "political posturing" by GOP lawmakers opposed to the health care law supported by Democratic President Barack Obama.
"The state Legislature is not going to decide that issue," Laster said.
Henry's communications director, Paul Sund, said the governor never expected his veto to hold in the Republican-controlled House.
"There were 17 no votes in the Senate, the required amount to sustain a veto, so we expect it to be upheld there," Sund said in an e-mail.
The bill's supporters said the health care law usurps individual and state's rights by requiring citizens to purchase private health insurance.
"The federal government has no authority to tell us where to buy anything," said Brogdon, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor.
Ritze, a physician and surgeon, said Oklahoma needs to be part of a federal court challenge to the legislation filed by 20 other states. Legislative leaders announced plans to join the lawsuit after Attorney General Drew Edmondson said he wouldn't.
Edmondson, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, said his staff believes a lawsuit is unlikely to succeed.
Meanwhile, Henry vetoed legislation Tuesday exempting buyers of Oklahoma-made guns and ammunition from federal criminal background checks and other regulations, a nearly identical bill to one he vetoed three weeks ago. The Senate failed to override the veto on a 28-16 vote.
In his veto message, Henry said police have expressed concern about the measure, and he believes it would make it easier for criminals to obtain weapons in Oklahoma and endanger citizens and law enforcement. The governor also said there would be no way to guarantee that Oklahoma-made guns would remain in the state.
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