Staff and Wire Reports
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed a legal challenge Friday against federal health care overhaul legislation that President Barack Obama signed into law last year.
Pruitt's lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Muskogee, makes Oklahoma the 28th state to challenge the constitutionality of the individual mandate provision of the federal health care act.
The petition, which Pruitt promised to file while campaigning for the job, questions whether Congress has the power under the Constitution's Commerce Clause to require citizens to purchase health insurance coverage or be penalized for not doing so.
It also defends voter passage of the Oklahoma Health Care Freedom Amendment last fall. The measure amended the state Constitution to prevent Oklahomans from being required to purchase individual health care coverage.
In a statement, Pruitt said the federal government "has overreached its power and authority." By approving State Question 756, "the people of Oklahoma made it clear that a federally enforcer mandate to purchase health insurance is both undesirable and unconstitutional," he said. "There is great clarity for me on the necessary and urgent need to exercise my responsibility to defend Oklahoma's Constitution against a federal law that requires our state's citizens to purchase a product or face penalties from the federal government," Pruitt said.
He said filing a separate lawsuit in Oklahoma rather than joining legal challenges filed previously by other states will give the state a better chance of defending the new constitutional amendment.
The attorney general also said the state's petition contains new and more compelling arguments against the independent mandate in response to shifting legal strategy by the federal government in ongoing legal proceedings by other states in Virginia and Florida.
"President Obama's health care plan would cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in the middle of a severe budget crisis," Pruitt said. "I am proud that Oklahoma can now be counted among the states standing up for constitutional rights and opposing a law that is harmful to both our economy and to the health of our citizens."
Pruitt filed the lawsuit just 12 days after taking the oath as the state's new attorney general. The Republican former state senator replaces longtime Democratic Attorney General Drew Edmondson, who announced in April he would not challenge the federal health care law that Obama signed a month earlier. Edmondson said at the time a legal challenge by the state would have little chance of success and would be "largely an exercise in futility."
The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) released the following statement regarding the announcement of the lawsuit:
"OCPA supports the efforts of Gov. Mary Fallin and Attorney General Pruitt to protect Oklahomans from this absurd overreach by the federal government," said Jason Sutton, J.D., health policy analyst in OCPA's Center for Health Freedom. "Not only does the individual mandate to purchase health insurance stand as the greatest threat to individual liberty in recent memory, but the entire health reform bill is written in a way that will raise premiums on the insured, increase taxes on hardworking families, eliminate jobs and push states toward bankruptcy. More than half the states in the nation have filed lawsuits pushing back against bureaucrats who think they can manage our health decisions better than we can. This lawsuit is an important step in protecting our freedom."