By Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press
JACKSON — Mississippi’s Republican governor and lieutenant governor are asking the state’s Democratic attorney general to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a sweeping federal health care bill.
The legislation passed Sunday, and President Barack Obama plans to sign it into law Tuesday.
Gov. Haley Barbour said he will file a lawsuit himself if Attorney General Jim Hood does not make a decision by noon Thursday.
“A physician’s creed is to ‘First, do no harm,’” Barbour, who’s head of the Republican Governors Association, said in a statement Monday. “The health care legislation passed Sunday infects the economy with harmful tax increases, strips benefits from senior citizens and robs each citizen of their basic freedom to choose their own health care.”
Hood made no commitment Monday, saying only that once the bill is signed, “we will review the law to determine if there are any viable causes of action for the state of Mississippi.”
Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant sent a letter Monday to Hood, saying the federal legislation is too expensive and would violate people’s rights by requiring them to buy insurance.
“The 10th Amendment protects states from an overbearing federal government. It is time we exercise those rights,” said Bryant, who’s gearing up to run for governor in 2011.
Barbour is limited to two terms and can’t run again next year.
Hood said last week that he’s running for a third term as attorney general in 2011. He’s the only Democrat holding statewide office in Mississippi, and Republicans are expected to try to unseat him.
Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson was the only member of Mississippi’s congressional delegation who voted for the health care bill. Democratic Reps. Travis Childers and Gene Taylor and Republican Rep. Gregg Harper voted against it, saying it is too expensive. All four are seeking re-election this year.
Thompson said the vote is one of the most significant he has taken during his 17 years in Washington.
“Essentially, this legislation will put Americans back in control of their health care choices, hold insurance companies accountable, and make coverage more affordable,” Thompson said.