Hood doesn't intend to join health care lawsuits

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Gov. Haley Barbour will pursue a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new federal health care legislation without the assistance of Attorney General Jim Hood.
The Democratic attorney general sent a letter to the Republican governor late Friday afternoon saying he has no intention at this time of entering the lawsuits against the sweeping federal health care legislation.
Barbour had asked the attorney general to file suit soon after Congress passed the legislation last month and it was signed into law by President Barack Obama. The governor said the legislation would result in additional costs to the states for an expanded Medicaid program and would unconstitutionally require people to purchase health insurance.
Nineteen states have joined in lawsuits against the new law or announced they would.
In a related matter, Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant is joining a lawsuit filed by a group of Mississippi citizens challenging the law.
In the letter, Hood said he doubts the lawsuits will succeed, but said he would monitor the situation and had plenty of time to enter the lawsuits at a later date “if some viable cause of action arises.”
Hood told Barbour he could save the state money by waiting to file the lawsuit.
“Lawsuits are being filed almost daily challenging this legislation,” the second-term attorney general wrote to the governor. “Legions of lawyers will litigate all of the possible claims for years. Millions of dollars will be spent on these law firms. Your voice and position will be well represented by other state politicians and individuals.”
Dan Turner, a spokesman for Barbour, said Friday the governor would proceed with plans to join a lawsuit filed by the state of Florida and multiple other states. Turner said the governor is waiting for that lawsuit to be amended.
“We would expect that to be sooner rather than later,” Turner said.
When asked if the governor would hire private attorneys, Turner said, “I don’t know. We will wait and see. That is such a minuscule part compared to what is at stake not only from a constitutional standpoint, but because of the dollars this legislation will cost Mississippians.”
Hood said he is not taking a position on the legislation and would reserve the right to sue at a later time. But in the letter – based on the research of his “career” staff attorneys and out-of-office constitutional scholars – he said he doubted the states filing the lawsuits would prevail.
He said the courts have given the Congress broad powers “to address pressing economic concerns.”
Hood cited similar “emotional, policy-based court challenges to no avail.” He said unsuccessful lawsuits were filed to block the enactment of Social Security and to block enactment of civil rights legislation in the 1960s.
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.