RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Members of the North Carolina General Assembly's new Republican majority showed with one of their first acts Thursday they want to add the state to the fight over the federal health care overhaul law.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 23-16 along party lines to approve legislation that aims to block a provision of the federal law requiring Americans to buy insurance beginning in 2014 or pay a penalty.
"This is designed to protect the vast majority of our citizens from what we believe is an unjustified incursion of government power," said House Majority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, who sponsored the bill. "It's the first time, as a condition of living and breathing, that you are required to buy a product."
The measure could see a vote in the full House as early as next week. If approved there, it would head to the GOP-dominated Senate.
Republican legislative candidates made challenging the health care law one of their top 10 campaign promises last fall.
GOP lawmakers said the bill is designed to force Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, to join 26 other states in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the insurance mandate. Cooper has refused to join litigation by other states.
The bill would require the attorney general to defend any new state law banning the insurance mandate, as well as individuals who resist the federal provision.
"His oath of office requires him to enforce the laws that we pass," Stam said.
Cooper said he must uphold state and federal laws, but if they conflict, the U.S. Constitution and federal law prevails and the mandate must be enforced.
"A state law that authorizes North Carolina citizens to violate federal law could be found to be unconstitutional. The federal health law is deemed constitutional until the federal appellate courts conclude otherwise," he said in a statement.