Oklahoma attorney general files lawsuit challenging health care law

Attorney General Scott Pruitt made a campaign promise to challenge the new federal health care law in court.
BY JOHN ESTUS jestus@opubco.com Modified: January 21, 2011 at 9:30 pm •  Published: January 21, 2011

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Friday made good on his campaign promise to join the fight against the federal health care law.

Pruitt, a Republican, filed a lawsuit against the federal government designed to work in concert with a slew of lawsuits by other states also challenging the constitutionality of the nation's overhauled health care laws.

Oklahoma's lawsuit seeks to have parts of the health care law ruled unconstitutional in order to prevent the entire law from being enforced.

Pruitt said it includes strengthened arguments based on the federal government's responses to the other lawsuits.

Oklahoma is the 28th state to challenge the law, which Congress passed last year following decades of Democrat-led efforts to reform the nation's health care system.

Republicans have said the law goes too far by forcing Americans to buy health insurance or face a penalty, which they say is unconstitutional.

“Again, 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 in a news release Friday.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma.

Among its specific allegations is that the federal health care law violates a new part of the state constitution approved in November, when voters passed a state question that prevents Oklahomans from being forced to buy health insurance.

The lawsuit says as a result, the Oklahoma Constitution and federal health care law “are conflicting provisions that cannot coexist.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are named as defendants.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, praised Pruitt's decision to file the lawsuit.

“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,” Fallin said in a statement.

Former Attorney General Drew Edmondson, a Democrat, last year decided against filing a lawsuit to challenge the law.

The same assistant attorneys general who last year advised Edmondson that a lawsuit challenging the law would not succeed worked on the lawsuit filed Friday.

“Scott Pruitt is the attorney general. This is his call,” Edmondson said Friday.

Edmondson last year said filing the lawsuit would be “an exercise in futility.”

The Democratic leader of the state Senate said challenging the law is not a wise use of state resources.