Attorney General Stenehjem Responds to Democrats, Says Lawsuit Challenging Obamacare Is His Duty

House Minority Leader Rep. Cory Mock, D-Grand Forks, right, answers questions along with Senate assistant minority leader Sen. John Grabinger, at a press conference in Bismarck requesting North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem to withdraw from a Texas lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act. Bismarck Tribune photo

Lately North Dakota Democrats have been trying to make a campaign issue out of a lawsuit challenging the legality of Obamacare.

The suit was filed by the State of Texas, which is paying for it, and Attorney General Wayne Stenehejm joined North Dakota to the list of plaintiffs. The Democrats – most recently Senator Heidi Heitkamp – argue that the lawsuit could hurt some North Dakotans by overturning provisions of Obamacare such as the mandate that insurance companies issue policies even when there are pre-existing conditions.

Which, as I’ve pointed out in a recent print column, makes it seem like the Democrats believe the ends justify the means with public policy. Whatever our policy goals, shouldn’t the law be legal?

If Democrats want to argue that it is still constitutional, then fine. We can have that debate. But the Democrats are arguing that we shouldn’t even ask the question. That the policy outcomes are too important to even consider whether or not the policy itself is constitutional.

Anyway, the Democratic leadership in the Legislature has formally called on Stenehjem to withdraw North Dakota from the lawsuit. Today Stenehjem responded with a letter to House Minority Leader Corey Mock and Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman defending the lawsuit.

“It is the duty of the Attorney General to support and defend the constitution,” Stenehjem writes, citing a state Supreme Court ruling from just a few weeks ago which said essentially the same thing.

You can read the whole letter below.

I think Stenehjem has the right of this.

It’s an election year, so we should acknowledge that the Democrats have a political motivation. They want to create a public perception which has Republicans out to create headaches on health care for North Dakotans in pursuit of some partisan, ideological goal.

The reality, however, is that Obamacare as a practical matter of law has changed since it was last upheld by the courts. The individual mandate, and its associated penalty (which was interpreted as a tax by the U.S. Supreme Court as a way to find the law to be constitutional) is no longer. It’s relevant to ask, at this juncture, whether or not the law remains constitutional.

If Democrats want to argue that it is still constitutional, then fine. We can have that debate. But the Democrats are arguing that we shouldn’t even ask the question. That the policy outcomes are too important to even consider whether or not the policy itself is constitutional.

Those are poor priorities in any society which values the rule of law.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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