Thirteen state attorneys general, all Republicans, demanded in a letter [text, PDF] sent Wednesday to the Speaker of the US House of Representatives and the Senate Majority Leader that a controversial provision in the health care reform bill [text, PDF] approved [JURIST news report] in the Senate [official website] last week should be struck because it unfairly benefits the state of Nebraska. In the letter, written by South Carolina Attorney General Henry MacMaster [official website], the group said they would legally challenge the provision if it were not removed, citing reports of the deal struck by Nebraska senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) [official website; statement] in exchange for his vote. The attorneys general argued that the provision is unconstitutional and "antithetical to the legitimate federal interests in the bill" that "the states share with the federal government the cost of providing such care to their citizens" because it exempts Nebraska from such shared cost. They also asserted that
[t]he fundamental unfairness of H.R. 3590 may also give rise to claims under the due process, equal protection, privileges and immunities clauses and other provisions of the Constitution... Since the only basis for the Nebraska preference is arbitrary and unrelated to the substance of the legislation, it is unlikely that the difference would survive even minimal scrutiny.
South Carolina Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint [personal websites] enlisted [press release, PDF; letter, PDF] MacMaster's help to challenge the bill as amended.
The Senate passed the health care reform bill last Thursday in a 60-39 vote [roll call] that split down party lines. The legislation would expand affordable health care to more than 30 million Americans and overhaul the private insurance system [Washington Post report]. Senate Republicans have vowed to continue to fight and amend the bill arguing that it is too expensive and would violate personal rights [NYT report] by compelling people to buy health insurance. Last month, the US House of Representatives [official website] approved [JURIST report] their own version of the legislation, the Affordable Health Care for America Act [HR 3962 materials]. The two bills must be reconciled in conference committee before legislation can go to the President for signature.