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Originally published Friday, September 30, 2011 at 9:19 PM

McKenna blasted for attacking health-care law

Democrat Jay Inslee launched a new round of attacks Friday against Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna over his participation in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the national health-care law.

Seattle Times political reporter

quotes If it wasn't for the GOP you would be having the individual mandate unquestioned. Dems... Read more
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In a preview of the partisan brawl voters can expect for the next 13 months, Democrat Jay Inslee launched a new round of attacks Friday against Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna over his participation in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the national health-care-reform law.

At a news conference in front of the attorney general's downtown Seattle office, Inslee accused McKenna, his rival in the 2012 governor's race, of putting partisan politics above the health-care needs of the state.

"The office of the attorney general belongs to the citizens of the state of Washington," said Inslee, the longtime congressman from Bainbridge Island.

But McKenna, he charged, has trampled the state's interests in siding with "right-wing" politicians from more conservative states like South Carolina.

Inslee cited a new filing by the 26 states challenging the health-care law, which asks the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate the entire law, including protections for cancer survivors and senior citizens. "This is unconscionable. It is unacceptable. It is wrong," he said.

Since joining the lawsuit last year, McKenna repeatedly has said he objects only to portions of the law he deems unconstitutional, chiefly the requirement Americans purchase private health insurance. He issued a statement Friday reiterating that position.

"There are many parts of the law that may be beneficial to Americans and their families without violating their constitutional rights — and I believe those parts should be retained," McKenna said.

He noted the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals took exactly that position, striking down the individual mandate but leaving other parts of the law untouched.

McKenna said he has been overruled by his co-plaintiffs, who want the entire law nullified, but believes the Supreme Court will eventually side with him in striking down just the individual mandate.

Inslee said, "Mr. McKenna needs to be straight with the citizens of Washington state" and withdraw from the case, or file a separate lawsuit, if he truly disagrees with his co-plaintiffs.

McKenna rejected that idea as too expensive. "Filing a separate suit would require additional funds at a time when Washington has nothing to spare, and furthermore, it would not impact the outcome. This case is before the U.S. Supreme Court where it belongs," he said.

This is not a new line of attack for Democrats. Inslee previously has called on McKenna to drop the lawsuit over similar legal filings.

Democrats clearly have smelled blood on the issue, sensing its potential to erode McKenna's image as a moderate figure who can appeal to independent voters.

Inslee's barrage comes after recent polls showed him trailing the better-known McKenna in the 2012 gubernatorial race that already is shaping up as one of the nation's most competitive.

Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or jbrunner@seattletimes.com

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