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Inslee rips McKenna over latest filing in health-care lawsuit
Posted by Jim Brunner
Updated at 1:43 p.m. with McKenna's statement.
Democrat Jay Inslee launched an aggressive new round of attacks Friday against Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna over a new filing in the national 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, had turned over the state's health-care interests to "right-wing" politicians in states like South Carolina.
Inslee cited a new filing that sought to overturn the entire law -- including protections for cancer survivors and senior citizens. "This is unconscionable. It is unacceptable. It is wrong," he said.
McKenna has repeatedly said he does not want to overturn the entire law, just provisions he deems unconstitutionalÂ -- chiefly the individual mandate requiring Americans to buy private health insurance. His office said this week that McKenna has been overruled on that strategy by his co-plaintiffs in the multi-state lawsuit.
Inslee said "Mr. McKenna needs to be straight with the citizens of Washington state" and withdraw from the case if he truly disagrees with the latest filing. Or, Inslee said, McKenna could file his own separate lawsuit to make his claims.
McKenna issued a statement Friday reiterating his position that the court could find parts of the the federal health care reform law unconstitutional without nullifying the entire law.
"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 that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals took exactly that position -- striking down the individual mandate, but not the whole law.
McKenna rejected Inslee's call for him to file a separate lawsuit, saying "at this point, Washington has been protecting the rights of its citizens at very little cost by participating in conference calls and reviewing briefs" without having to bear the legal costs in the 26-state lawsuit.
"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 US Supreme Court where it belongs," McKenna said.
This is not a new line of attack for Democrats. Inslee has previously called on McKenna to drop the lawsuit over similar legal filings.
But Democrats have smelled blood on the issue -- sensing its potential to erode McKenna's image as a moderate figure who could to appeal to independents. So they're going to continue to bring it up at every opportunity.
Inslee's barrage comes after recent polls have found him trailing the better-known McKenna in the 2012 gubernatorial race that is already shaping up as one of the nation's most competitive.
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