Despite Health Bill Uncertainty, Va. Protest Bills March On

By: WILLIAM C. FLOOKExaminer Staff Writer Source: Courtesy of The Washington Examiner February 1, 2010

The precarious position of national health care legislation hasn't stopped lawmakers in Virginia from moving ahead with bills that seek to defy a federal health insurance mandate.

The proposals -- which have advanced in committee or subcommittee in both the Virginia House and Senate -- look to exempt Virginia from Congress' health care initiatives. While the measures may end up being more symbolic than substantive, they have gained wide notice as Republican lawmakers seek to harness unrest over an expanded federal role in medical care.

Del. Bob Marshall's Health Care Freedom Act has become this session's most viewed bill on the state's legislative Web site -- with more looks than even the two-year budget proposal.

Similar legislation in the Democratic-led Senate has narrowly emerged from committee, with the cross-over support of two Democratic senators.

The victory of Republican Scott Brown this month in a special election to fill the late Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts Senate seat deprives Democrats of a needed 60th vote to stop a GOP filibuster, casting in grave doubt any efforts to overhaul the nation's health care system.

And even if the national health bill passed Congress, a state legislature wouldn't have the authority under modern Supreme Court doctrine to defy it, said Ilya Somin, associate law professor at George Mason University School of Law.

"They can pass legislation if they want to, but the legislation in and of itself wouldn't do anything for them unless they were able to have the federal legislation invalidated in court," Somin said.

Nevertheless, Virginia lawmakers are likely to hotly debate the legislation in the coming days. Several freshman Republicans won election partly on the promise to oppose Democratic initiatives on health care, the environment and economic stimulus, as did recently inaugurated Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Most controversial is the idea of an individual mandate -- a provision that would fine Americans who don't purchase health care. Marshall, R-Manassas, calls the mandate unconstitutional.

"If members of Congress are shoving something out that violates the provisions of the Constitution ... we have an obligation to stand up to it, not just to roll over and play dead," he said.

wflook[at]washingtonexaminer.com