The ink has barely dried on the sweeping health care legislation signed into law today, but California Republican lawmakers have joined a chorus of critics calling for swift action to knock down the bill's big changes to the country's health care system.
"I think that many Californians share the same view that ... this is the greatest expansion of government in a generation and it is also the greatest intrusion into personal liberty and states rights that we have seen in many generations," Senate GOP leader Dennis Hollingsworth said at a press conference.
Arguing that Congress has violated the "Commerce Clause" of the Constitution by mandating that citizens obtain health coverage, the lawmakers urged Attorney General Jerry Brown to join more than a dozen attorneys general nationwide who have said they will sue the federal government challenging the constitutionality of the bill.
"The bill assumes that congressional power over the states, their citizens, and their consumers' everyday economic decision is vast and limitless -- a position that is constitutionally untenable, completely unprecedented and contradictory to fundamental principles of federalism and limited government," GOP Sen. Tom Harman wrote in a letter to Brown.
The Republican lawmakers also zeroed in on a provision that would have given Nebraska a big break on Medicaid reimbursements when explaining their opposition to the bill. They argued that unequal disbursement of health care costs among different states violates the Constitution's equal protection clause.
The so-called Cornhusker "sweetheart deal," which was also a focus of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's criticisms, will be stripped from the bill once follow-up reconciliation language is approved by the Senate and signed into law. But legislators responded by saying it was just one of many examples of a flawed process for passing the bill.
Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said the governor was not pleased with the outcome of the bill but has no plans to push to join the lawsuits at this point.
"None of his concerns were really addressed in the health care package, and obviously that's disappointing to us," he said.
McLear said Schwarzenegger still wants to work with California's congressional delegation to address California's concerns, either by ensuring that states get more federal dollars to pay for "unfunded mandates" or that states get more flexibility to make cuts to ongoing Medi-Cal benefits.
GOP Sen. Tony Strickland also introduced today a proposed constitutional amendment to "prohibit the effectiveness or enforcement" of some of the bill's central components, including the requirement that individuals have health insurance coverage, unless California voters OK the changes.
"I think that voters, when we talk about something as personal as their health care and choosing their doctor ... the people should have the final veto power over that," he said, adding: "I'm falling on the side of let the voters decide."
Strickland said in an interview that his measure is intended to give voters the power to decide whether the state participates in any public option plan in the future.
Though a public option isn't part of this week's overhaul, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid has pledged to move forward with a vote on a public option, which would likely contain an opt-out provision for states, sometime this year.
Several other states, including Virginia and Idaho are pursuing laws to opt out of some or all of the current health care changes, though some legal scholars have gone as far as calling the moves "political theater" since in most cases federal law trumps state law.
Strickland acknowledged that a state vote to strike down the current health care changes would certainly be subject to a court challenge but said his measure is an important precaution to protect the state from a public option.
This is a moving target, and if they don't bring it up this year, I'm quite confident they're going to keep trying to bring this back," Strickland said
Two-thirds of the Democrat-controlled Legislature would need to sign on to put the proposed amendment on the November ballot, but Strickland said the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association has pledged to help with an initiative campaign to put the question to voters in 2012.