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Government, Politics & Issues

Koster remains silent in wake of state House anti-health care vote

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 12, 2011 - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is continuing to keep his own counsel in the wake of the Missouri House's overwhelming vote today calling on him to join a multistate lawsuit against the new federal health-care law.

"The attorney general's office is aware of the vote in the House and we are monitoring the issue in both chambers," said spokeswoman Nanci Gonder in a statement to reporters following the House's 115-46 vote in favor of the resolution.

She declined to say whether Koster would join the suit. The resolution also allows Koster to file a separate suit, if he so chooses.

A similar resolution has been introduced in the state Senate by Sen. Jane Cunninham, R-Chesterfield.

At last count, at least 24 states have joined the Florida-based suit or filed paperwork seeking to do so. The states involved have Republican governors or attorneys general. The suit is among several legal challenges around the country to the federal health-care law. Some of the law's provisions went into effect last fall and on Jan. 1.

Backers of the resolution say that Missouri should join the lawsuit, particularly in the wake of last August's statewide approval of Proposition C, which seeks to prevent some of the federal mandates from being put into effect in Missouri. (Cunningham was among the leaders of the pro-Prop C campaign.)

Opponents of the House resolution say that it's calling for the state to unnecessarily spend money since Missouri will be bound by the final decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, regardless of whether the state joined the lawsuit.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican, already has joined a separate but similar lawsuit. The lieutenant governor is doing so as an individual following objections from Koster and Gov. Jay Nixon, both Democrats, who said Kinder had no legal standing to act on behalf of Missouri. (Kinder had initially sought to join the Florida lawsuit, or a similar one in Virginia, but couldn't do so because of the legal standing issue.)

(Click here to view a House-produced video summarizing Tuesday's debate and vote.)

The policy fight aside, the debate could have political ramifications for Koster, who is up for re-election in 2012. Some veteran Democrats have continued to be wary of Koster, a former Republican who switched parties in 2007. He narrowly won the 2008 Democratic primary, barely edging out then-state Rep. Margaret Donnelly of Richmond Heights, who now heads the Missouri Department of Health.

St. Louis area Democratic activist Rea Kleeman -- whose complaints a few weeks ago prompted a meeting at her home with new state Democratic Party chair Susan Montee -- forwarded to the Beacon this week a copy of an email she sent to Koster's campaign manager. The missive said that Kleeman's progressive-Democratic group won't meet with Koster if he joins the lawsuit.

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