November 22, 2010

Snowe: Constitutionality of care law is arguable

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

and Rebekah Metzler rmetzler@mainetoday.com
MaineToday Media State House Writer

Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are co-signing an amicus, or friend of the court, brief to be submitted to the federal court in Florida that will hear a constitutional challenge of the federal health care reform law.

The brief was initiated by U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and boasts signatures of 30 Senate Republicans. The lawsuit was brought by the attorneys general for several states and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a small-business trade organization.

At issue is a requirement that U.S. citizens purchase health insurance beginning in 2014 or face a fine -- known as the "individual mandate."

Snowe was the only Republican to support any version of health care reform, but ultimately voted against the final bill. The version Snowe supported did include an individual mandate, but her aides said she opposed that provision and hoped to change it through the amendment process.

Snowe was concerned with the concept of government mandating an individual purchase of something, especially because she did not believe health insurance would be sufficiently affordable, her office has said.

Snowe and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., tried to amend the reform to reduce the number of people subject to the mandate and allow Congress more flexibility to review the mandate altogether, but it failed in committee.

"The individual mandate has no place in a health care reform bill unless and until affordable health insurance is available for all Americans," Snowe said in a release about the brief.

"We must take seriously the gravity of this imperious and intrusive government mandate and repeal the individual mandate before millions of Americans are forced to purchase health care coverage that they neither want nor can afford."

Supporters of the individual mandate say it will help keep health insurance costs down because it spreads risk: Those who decline to buy insurance are often the healthiest, while those who buy it are often need it most and, therefore, cost more to cover.

Snowe, one of the senators most likely to vote across party lines, faces re-election in 2012. Many expect she will face a strong primary challenge, given the experience of several incumbent Republicans in the 2010 election cycle.

Some also speculate she's trying to improve her conservative credentials by signing her name to the court challenge.

Snowe's office insists it's a consistent position: She filed an amendment to repeal the individual mandate when the legislation was considered by the full Senate.

PROMOTIONS FILL GOP POSTS

With control of the Maine House, Republicans are promoting from within to find chiefs of staff.

Alison Sucy, chief of staff for the House Republicans since 2001, will be chief for the new House speaker. Republicans have nominated Rep. Bob Nutting of Oakland for the speaker's post.

Sucy, a Vermont native, graduated from Bangor High School and the University of Maine and has a law degree from Washington and Lee School of Law in Virginia.

Diane Johanson, who has worked in the Legislature for 17 years, will take over as chief of staff in the House Majority Office.

Although Johanson is a native of Oregon, she is descended from Col. Isaac G. Reed, who was a member of Maine's Constitutional Convention in 1819-1820, according to the House Republican Office. He also served in the Maine Legislature and designed the Maine State Seal.

Johanson is a graduate of Bath High School and of the University of Maine. She also has experience working in the Senate Republican Office.

A LESSON FOR DEMOCRATS

Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, is enjoying a surge of popularity these days as House Democrats look for some stability following an election in which they -- in the words of one of their members -- "got crushed."

(Continued on page 2)

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