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Barbour, Bryant calls for state to challenge healthcare bill

JACKSON —  Gov. Haley Barbour and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, both Republicans, want the state to challenge the constitutionality of federal healthcare legislation that President Barack Obama plans to sign into law on Tuesday.

Bryant sent a letter Monday to Attorney General Jim Hood, asking the Democrat to file a lawsuit on behalf of the state.

Hood did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Bryant’s request.

Barbour wants an answer from the attorney general by noon on March 25. If Hood refuses to file suit to protect the interests of Mississippians, Barbour said he intends to file the lawsuit.

“This costly unfunded mandate could not have come at a worse time for our state’s economy,” Barbour said. “Mississippi continues to see declining monthly revenue collections, and we have been forced to cut priority areas like education and public safety. Under the plan, 15 million people would be moved to the federal-state Medicaid program, which already strains our state budget every year. Once the temporary funding is gone, we can expect taxes to spike by hundreds of millions of dollars for Mississippians who will have to pay for this expanded program.”

Bryant — who’s gearing up to run for governor in 2011 — says the federal legislation is too expensive and would violate people’s rights by requiring them to buy insurance.

Bryant says Mississippi should assert its rights under the 10th Amendment, which “protects states from an overbearing federal government.”

Mississippi is not the only state mulling a challenge to the healthcare bill. Washington, Utah and Nebraska are also thinking of suing, according to The Associated Press.

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