Letter from Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, to Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper, 5 Jan. 2010:
Dear General Cooper:
As you are aware, on December 24th the United States Senate passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590). As publicly acknowledged by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the critical sixtieth vote in favor of passage was cast by Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson in exchange for inclusion of a provision within H.R. 3590 that requires the federal government to hold the State of Nebraska harmless from increased costs arising from the proposed Medicaid expansion. H.R. 3590 does not require the federal government to pick-up the full cost of the proposed expansion of Medicaid in any other state. The so-called “Nebraska Deal” clearly grants special benefits to a single state purely for the purpose of political expediency. Taxpayers in all other states will be required to annually pay millions of dollars to offset increased Medicaid costs. In defending the “Nebraska Deal,” no one has suggested any rational basis for favoring Nebraska taxpayers over taxpayers in Tennessee or any other state.
Please share your expertise and insights with regard to the following question:
Does any provision within the United States Constitution or other federal law provide a legal basis by which the State of Tennessee and other states could seek judicial intervention to block implementation of H.R. 3590 or, alternatively, to ensure that the “Nebraska Deal” is extended to the other states?
I have read your public comments wishing to defer the issue until legislation is finalized but the General Assembly must be proactive in dealing with what Governor Bredesen has called “the mother of all unfunded mandates.” I join Governor Bredesen in his outrage at the $1.2 billion price tag of this legislation in a year when we are preparing to cut up to $1.5 billion from the state budget.
While it is admirable that the Governor has contacted our federal officials on this issue, it is the duty of the state Attorney General to defend Tennessee against unconstitutional dictates from the federal government. All I ask is that you share your expertise and insights regarding the above question. We must begin to prepare for the harsh impact of either the House or Senate bill on Tennesseans. As Governor Bredesen has not ruled out asking that Tennessee join other states in challenging the proposed legislation, there is no reason to wait.
A bipartisan group of state elected officials have publicly stated that the “Nebraska Deal” is bad policy, excessive and are concerned about its implementation. It is time for the Attorney General’s office to offer preliminary legal options to the legislature as to how we may best protect Tennessee citizens from this unfair and quite possibly unconstitutional federal action.
If there are questions or if additional information is required, then please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.
I look forward to discussing these matters with you in the near future.
Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey