Pawlenty: 10th Amendment might let states sidestep health care changes

  • Article by: BOB VON STERNBERG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 11, 2009 - 10:57 AM

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has ratcheted up his criticism of President Obama's health care overhaul plan, invoking states' rights as a way to avoid implementing whatever might become law.

During a conference call Thursday night with reporters and conservative activists, Pawlenty said "asserting the 10th Amendment" of the U.S. Constitution might allow Minnesota and other states to sidestep federally-imposed changes to the health care system.

Pawlenty's comments, made during a call sponsored by the Republican Governors Association, went beyond his earlier, consistent criticism of plans being pushed by Obama and congressional Democrats.

Pawlenty, the governors' association vice-chairman, was asked if governors could assert state sovereignty to bypass federal mandates.

According to a recording posted online by Minnesota Public Radio, he replied:

"Depending on what the federal government comes out with here, asserting the 10th Amendment may be a viable option but we don't know the details. As one of the other callers said, we can't get the president to outline what he does or doesn't support in any detail. So we'll have to see. I would have to say that it's a possibility."

The 10th Amendment states that powers "not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States."

Pawlenty returned to the topic this morning during his weekly radio show, saying an assertion of states' rights should been seen as a counterweight to "a federal government that permeates every aspect of our lives.

'[We should] at least have a discussion," he said, "not talking about seceding from the union and not filing lawsuits."

Saying "this is fairly obscure stuff," Pawlenty said he believes it's "important to at least raise the issue."

Earlier Thursday, Pawlenty held a news conference in which he outlined milder criticisms of Obama's plans, which the president will push during a speech in Minneapolis Saturday.

During the governors association call, Pawlenty predicted that he and other governors are likely to "get more aggressive about asserting and bringing up the 10th Amendment. So I think we could see hopefully a resurgence of those claims and maybe even lawsuits if need be."

He specifically mentioned Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who made headlines earlier this summer when he asserted his own state's sovereignty, citing the 10th Amendment.

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