Even if health reform passes, state resistance awaits

If I were President Obama, I'd probably be banging my head against the White House walls until it bled by this point--even if the Massachusetts election had gone well. But now, if possible, things are looking even worse, with a Republican taking the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's crucial seat and overall reform prospects going awry.

And it gets worse. Even if the White House manages to pass a health reform bill under these insane circumstances, it's looking like some state legislators plan to do everything they can to block reform measures from taking effect in their locales. Republicans in states like Colorado plan to use ballot initiatives, court challenges and state law changes to eviscerate whatever beaten-down bill actually does emerge from Congress, observers say.

One particularly hot issue is the individual mandate to purchase insurance. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, legislators in at least 19 states have filed bills that would attempt to nullify key provisions of federal reform legislation, particularly the mandate. It's not clear that the states have the authority to block the mandate, but that isn't stopping states--from Pennsylvania to Utah--from making the attempt.

It may be premature to wonder whether these states will win their constitutional argument, which in the eyes of some legal scholars flies in the face of Article VI of the Constitution (the "supremacy clause")--establishing federal legislation as the law of the land. But such political activism on the subject suggests just how angry things may get, even if a compromise bill somehow makes it through both houses of Congress. This is going to get ugly, people.

To learn more about the oncoming battle:
- read this Wall Street Journal piece

Related Articles:
Republican victory in Mass. threatens health reform plans
Nail-biter Mass. Senate race will influence reform outcome
Senate releases $848 billion health reform bill 

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