March 30, 2010
Georgia Attorney General Spurns Suit on Health Care
By ROBBIE BROWN
ATLANTA — In 14 states across the country, attorneys general have filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the recent federal health care overhaul. But here in Georgia, the Democratic attorney general has rejected such lawsuits as “frivolous” and “a waste of taxpayer money.” Now that position has led to calls from Republican lawmakers for his impeachment.
Thirty-one Republicans in the state legislature signed a resolution Tuesday calling for the impeachment of the attorney general, Thurbert Baker. Mr. Baker is also a Democratic candidate in the race, expected to be closely fought, to succeed Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican, who is prevented by law from seeking a third term.
Mr. Perdue has said he would circumvent Mr. Baker by appointing a “special attorney general” — a pro bono lawyer or legal team to challenge the constitutionality of the health care act on Georgia’s behalf. The governor said he believed the act violated the Constitution by requiring many citizens to buy health insurance from private companies.
Health care overhaul is unpopular with many Georgians, and Republicans have pressured Democrats to stake clear positions. Mr. Baker has said a constitutional challenge would be expensive and unsuccessful.
“It’s a disappointing response by some members of our legislature,” he said. “I don’t think it speaks well for the future of this state or the image of Georgia.”
To pass, the impeachment resolution would require the support of a majority of the 180-member Georgia House, where Republicans hold a majority. That would be followed by a trial in the State Senate, where Mr. Baker could be convicted with a vote of two-thirds of the 56 senators, an unlikely outcome given that Republicans control only 60 percent of the seats..
The resolution’s author, Representative Mark Hatfield of Waycross, said the state’s Constitution required Mr. Baker to file suits at the governor’s request.
“By failing and refusing to perform his constitutional and statutory duties, Attorney General Baker has abdicated his authority and has committed an act against the state of Georgia,” the resolution states.
The highest-ranking Republican to sign it was the majority whip, Edward Lindsey. Most lawmakers have not publicly expressed a view on the resolution.
Mr. Baker said that the public was encouraged to debate the merits of the health care act, but that attorneys general must decide its constitutionality.
“It is the law of the land,” he said. “While there may be budgetary and policy differences about the act itself, that doesn’t mean the Congress can’t pass it.”
Polls show Mr. Baker trailing a former governor, Roy Barnes, in the Democratic primary.