As if he didn’t have enough on his hands with the current New Jersey Fiscal Year 2011 budget, Governor Chris Christie now has before him a new matter awaiting his decision: Will New Jersey join the thirteen other states who are currently involved in a federal lawsuit to have ObamaCare declared unconstitutional?
ObamaCare, as most readers of this column know, is the name given by the media to the health insurance measures passed by the Congress and signed into law by President Obama last week. The lawsuit focuses on the provisions of ObamaCare mandating that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying healthcare coverage.
When asked about the litigation last week, the Governor stated that prior to making any decision, he would first consult with 1) his Attorney General Paula Dow regarding the legal issues in the lawsuit; and 2) his Health and Senior Services Commissioner Dr. Poonam Alaigh regarding the effect that ObamaCare will have on health care coverage in the Garden State.
Christie’s approach is the correct one. It would be a waste of taxpayer time and resources to join the lawsuit if it is non-meritorious. Furthermore, while I and many others believe that ObamaCare will negatively impact the nation’s economy and health care, the Governor is wise to consult Commissioner Alaigh, a former medical executive director of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey as to the exact effects of ObamaCare on the state’s citizenry.
The Governor has also properly ruled out political considerations in making a decision as to whether to join the lawsuit. If he decides that New Jersey will not join in the litigation, there will be little or no political impact from his decision. If he does decide that New Jersey will join in the lawsuit, there will be a definite political impact nationally.
That impact stems from the recent announcement that Pennsylvania will join in the lawsuit. The decision was made by Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett, a Republican and the current favorite to win both the Republican gubernatorial primary and the general election.
There appears to be a definite Republican trend in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania this year, with Corbett expected to win the governorship and former member of Congress Pat Toomey predicted to unseat incumbent Democratic Senator Arlen Specter. ObamaCare is the major issue in Pennsylvania’s U.S. House of Representatives and Senate races.
Nationally, the Democrats are portraying the lawsuit as a non-meritorious, non-credible, politically motivated initiative on the part of Republican partisan, rabidly right-wing state attorneys general. If Governor Christie decides that New Jersey will join the litigation, however, you will have two leading northeastern blue states, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, both involved in this lawsuit, together with midwestern blue state Michigan as well.
The participation in the lawsuit of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, three leading blue states would thus make it much more difficult for the Democrats to portray this litigation as a contrivance of Republican extremists. Additionally, a decision by Governor Christie for New Jersey to join the litigation would add substantial credibility to national Republican anti-ObamaCare efforts in general.
I have no idea as to which way Governor Christie is leaning in this matter. Furthermore, I have not studied in depth the legal issues involved in this litigation, and accordingly, I will not opine as to whether this lawsuit is meritorious.
Politics, however, is a different matter. Governor Christie has received national publicity for his revolutionary efforts to cut the state budget and control New Jersey’s runaway property taxes. If he decides that New Jersey will join the anti-ObamaCare lawsuit, you will see him in the national spotlight on health care as well.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush. Region 2 EPA consists of the states of New York and New Jersey, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and seven federally recognized Indian nations. He currently serves as Public Servant in Residence at Monmouth University.