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Wyoming bill criminalizes implementation of health care law

By Sahil Kapur
Monday, January 10, 2011 7:09 EDT
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Legislation introduced in the Wyoming state legislature seeks to make it a federal felony to lawfully implement Democrats’ health reform measure.

The bill, “The Health Care Choice and Protection Act,” is sponsored by three senators and 10 representatives, and seeks to punish any “official, agent, employee or public servant” in Wyoming with a fine and 5 years in jail if they attempt to enforce any provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is federal law.

The Wyoming bill reads: “Any official, agent or employee of the United States government or any employee of a corporation providing services to the United States government that enforces or attempts to enforce an act, order, law, statute, rule or regulation of the government of the United States in violation of this article shall be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than five (5) years, a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000.00), or both.”

Even if the legislation is approved, it won’t survive in the courts as states cannot override or subvert federal law. But the symbolism of the effort reflects just how intense conservative animus against the reforms has become, as House Republicans prepare for a vote to repeal the law.

The Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein calls the news “scary,” positing that such efforts are the product of extremist rhetoric from Republican leaders, who have cynically depicted the law as a threat to American freedom and the start of “Armageddon.”

“If those are the stakes, then of course criminalizing any implementation of the bill makes sense,” Klein wrote. “Frankly, if those are the stakes, then violent resistance might be required.”

Republicans have decreed the law unconstitutional and are pushing legal challenges to the individual mandate, which requires Americans to purchase health insurance. The Associated Press reports that the solidly conservative Wyoming will on Monday join about 20 other states in the federal lawsuit.

In this sentiment, the Wyoming bill says the health reforms are “not authorized by the constitution of the United States and violate its meaning, intent and principles as given by the ratifiers,” and would therefore be considered null and void in the state.

It gets philosophical, too. “No law shall restrict a person’s natural right and power of contract to secure the blessings of liberty to choose private health care systems or private plans,” it says, incorrectly implying the law restricts access to private care.

 
 
 
 
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