MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen plans to ask a judge for permission Monday to join a multistate lawsuit challenging federal health care reform, saying the federal government has overstepped its authority.
Twenty states have filed a federal suit in Florida contending the reforms are unconstitutional because they require nearly all Americans to purchase health insurance and states to expand their Medicaid programs. Van Hollen said the Florida attorney general's office plans to file a motion later Monday seeking permission to add Wisconsin, Ohio, Kansas and Wyoming as plaintiffs.
Van Hollen, a Republican, has been pushing for months to join the fight. He asked former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle last year for permission to join the lawsuit, but Doyle refused. The Democratic-controlled Legislature also denied Van Hollen permission.
New Republican Gov. Scott Walker, though, promised on the campaign trail to let Van Hollen participate, saying he thought the reform law was unconstitutional and trampled states' rights. Hours after Walker was sworn into office last week, the new governor gave Van Hollen official authorization.
Van Hollen said joining the lawsuit is less about health care than making sure Wisconsin has a voice in a significant lawsuit that could impact the state's ability to govern itself for years to come.
"Never before has the federal government passed a law requiring somebody to buy something just by virtue of their existence. This is unprecedented," the attorney general said. "If they can regulate that, they can regulate anything."
Attorneys for the federal government say the lawsuit should be dismissed because the states don't have standing to sue. Wisconsin Democrats have said Van Hollen should stay out of the lawsuit, deriding his participation as a waste of taxpayer money when the state faces a $3 billion deficit.
Graeme Zielinski, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party, called the lawsuit a "partisan hunting expedition." He demanded Van Hollen account for every penny he spends on it.
Van Hollen countered that people across the nation don't like the health care law and see it as an overreach by the federal government. Democrats would be "screaming" for him to challenge a federal mandate that required everyone to buy guns, he said.
Van Hollen spokesman Bill Cosh declined to comment on Zielinski's demands for an accounting.
A federal judge in Virginia ruled in December in a separate case that the insurance-purchase mandate is unconstitutional, although the judge warned the case is likely destined for the U.S. Supreme Court. Two other federal judges have upheld the requirement.
Republicans who control the U.S. House of Representatives have vowed to repeal the reforms.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)