Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., right, accompanied by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 28, 2012, as the Supreme Court, rear, heard closing arguments regarding the health care law signed by President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
Richard Blumenthal, who made the transition from activist attorney general of Connecticut to U.S. senator, has a message for all his former red state counterparts: I told you so.
The first-term Democrat balked two years ago at joining a multistate lawsuit against the feds over “Obamacare.”
In an interview with Hearst Connecticut Newspapers, Blumenthal said Thursday that today’s Supreme Court decision validates that decision.
“From the very beginning, even Governor Rell conceded this measure would be good for Connecticut and should not be challenged constitutionally,” Blumenthal said of the former GOP governor.
A former Supreme Court clerk who has argued four cases before the panel, Blumenthal attended oral arguments in the landmark case in late March.
“I predicted, actually from the first day, that they would uphold the law,” Blumenthal said. “I just thought the law is plainly constitutional. People may disagree on the policy and the wisdom, which is a legitimate perspective or point of view, but the constitutionality of the law is clear. There’s a very strong presumption of constitutionality for an validly approved act of Congress.”
Here’s the background on Blumenthal’s decision to keep Connecticut on the sidelines of the case:
March 23, 2010
Blumenthal waits as others plan suits
By Neil Vigdor
Despite a reputation for being the quintessential activist attorney general who has sued Big Tobacco, Microsoft, defectors from the Big East athletic conference and the federal government over No Child Left Behind, Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal isn’t about to mess with Obamacare.
The party favorite to replace fellow Democrat Chris Dodd in the Senate, Blumenthal put out a statement Monday hailing the passage of a $940 billion health care expansion bill late Sunday night by the U.S. House in a party line vote that has inflamed his counterparts in many states.
Virginia, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Pennsylvania and Washington have all threatened to sue the federal government over the legislation, which their attorneys general said places an unconstitutional mandate on all Americans to buy health insurance.
“It would be clearly improper to go to court to challenge a proposal before it’s final, ” Blumenthal said in an interview with Greenwich Time. “A measure cannot be challenged until it has legal force.”
The bill is waiting for President Barack Obama to sign it into law and for reconciliation by the Senate, which crafted its original language and must agree to changes made by the House.
Blumenthal took a beating Monday from his Republican foes in the Senate race, who called on him to fight back against a federal mandate that they said would kill jobs and infringes on the liberty of individuals.
“Having filed hundreds of junk lawsuits threatening Connecticut businesses for years, it is time for Attorney General Blumenthal to file his first lawsuit that will actually create jobs and challenge this trillion dollar government takeover of our health care, ” said former Rep. Rob Simmons, R-Stonington. Fellow Republican Linda McMahon, the former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment, took a similar swipe at Blumenthal.
“Attorney General Blumenthal, as both a U.S. Senate candidate and Connecticut’s attorney general, has a responsibility to take a stand against this congressional overreach and fight to protect Connecticut taxpayers and small business owners from the devastating tax increases and cuts to Medicare that are centerpieces of this legislation, ” McMahon said.
Blumenthal wouldn’t speak to the constitutionality of the insurance mandate, saying he hasn’t been asked by the governor’s office or the General Assembly for such a legal opinion yet.
Blumenthal said Connecticut does not have a state law similar to Virginia’s prohibiting insurance mandates.
“The Virginia action is premised on the conflict between state and federal law, ” Blumenthal said. “Connecticut lacks the same legal basis. Connecticut may have to pass a law for a challenge to be brought.”
Blumenthal didn’t shut the door completely to a legal challenge, however.
If the Senate were to restore several highly controversial provisions that the were stripped from the bill by the House, including a $100 million earmark for Medicaid expansion in Nebraska dubbed as the “Cornhusker Kickback, ” Blumenthal said all bets could be off.
“We would certainly review whether there are grounds there to challenge it legally because it is certainly disgraceful and abhorrent as a matter of public policy, ” Blumenthal said.
Democrats say that the current version of the bill extends coverage to the 32 million uninsured Americans, helps defray health care costs for seniors on Medicare and stops insurance companies from turning away customers based on pre-existing medical conditions.
“Every year my office intervenes on behalf of several hundred Connecticut citizens denied health care coverage for life-saving or life-changing treatments — because of alleged pre-existing conditions or simply because they got sick, ” Blumenthal said in his statement. “This bill immediately ends such appalling abuses and others, including cancellation of policies when someone falls ill, and using gender, age and other discriminatory factors to charge higher premiums — measures that will finally protect infants and children with chronic illnesses, seniors, women and others.”
First elected as attorney general in 1990, Blumenthal helped Connecticut reap the spoils of a $246 billion multistate tobacco settlement in 1998.
Overlapping with the tobacco litigation, Blumenthal was a key player in a multistate anti-trust lawsuit brought against tech giant Microsoft over barriers it put in place for computer manufacturers to use rival software. The lawsuit opened the door for the manufacturers to use non-Microsoft products, but resulted in a court overturning an order for the company to split up.
In 2003, Blumenthal, working on behalf of the University of Connecticut, Rutgers, Pittsburgh and West Virginia universities, slapped Boston College and the University of Miami with a lawsuit for leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference. A settlement was later reached between the two sides.
Blumenthal raised even more eyebrows in 2005, when he sued the federal government over testing requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act, which he argued imposed an unfunded mandate on the state. The lawsuit was dismissed.
Staff writer Neil Vigdor can be reached at email@example.com or at 203-625-4436.