In the latest fallout from last month’s passage of the massive federal health care legislation, a number of Republican Georgia state legislators have called officially for the impeachment of the state’s Democratic attorney general, Thurbert Baker. The reason for this extreme measure? The attorney general disagrees with Republican state officials calling for the Peach State to join in filing a legal challenge to the new law.
Georgia’s lame-duck Republican Governor Sonny Perdue has indicated he will join with some 14 other governors in suing the feds over the mandates contained in the trillion-dollar, multi-thousand page legislation. Last week, shortly after the president signed the legislation into law, Perdue formally requested that Baker initiate steps to follow the lead of Florida’s attorney general and a dozen others already suing Washington. But, after concluding that the law passes constitutional muster and that a legal challenge likely would fail, Baker exercised his discretion and declined the governor’s invitation. (The governor will still be able to mount a challenge, by using outside lawyers.)
Even though 36 governors out of 50 thus far have decided not to join in the constitutional challenge to the health care law, the decision by the Georgia attorney general to cast his lot with that majority is seen by at least several Republicans in the General Assembly as a serious dereliction of his duties as the state’s top lawyer.
As noted in this blog earlier this week, the constitutionality of the health care law needs to be challenged. Notwithstanding the uphill trek such lawsuits face, the extent to which the new law improperly expands federal power over state and individual liberty, requires that its provisions not go unchallenged. However, seeking to punish an attorney, especially a constitutional officer such as a state attorney general, simply because his professional judgment has led him to a contrary conclusion, is highly inappropriate and diminishes the credibility of those advocating such a measure to have their views on the law prevail.