Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Monday asked Minnesota's Democratic attorney general to join several other states suing to block a federal requirement that people get health insurance.
The request came a day after the U.S. House approved a landmark overhaul of health care that would, in part, require almost everyone to obtain health insurance or pay a fine starting in 2014.
Pawlenty, a potential presidential candidate, made the request of Attorney General Lori Swanson by letter, treading lightly because he doesn't have the authority to force her to take legal action.
"It appears Congress may be overstepping its bounds by forcing individuals or businesses to buy insurance," he wrote. "I respectfully request that you review the legal issues being raised by this unprecedented federal mandate and join other attorneys general to protect the constitutional rights of our citizens."
Swanson's spokesman said she would not comment until she reviews the massive House bill.
Swanson's campaign Web site says she has distributed tens of thousands of pamphlets calling for universal health care. The pamphlet -- "Universal Health Care/Just Do It" -- says in part, "we need to stand behind the President if we are to finally get any reform of the health care system."
Pawlenty's opposition to the health care overhaul was seconded by Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature, who planned a news conference Tuesday to press Swanson to act against the federal legislation.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., introduced legislation in the House that would repeal the health care bill, which she described as a "monstrosity."
Democrats who run the state House and Senate rebuffed GOP efforts to force Swanson to initiate a lawsuit Monday. The move was turned back on a procedural vote in the House; the Senate rejected it on a straight up-and-down vote.
"Why would we want to waste the attorney general's money? It's quite clear in federal law that the federal government can regulate interstate commerce," said Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL- Duluth, during the House debate. "This is definitely interstate commerce."
Rep. Marty Seifert, a GOP candidate for governor, said Minnesota lawmakers should take a stand against the health bill. He said forcing people to pay penalties for not carrying insurance would be unconstitutional.
"For the ability to breathe and to exist as a human being under our Constitution, you are going to be fined by the federal government if you choose not to purchase health insurance," said Seifert, of Marshall.
Huntley said the state could get about $330 million from the federal bill over the next 14 months to pay for health care for low-income and single adults.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)