Republicans Offer Bill to Allow States to Opt-Out of Obamacare

By Matt Cover | February 1, 2011 | 2:47 PM EST

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

Washington ( – Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and John Barrasso (Wyo.) introduced a bill on Tuesday that would allow states to opt out of any part of the controversial new health care law, known as Obamacare, including the individual and employer insurance mandates.

Those mandates require individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty, or an employer to provide insurance or pay a penalty.

Senator Graham was unequivocal in describing the new bill as a “third front” against the unpopular reform, saying he hoped enough states would opt out to effectively kill the law.

“The way I would describe this is we’re opening up a third front in the challenges to Obama health care,” Graham said at a Capitol Hill press conference.

“The first front is the lawsuits in courts; different states are filing lawsuits in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate,” said Graham. “The House passed a repeal of the Obama health care bill in total, that’s a [second] front. That bill is now in the Senate. Senator DeMint (R-S.C.) and I think about every Republican will vote for repeal and replace the House version. This is a third front.”

The simple, four-page State Health Care Choice Act would allow states to opt out of any or all of the portions of Obamacare that affect them, including the individual and employer insurance mandates, as well as the Medicaid changes that would add millions of people to a health care program originally intended only for the very poor.

Graham was clear that if a majority of states opt out of Obamacare’s mandates and penalties, then, “The bill would fall and we’d have to replace it with something that makes more sense.”

In a bit of political foreshadowing, Graham pledged that Republicans would force debate on this bill at every opportunity, vowing it would be offered “every time” the Senate voted on something.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)

Under Senate rules, any senator may offer any amendment to a bill during debate, regardless of whether the amendment has anything at all to do with the bill being debated. The only exceptions are bills that are brought up under expedited budget rules known as reconciliation. Under reconciliation, amendments must be relevant to the budget bill being considered.


“If we’re going to be voting on naming a Post Office this year, you’re going to be voting on this,” said Graham. “We’re going to bring this up every time we can to make sure that the Senate is on record as to whether or not states should have the ability to opt out and choose their own paths when it comes to Obama health care.”

Senator Barrasso, also a medical doctor, said that the “number one goal is to repeal and replace this health care law,” adding, “if Senator [Harry] Reid is so proud of this piece of legislation, you’d think he would welcome that vote [on repeal and replace].”

So far, 27 states have filed lawsuits in federal court alleging that the individual and employer mandates are unconstitutional. A federal judge ruled Monday in favor of 26 of those states, declaring the entire Obamacare law unconstitutional after finding that the federal government did not have the authority to force people to buy health insurance.

In December, another federal judge in Virginia also ruled that the individual insurance mandate was unconstitutional. Virginia had filed its own lawsuit.