When Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi decided in February to join her Republican counterparts in 19 other states in a lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act, it didn’t make headlines. But that was before this month’s decision from the Trump administration not to fight the lawsuit.
If the lawsuit prevails, Obamacare’s core guarantee — access to health insurance for Americans with pre-existing conditions — will disappear, along with other provisions in the law. This is a serious threat for Florida, where 1.7 million people enrolled in the federal health-insurance exchange last year to buy policies under the law. More than 90 percent of them received federal subsidies to lower their premium costs.
Taking aim at the law, when there is no backup in place, is a reckless partisan act by Bondi that mocks the description of her in her official biography as “an advocate for Florida’s consumers” who has “worked tirelessly to protect the rights and safety of Floridians.” The lawsuit demonstrates more loyalty to her two dozen pals in the Republican Attorneys General Association than to those 1.7 million Floridians.
Gov. Rick Scott launched his political career as a critic of the Affordable Care Act, but even he has tried to distance himself from Bondi’s lawsuit. In a statement issued this week by his U.S. Senate campaign, Scott said, “Obamacare is a disaster and costs way too much, but keeping pre-existing provisions should be a part of any health-care reform. I disagree with efforts to dismantle protections for those with pre-existing conditions.”
Scott’s office also denied he had anything to do with filing the lawsuit, attributing the decision to Bondi, “an independently elected official.” But it’s hard to imagine that the attorney general, a close political ally of the governor’s, would have joined the lawsuit over his opposition.
By filing suit to overturn the law, the Republican attorneys general are doing what their party often accuses Democrats of doing: going to court to try to accomplish what they can’t get done through the political process. Even with control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, Republicans fell short in their efforts to repeal Obamacare.
Since her first election in 2010 as Florida’s attorney general, Bondi has regularly joined her Republican counterparts in other states in challenging Democratic laws or policies through lawsuits or court briefs. That includes in 2015, when she joined the multi-state lawsuit against the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, designed to reduce heat-trapping carbon emissions, though Florida is among the states most vulnerable to sea-level rise and other consequences of climate change.
Also in 2015, Bondi joined a lawsuit against new federal rules intended to enhance protection for wetlands — an issue especially vital in Florida, which has more wetlands than any other state except Alaska.
And in 2014, she joined other GOP attorneys general in signing a brief that argued Connecticut’s ban on certain kinds of semiautomatic weapons, passed by state lawmakers after the massacre of elementary school children in Newtown, was unconstitutional.
Ideally, Bondi would withdraw Florida from the Affordable Care Act lawsuit — especially since her own governor has expressed his reservations.
But with her tenure as attorney general ending in January, her record begs a question for the Republicans and Democrats running to succeed her: Will you continue to join multi-state lawsuits, even when they fly in the face of Florida’s best interests?
This editorial comes to us from The Orlando Sentinel.