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The “Repeal The Bill” Movement Begins

Before health care was signed into law, House and Senate Republicans released bills calling for its full repeal. It’ll be amusing to watch these have the same legislative chances as liberal bills not favored by the establishment for years, but get outsized attention and influence.

Mitt Romney, who wrote at National Review that the campaign for repeal “starts today,” actually offered a more realistic take of how Republicans will try to stop the legislation from taking effect – by de-funding it.

The key, he said, is having Republicans reclaim the White House and take majorities in the Senate and the House.

Then, “we can clamp down on this bill … by not funding it,” Romney said during a speech Thursday to hundreds of people gathered at the Hilton Anatole Hotel for the National Center for Policy Analysis’ distinguished lecture series.

Never mind that the bill essentially mirrors what Romney signed into law in Massachusetts – he has to do what he has to do to win the Republican nomination in 2012. And his message is basically: elect me and I will gradually strangle the subsidies.

Some Attorneys General in red states are going a bit further, vowing to challenge the Constitutionality of the bill.

The attorneys general say they will sue once President Obama signs the bill into law. They are pledging to take their battle all the way to the US Supreme Court.

“The health care legislation Congress passed tonight is an assault against the Constitution,” said South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster. “A legal challenge by the states appears to be the only hope of protecting the American people from this unprecedented attack on our system of government,” he said in a statement.

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum issued a similar statement late Sunday. “If the president signs this bill into law, we will file a lawsuit to protect the rights and interests of American citizens,” he said.

The comments came after a Sunday night conference call in which attorneys general from 11 states expressed support for legal action to block the law. In addition to Florida and South Carolina, the participating attorneys general were from Alabama, Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Washington, Utah, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Virginia’s Attorney General will jump the gun on this, saying the state has already passed a law defying the individual mandate (they haven’t; the General Assembly did but it has not been signed into law). But legal experts doubt this will succeed, citing precedent.

The repeal movement does not, in all likelihood, threaten the implementation of the bill, although de-funding it is a possibility if Republicans get a trifecta of the House, Senate and the Presidency sometime soon. Some seem to think that repeal, and state ballot measures dedicated to it, will have a political utility as a conservative wedge issue. So far, Democrats have responded to this by saying “bring it on.” And I can envision smart ways to counteract this, making the debate about the benefits in the bill. But I am not certain they are totally ready for an onslaught by the right.

UPDATE: I erroneously said that Virginia’s Governor hasn’t signed the anti-mandate law; I have been informed he has, there just hasn’t been a public signing ceremony yet. I regret the error.

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David Dayen

David Dayen