BOISE, Idaho - Idaho became the first state to pass legislation aimed at defeating a congressional proposal being pushed by President Barack Obama that would require citizens to buy federal health insurance.
The bill, signed by Idaho Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter at a ceremony on Wednesday afternoon, would require the state's attorney general to sue the U.S. government over any federal insurance mandate forced on Idaho residents.
Virginia legislators passed a similar measure last week, but Otter became the first governor to sign a bill into law.
Thirty-seven states have similar legislation pending, despite warnings by some constitutional law experts who said that U.S. district court judges would likely rule that federal law supersedes state laws.
Nonetheless, the fact that 37 states are ready to fight for the rights of their citizens is indicative of the widespread opposition to the president's health care plan.
"What the Idaho Health Freedom Act says is that the citizens of our state won't be subject to another federal mandate or turn over another part of their life to government control," Otter told reporters on Wednesday.
"The 'ivory tower' folks will tell you, 'No, they're not going anywhere," the governor said. "But I'll tell you what - you get 36 states, that's a critical mass. That's a constitutional mass," he said.
The D.C.-based American Legislative Exchange Council, a nonprofit organization promoting limited government, drafted the model bill for Idaho and other states opposing the Obama health care plan.
"Congress is planning to force an unconstitutional mandate on the states," said Christie Herrera, the group's health task force director.
Idaho Democrats, who make up less than a fourth of the state's legislators, opposed the bill and said any lawsuits that might result would be "frivolous."
On Wednesday evening, White House spokesman Reid Cherlin declined to comment on the bill's passage.