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March 25, 2010
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Gibbons, Masto spar over suing feds

Gov. Jim Gibbons on Wednesday directed Nevada's attorney general to sue the federal government over health care reform, intensifying Republican pressure on Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto to file the lawsuit.

Masto, in a response issued late in the day, said she wouldn't be pressured to act swiftly.

Gibbons said Nevada law gives him authority to direct the attorney general to take legal action to protect and secure the interest of the state.

"There is no question that the recently passed health care act eviscerates the interests of the state," the Republican governor wrote in a letter to the attorney general.

Masto fired back that she has the responsibility to decide how and when litigation is conducted.

"I must be satisfied in my own professional judgment that the case has merit and should be filed," she said.

She reiterated her previous statement that her office would conduct a legal analysis before deciding whether to take action.

"If this office institutes litigation against the federal government, that lawsuit will have a solid basis in law and will be able to withstand the scrutiny of the federal court," she wrote. "Anything less would be a disservice to the citizens of Nevada and would be a waste of taxpayers' dollars."

Obama has signed the nearly $1 trillion health care overhaul bill. Attorneys general in more than a dozen states filed suits to stop the move.

Gibbons and other Republican elected officials and political candidates argue the federal law usurps state's rights, includes unfunded mandates that will cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, and is unconstitutional because it requires people to obtain health insurance.

Administration officials have said the governor's office would pursue legal action on its own if Masto declines.

Daniel Burns, a spokesman for Gibbons, reiterated the governor's position that under Nevada statutes the attorney general must take legal action.

"However, the governor would be stunned and disappointed if the attorney general refuses to protect the freedoms and rights of Nevada citizens," Burns said in an e-mail.

Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., also urged Masto to file suit Tuesday, saying he was concerned that Nevada taxpayers would be forced to "offset the difference" in increased costs for select states.

On Wednesday, Masto asked Heller to provide her office with more information about the health care act.

"We are in the process of conducting due diligence in preparation for our decision," Masto wrote. "Part of that due diligence requires specificity with the facts, not generalizations. As a congressman, you have a much more intimate understanding of the language in the Act, which could assist my office in its preparations."

Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader and a key architect of the health reform package, used the signing by Obama on Tuesday to try to boost fundraising and their conservative credentials.

GOP candidates Sue Lowden, John Chachas, Danny Tarkanian and Sharron Angle all condemned the bill. Tarkanian announced the formation of a petition drive for a state constitutional amendment guaranteeing what he says would be health care freedom.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Mar 25, 2010 01:27PM Published Mar 25, 2010 01:26PM Copyright 2010 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.