Will Gov. Pawlenty Take Legal Action Against Health Care Reform Law on His Own?

Published April 09, 2010

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This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 8, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: Is Minnesota number 20? So far, 19 states are suing the federal government over health care. Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty wants to join that group. So? Well, Governor Pawlenty does join us live. Good evening, Governor.

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY, R - MINN.: Hey, Greta. How are you?

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm very well. So Governor, I've seen a copy of this letter that your state attorney general has written you, this three-page letter in which she says she's not going to be joining. In fact, she's going to write an amicus brief on the other side of the issue. So now what?

PAWLENTY: Well, "now what" is we specifically asked her, though, to give me permission to sue on my own, and she's done that. So I'm either going to file a brief in my capacity, individual capacity as governor, or I'll start my own lawsuit. And that's what we're reviewing right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So when would you expect to -- if you're going to latch onto the Florida suit or file your own, when would you expect that filing would happen?

PAWLENTY: Fairly soon. You know, this lawsuit's going to take a while, so we don't have to do it immediately. But we'll be making some decisions and taking some actions probably within the next week or two, at least make the initial steps in that regard.

But you know, she -- she, unfortunately, decided not to sue on behalf of the state of Minnesota. In fact, she's going to side with President Obama in this. I'm going to take the other side. That's the way the chips fall. But at least she gave me the authority, and I needed that under Minnesota law to initiate my own action or to file an amicus brief.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's sort of interesting. She laid out the reason -- the legal reasoning that she gave for why she wasn't going to join. But if you carefully read it, she does sort of slap the other side. She says, in fact, in this letter -- I've got a copy of it -- she said, Seven minutes after President Obama signed the first bill into law, March 23rd, 2010, 12 Republican attorneys generals and the attorney general -- and she goes on -- go to file. She obviously put that seven minutes in as sort of a slap to the other side. That's sort of -- that's a jab.

So is there some sort of lingering hostility between the two of you or even the whole concept of you going to court?

PAWLENTY: No, there's not hostility between the two of us. She just has a different legal view of it and a different political view. And look, if there's 15 or more attorney generals across the state (SIC) who are smart people with good legal experience who said there's merit to bringing this kind of claim -- there are respected law professors, including one in Michigan the other day, who said that this type of lawsuit from my perspective has merit. And of course, it depends on how the courts rule, but we believe that this has got a meritorious basis and we're going to bring it forward.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, in her letter, she does say that the filing is partisan, and so she thinks it is political. You may not think it's political, but she certainly does on page three of her letter. So -- but she's given you the green light to file. So you know, that's sort of interesting. So what about this lawsuit? Why are you joining it? Because even if you don't join and even if the attorney generals who have filed win, you still have the benefit of their victory, should they win.

PAWLENTY: I think this is such an important issue, Greta. It goes to the heart and the cornerstone of one of the founding principles of this country, and that's we're a republic. There's supposed to be a limited federal government. They're supposed to reserve certain powers to the states and to us as individual citizens.

And now you have the federal government going so far as to say, We order you, we direct you, American citizens, to buy a good or a service, in this case health care. And if you don't do it, we're going to fine you. That's a dramatic overreach by our federal government. It's another example of them reaching further and further into our lives. And I think it's incumbent upon all of us, individual citizens, governors, others who feel the same way to rise up and say, We've had enough of that and we're fighting back. Knock it off.

If that's through the elections, great. If that's through the courts, great. But I'm part of a movement that says, Enough is enough. We're fighting back.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I'm not so bold as to guess how this is going to be decided. I've oftentimes gone into the courtroom and thought a judge was going to rule a particular way and been sorely surprised as I walked out of the courtroom. So I'm not going to be so bold as to guess how this one will be decided. But it doesn't sort of escape me that the people who have filed are all Republicans, with the sole exception of the attorney general in Louisiana is a Democrat. I think he's probably the only -- is he the only Democrat who has joined this?

PAWLENTY: As far as I know. You know, of course, there's probably some political overtones to it, but I think it's also, frankly, Greta, philosophical. We have a group of people like me who view the federal government should have a limited role. There's a bunch of people who have a different view. And that's what the courts are for, to hash out these differences. So let's get it on.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there -- do you expect or do you expect the attorneys general in Florida, the ones who have signed -- or who have filed, even, like, governor of Arizona who is going by herself forward -- do you expect to ask for expedited consideration to really move this? Because this is the kind of proceedings that could be -- it could be decided quite quickly after everyone's briefed it, or it could linger from now until eternity if it gets caught in the court system.

PAWLENTY: Yes, in legal terms, it's called something in the nature of a declaratory judgment. In other words, the facts really aren't in dispute. We don't have to go out and gather up the facts and take a bunch of discovery or do a bunch of investigation. They're pretty plain and simple and clear to everyone. The law, the statute that passed, the "Obamacare" that passed, is clear. So all the court has to really do is receive the briefs and make a legal decision. It should be handled pretty quickly. But whichever way it goes, of course, there'll likely be appeals, and that will add to the time.

And then I'm also just concerned about the financial aspects of this. You know, our country is going broke, and we've got to get to the point where there's enough people in this country who realize that and say, Stop the spending. And this bill, sure as we're on this television show, is going to spend more money than we have to pay for it. It's going to make our debt and our deficit worse. And we've got to draw a line in the sand and say, No more of that. And this is one more encroachment on that, as well as the legal concerns.

VAN SUSTEREN: And Governor, I should add that you're the tease for a segment we're going to do in a little while in which we're going to talk exactly about that, the CBO. The director of the CBO had something to say about our unsustainable debt. Governor, thank you. And of course, we'll be watching to see when you make it number 20. Thank you, sir.

PAWLENTY: Great. Thank you, Greta.

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