State Attorney General Roy Cooper says a North Carolina challenge to the federal health care overhaul is "unenforceable" and could endanger federal health care funding to the state.
"State legislatures cannot pick and choose which federal laws the state will obey," Cooper, a Democrat, wrote in a sharply worded letter to Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue and the Republican legislative leadership.
The Cooper letter apparently caused Perdue - who had been signaling that she did not want to pick a fight with the GOP legislature on the issue - to give closer consideration to vetoing the health care bill.
"The fate of the bill is a lot less certain now," said Chrissy Pearson, the governor's spokeswoman. "We will ask more questions and confer with the legislative leadership. Clearly, we have some work to do over the next 10 days."
That is the time the governor has to decide whether to veto a bill before it becomes law.
Earlier this week, the Republican-dominated legislature passed a bill that would make North Carolina the 27th state to challenge the constitutionality of a health care law passed last year by a Democratic Congress at the urging of President Barack Obama. Two federal judges have declared parts of the law unconstitutional, while other judges have upheld it. The issue likely will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Republicans criticized Cooper's stance.
"The attorney general should be defending the constitutional rights of North Carolinians, not the political interests of Barack Obama and national Democrats," Senate leader Phil Berger said. "We disagree with his opinion and don't think states should bow down when the federal government passes unconstitutional laws."
In passing the challenge, the legislature instructed Cooper, the state's chief lawyer, to represent North Carolina in challenging the law.
But Cooper said that North Carolina can't opt out of the health care law, any more than it can opt out of using body scanners or pat-downs at airports.
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