Virginia Republicans try to thwart federal gun, health-care bills

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 13, 2010

RICHMOND -- Emboldened by their November sweep, Virginia Republicans are hoping to use their new power in Richmond to press their opposition to President Obama and Democratic policies in Washington.

As the General Assembly prepares to convene Wednesday, Republicans have introduced a series of bills designed to counter federal policy. The state's new Republican attorney general says he is assembling a legal team with an eye to challenging the federal government in court. And Virginia's newly elected Republican governor said he plans to engage actively in a national conversation about limiting Washington's power.

"I think the federal government is out of control," said House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford). "There's genuine concern, not just from Republicans, but from people who are just concerned citizens. . . . And I believe the message is clear: We better be paying attention."

One bill lawmakers will consider is a measure to make it illegal to require people to buy health insurance, which is designed to invalidate congressional efforts to mandate insurance coverage.

Another would declare that the federal government has no right to regulate as interstate commerce any good or service produced or performed entirely within Virginia. A third would specify that Washington can't regulate guns that are made and sold in the state.

Del. Charles W. Carrico Sr. (R-Grayson), who is sponsoring the gun measure, called it a way to "tell the federal government that we don't want your dictatorship to interfere with our Second Amendment rights."

"Dictatorship might be a little harsh," he allowed when asked about the phrase. "But socialism isn't."

The anti-Washington sentiment is playing out in other states where Republicans are in charge. Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) said last week that his state will sue the federal government over Democratic health-care legislation if it becomes law.

Virginia's outgoing attorney general, William C. Mims, joined his counterparts in South Carolina, Colorado, Alabama and nine other states in sending a letter to congressional leaders late last month with the same pledge.

And, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, members of at least 18 legislatures are submitting bills that would oppose or limit all or parts of federal health-care reform efforts.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) wrote a column posted to a state Web site Monday calling for a constitutional amendment requiring that the federal government pass a balanced budget.

Such stances could pressure Democratic leaders in Washington and frighten members of Congress facing reelection in November. The action in Virginia could be particularly potent, given that Republicans were overwhelmingly elected in November, it's a swing state and it's just across the Potomac River from Washington.

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