Court date: Pa. Senate panel moves to block federal health mandate

    The U.S. Supreme Court is set to discuss the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act at the end of the month.

    Wednesday, state senators in Pennsylvania issued their own opinion.

    At issue is the federal health law’s mandate that most Americans buy insurance or face a financial penalty.

    Sen. Joseph Scarnati, R-Jefferson, wants to amend Pennsylvania’s Constitution to block it.

    “What this is really about is giving Pennsylvanians the ability to go to the polls and to vote how they feel about being mandated by the federal government on this issue,” Scarnati said. “I think that will be a very, very clear message to the administration, to Congress and to the courts.”

    The proposal prevailed in the Republican-controlled insurance committee but it is only a first step in a very long process.

    A state constitutional amendment needs approval in two legislative sessions and a public vote.

    Even if it’s a symbolic vote, symbolism matters, Scarnati said. 

    But Sen. Michael Stack, D-Philadelphia, says this particular gesture is a waste of time.

    “At the end of the day, I think it’s really just grandstanding to talk about making a law unconstitutional before it’s taken effect,” Stack said. “I really think this is inspired by folks, maybe from the tea party, who hate the federal government and they want less government at all costs.”

    Stack said federal law will trump state law. Either way, he said, the U.S. Supreme court will have the final word.

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