OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The Oklahoma House moved Wednesday to declare the federal health care law "null and void" in the state, approving a bill over the objection of Democrats who argued it was nothing more than a political statement.
The House voted 72-20 for the bill by Republican Rep. Mike Ritze, a Broken Arrow physician and a fierce opponent of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which he frequently refers to as "Obamacare."
Although the law was approved by Congress and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, Ritze maintains the measure is unconstitutional and opposed by a majority of Oklahomans.
The bill states that two separate bills passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in 2010 are "hereby declared to be invalid in the state of Oklahoma."
"Laws are unconstitutional when they're not pursuant to the enumerated powers," Ritze said. "This is a political statement. We are just doing the will of the people when they voted in 2010."
In response to opposition to the federal health care law, the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2010 sent to a public vote an amendment to the state Constitution that prohibits forcing a person or health care provider to participate in a health care system. The proposal passed with nearly 65 percent of the vote.
Opponents of the bill argued it was pointless to pass a statute when Oklahoma already amended its constitution to reject the federal health care law.
"This law was put into effect by the United States Congress. It went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, and the Supreme Court said it was constitutional," said Rep. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City. "That's it. Game over."
Provisions were removed from the bill that would have made it a felony punishable by up to five years in prison to enforce the law. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.
Joseph Thai, a constitutional law professor at the University of Oklahoma, said even if the bill were approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor it would have no legal effect.
"The Legislature could also attempt to nullify the federal income tax while it's at it — and to the same (that is, no) legal effect," Thai wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "But political posturing apparently pays off, or else the Legislature wouldn't waste its time on proposals like this that are dead on arrival."
Sean Murphy can be reached at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy