Quietly, Democratic lawmakers have already moved to make it harder for Attorney General Rob McKenna to spend money suing the federal government over health care.
The reaction to the Republican lawman joining a 13-state attack on President Obama’s health care bill has come swiftly. Not only are Democrats considering a budget proviso blocking the lawsuit, but McKenna already faces new controls on his spending.
Office of Financial Management Director Victor Moore sent a letter Tuesday revoking McKenna’s blanket exemption to a freeze on state contracts. The exemption, which Moore had granted days earlier, allowed the attorney general’s office to pay private attorneys, expert witnesses, mediators and others without approval from the bean counters in the governor’s office.
But legislators, including House Ways and Means Chairwoman Kelli Linville, raised concerns that McKenna might use that authority to spend money on the health care lawsuit, prompting Moore’s action.
Now the governor’s financial office will scrutinize every request for outside spending.
A spokesman for the attorney general’s office said it has no intention of going outside the agency for help on the health care lawsuit. The lead state on the lawsuit, Florida, will put in most of the work. The attorney general will put his name behind it and may contribute occasional work by lawyers in his office, but at minimal cost, spokesman Dan Sytman said.
But Linville said no one can be sure what will be spent on the lawsuit: “I don’t think we know. That’s why we asked the governor to rescind that part of the exemption.”