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Nevada officials at odds over healthcare law

Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons hires outside counsel when Democratic Atty. Gen. Catherine Cortez Masto declines to join a legal challenge.

April 07, 2010|By Ashley Powers

Reporting from Las Vegas — Nevada's Republican governor and Democratic attorney general are prime examples of the partisan bickering over the new healthcare law in recent weeks, with the pair publicly warring over whether the state should join a lawsuit attempting to thwart the legislation.

On Tuesday, they took steps toward a potential constitutional cage match.

Gov. Jim Gibbons announced he would sidestep Atty. Gen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who had declined to join more than a dozen states in challenging the healthcare law's constitutionality, and retain private counsel for the effort.

"This healthcare nationalization plan is illegal because it is unconstitutional," Gibbons said in a statement.

Cortez Masto, who agrees with scholars who say a successful legal challenge is a long shot, said Gibbons had no authority to name outside counsel. "My office is now in the regrettable position of having to consider the necessary legal options to take in response," she said in a statement.

Similar spats have unfolded in other states since President Obama signed the healthcare bill last month. In Nevada, the clash has distinctly political dimensions.

Gibbons faces a tough GOP primary in June. In recent months, he has amped up his conservative rhetoric, and polls show the gap between him and front-runner Brian Sandoval shrinking.

On Tuesday, Gibbons needled Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who helped guide the bill through Congress and who also faces a reelection battle. Gibbons called the bill the "Reid/Pelosi/Obama Nationalized Healthcare Law."

Reid spokesman Jon Summers countered in a statement: "Rather than fighting to protect big insurance companies, Gov. Gibbons should join Sen. Reid in fighting for Nevada consumers."

ashley.powers@

latimes.com

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