(Corrects to state House passed a bill, not an amendment,
By Harriet McLeod
CHARLESTON, S.C., March 20 South Carolina
lawmakers failed to derail implementation of President Barack
Obama's signature health care law in the state when a measure
was defeated in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Last year, the state House passed a bill that nullified the
law by calling for criminal penalties for anyone who sought to
enforce it. Late Wednesday night, however, Senators voted 33-9
to defeat an amendment regarding the Affordable Care Act,
commonly known as Obamacare.
The amendment would have banned state agencies and employees
from helping to carry out the health care law. It would have
required healthcare navigators who help people sign up for
health insurance to be licensed by the state.
Republican supporters argued they wanted to prevent the
federal government from "commandeering" state resources in order
to make the law work.
The effort was being followed closely by Republican
lawmakers in other states looking for ways to defeat the health
insurance legislation, which was passed in 2010 and survived
legal challenges all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In striking down the measure, South Carolina Lt. Gov. Glenn
McConnell, the Senate president and a Republican, cited
procedural rules that required the Senate to follow the original
House bill's aim without adding new issues.
Democratic Senator Bradley Hutto said efforts to nullify the
law would invite a federal lawsuit against the state.
"Nullification is a concept that is legally dead. It's
fraught with issues," Hutto said.
"We've been down that road before," Democratic Senator John
Matthews Jr. said, referring to South Carolina's nullification
of federal laws in the years before the U.S. Civil War, whose
first shots were fired in the state.
"It didn't work then and it's not going to work now," he
About six states have barred their employees from helping
implement Obamacare, according to Richard Cauchi, the healthcare
program director for the nonpartisan National Conference of
State Legislatures. At least eight states, including two that
support the healthcare reforms, have regulated navigators, he
(Editing by Kevin Gray and Grant McCool)