Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said Thursday he had no interest in joining a multi-state lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's immigration policy, and he would only join a multi-state lawsuit against opioid manufacturers as a last resort.
But Schimel said his office was taking the lead on a multi-state suit that seeks to overturn the Affordable Care Act, a move he conceded would end protections for people with preexisting conditions.
The immigration lawsuit filed this week in federal court describes the Trump administration's policy of refusing asylum and separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border as "cruel" and "unlawful." While Trump ended the practice of separating families on June 20, the lawsuit says that does not address the families who were already separated.
A total of 17 states have joined the lawsuit, but Wisconsin is not among them.
"Just to be clear, we weren't asked," Schimel said at a Wispolitics forum in Madison. "And no, I don't have an interest in that because immigration is a federal issue and the impact on our state's minimal."
Schimel accused Democratic attorneys general of filing federal lawsuits that meet "the very definition of activism," saying the cases he got involved with were more pertinent to Wisconsin.
While he was less critical of lawsuits by states and local governments around the U.S. against opioid manufacturers, Schimel said he was reluctant to have Wisconsin join their efforts.
Wisconsin is currently part of a multi-state investigation of opioid makers. A lawsuit, Schimel said, could undermine that probe.
"I'd prefer to go the route we're going because once you file a lawsuit, now you start all the legal manipulations, and lawsuits like that can take four, six, eight, 10 years to get to a resolution," Schimel said. "Right now these settlement talks give us the ability to potentially get some help right now when we need it."
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Schimel has been far more willing to join other federal litigation, including multi-state suits against former President Barack Obama's plans to reduce carbon emissions and increase overtime pay for workers. He's currently part of a multi-state lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
The last time the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act's "individual mandate," it did so in part because of the law's tax penalties for people who don't buy insurance. Now that Republicans have ended those penalties, Schimel said he thinks the court will strike the rest of the law down.
"Without the individual mandate it all fails," Schimel said.
Pressed on whether that would also end the ACA's protections for people with preexisting conditions, Schimel said it would.
"It's not going to be able to stand," Schimel said. "We've asked the court to stay Obamacare across the board."
Schimel will face Democrat Josh Kaul in the November election. Kaul issued a statement criticizing Schimel's remarks on the ACA.
"Our current Attorney General has made clear that he’s just fine with having health-insurance companies deny coverage to people because they have a pre-existing condition," Kaul said. "I’m not. Our AG should be working to improve the lives of Wisconsinites, not using our tax dollars to try to put more power into the hands of health-insurance companies."
Schimel also said he hoped the president and U.S. Senate would nominate and confirm a new U.S. Supreme Court justice to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy before the November election, not after.