Majority Republicans were divided Wednesday as the Arizona Senate rejected a states' rights measure to create a nullification process that the state could use to declare federal laws such as the health care overhaul unconstitutional.
The Senate's vote on the bill Wednesday was 12-18, though one of the "no" votes was cast by the bill's sponsor for tactical reasons.
The bill would have created a legislative commission to review federal laws, mandates and executive orders and to recommend that the full Legislature nullify those deemed to violate state sovereignty.
Republican Sen. Lori Klein of Anthem voted against her own bill when it was clear it would fail with eight other Republicans and nine Senate Democrats voting against it. Klein voted against the bill to allow her to ask for a re-vote later.
Klein's bill does not specifically cite the health care overhaul, but she and another supporter of the bill cited "Obamacare" as an example of federal constitutional overreaching.
"If you're not willing to support this bill, I guess Obamacare is OK for you," said Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa. "If we don't take back our sovereignty ... I guess we have no ability to complain."
While supporters argued for passage, opponents offered few comments during the vote.
However, two Republican senators who voted against the bill later responded to a question e-mailed by The Associated Press as the Senate continued its floor work.
"Basically the state Legislature does not have the prerogative to declare what is constitutional," Sen. John McComish, R-Phoenix, replied in an e-mail. "If we did what this bill proposes it would just be an exercise with no authority.
Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, said he voted against the bill because the state and individuals can already go to court to challenge the constitutionality of federal laws.
Yarbrough, an attorney, also questioned the validity of a state determination that its residents don't have to abide by a federal law.
Yarbrough cited the possibility that the nullification commission could find the federal income tax law to be unconstitutional. "Good luck being the citizen who relies on that determination," he said.