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Originally published Monday, November 29, 2010 at 3:34 PM

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Seattle's lawsuit over state attorney general's authority to sue feds is political

The Seattle Times editorial board sees mostly political ambitions in a case at the Washington Supreme Court between the city of Seattle and Attorney General Rob McKenna.

SEATTLE'S case against Attorney General Rob McKenna at the Washington Supreme Court would be more believable if it were less political.

Supposedly the argument is about whether McKenna has the power to sign the state of Washington's name to a lawsuit against the new federal health-insurance law.

The city of Seattle argues that McKenna cannot commit the state on his own but has to do what other officials say.

He argues that he is elected by the people and can act in their name.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, who was attorney general before McKenna, argues that he can sue as Rob McKenna, attorney general, but not as the state of Washington unless she allows it or the Legislature does.

His position is the simplest, and makes the most sense to us. Watching the fight, however, we sense less interest in defining the powers of the attorney general than in posturing before voters.

He is being a good Republican to attack the health-insurance law, and his opponents are being good Democrats to defend it. They also aim to inflict pre-emptive damage on him, because he is expected to run for governor in 2012.

All of this is a sideshow to the case in Florida, where Republican state attorneys general are arguing that the federal government has no constitutional power to require Americans to buy health insurance. That question will ultimately be decided at the U.S. Supreme Court, whether the state of Washington's name is on it or not.

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