RALEIGH/LEGISLATIVE BUILDING—The N.C. House voted 66-50 in favor of House Bill 2 on Wednesday, supporting legislation that would exempt the state’s citizens from the federal health insurance mandate and force Attorney General Roy Cooper to join legislation that challenges the law.

The vote broke down party lines after a fierce three-hour debate that focused on the constitutionality of the federal law and the rights of citizens to spend their dollars as they chose compared to the need for universal health coverage that doesn’t add to the deficit.

The bill, “Protect Health Care Freedom,” now moves to the N.C. Senate.

House Majority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, one of four primary sponsors, equated the health care bill to forcing colonists to drink tea and pay a tax.

“More than anything this bill is about what you think about yourself,” he said. “Are you a citizen or are you a child, are you a ward of the state?”

Democrats argued that the legislation was rushed and unnecessary, noting that the issue is already being reviewed in federal courts and that North Carolina, whether it signs on as a plaintiff or not, will be subject to the decisions.

“I find it disappointing that we are taking our time here in North Carolina to address an issue that is already in the federal courts,” said Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange. “There is no outcome that will result except possible unintended consequences.”

They also said the public should have been allowed to comment during committee meetings. Republicans said the legislation was a key platform plank and that citizens are already aware of the bill and have spoken on it on the campaign trail.

House Minority Leader Joe Hackney asked Republicans to offer a better health care plan, not just defeat the one passed by U.S. Congress. They did not have one.

Meanwhile in Washington, the U.S. Senate defeated legislation today that would have repealed the health care reform law.