Tuesday May 25, 2010

Feds Demand Court Toss Virginia Lawsuit Against Health Care Law

By Peter J. Smith

RICHMOND, Virginia, May 25, 2010 ( – The federal government has requested a U.S. District Court toss out Virginia’s lawsuit against the health care reform law, which the state says conflicts with a statute declaring Virginia residents will not be forced to carry health insurance, saying that the state lacked standing to invoke federal jurisdiction.

The Associated Press reports that the Justice Department filed the motion to dismiss on Monday just hours before the midnight deadline to respond to Virginia’s legal challenge.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius argued that Congress was well within its rights to impose a national health insurance mandate under the interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and said Virginia and other states could not “manufacture its own standing to challenge a federal law by simple expedient of passing a statute purporting to nullify it.”

The new law mandates that all U.S. citizens must purchase health insurance or face a fine starting in 2014.

The federal government further claimed that, because the mandate applies “only to individuals, not the state government,” the commonwealth has no standing to pursue the case. Officials also insisted that Congress had broad authority to issue the mandate, which it called “essential” to the whole scheme of the health care reform law.

In a statement following the filing of the motion, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli stated: “We are still looking through the motion and 39-page brief that we received late Monday, but at initial glance, this is pretty close to what we expected.” Cuccinelli has until June 7 to respond to the motion.

Virginia had been the first state to fire a warning shot against the federal government over constitutional overreach as the health care bill was impending, by passing a bill declaring any federal mandate to require individuals to purchase health insurance null and void in the commonwealth.

The law states that, within Virginia, “No law shall restrict a person’s natural right and power of contract to secure the blessings of liberty to choose private health care systems or private plans.”

Within eight hours of the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Cuccinelli filed suit in U.S. District Court in Richmond alleging that the Constitution does not permit the federal government to force citizens to buy a product.

“At no time in our history has the government mandated its citizens buy a good or service,” said Cuccinelli at the time of the filing. “We believe the federal law is unconstitutional as it is based on the commerce clause. Simply put, not buying insurance is not engaging in commerce.”

Well over a dozen attorneys general have followed Virginia’s lead by filing their own group lawsuit with the U.S. District Court in Pensacola, Florida, contending that the insurance mandate exceeds the limited scope of the powers granted to the federal government under Article I of the US Constitution.

Furthermore, they assert that the mandate violates the prohibition against the direct taxation of individuals outlined in Article I, sections 2 and 9 of the Constitution, and also invoke the Tenth Amendment reserving to states all powers not delegated to the federal government.

See related coverage by

New States Join Courtroom Revolt Against ObamaCare

President Signs Health Care Bill into Law, 12 States Immediately Sue

Virginia, Idaho Herald War of the States against Federal Government over Health Care


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