Written by: Best Company, Inc.
Virginia’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal health reform act may proceed, a federal judge ruled in dismissing a motion from the Obama administration to dismiss the case.
U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson said there is sufficient grounds for Commonwealth of Virginia v. Kathleen Sebelius, Virginia’s complaint against a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requires individuals to have insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty. “Although this case is laden with public-policy implications and has a distinctive political undercurrent, at this stage the sole issues before the court are subject-matter jurisdiction and the legal sufficiency of the complaint,” Hudson wrote in a 32-page opinion.
“This lawsuit is not about health care; it’s about our freedom and about standing up and calling on the federal government to follow the ultimate law of the land — the Constitution,” Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli said in a statement.
Lawyers representing U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius argued that Congress has the right to regulate commerce, and the law is a valid use of its taxing and spending power. Additionally, the administration argued, Virginia lacks standing to challenge the federal law on behalf of state residents, as they are also federal citizens.
“The federal government believes this procedural ruling is in error and conflicts with long-standing and well-established legal precedents — the types of precedents that, in the words of Chief Justice
The commonwealth’s lawsuit maintains the federal government does not have the authority to purchase health insurance, as the lack of a purchase cannot be considered “economic activity” that may be regulated. The federal law exceeds the power of Congress under the commerce clause and the general welfare clause of the U.S. Constitution and is also at odds with a new state law barring the government from requiring its citizens to purchase health insurance, Cuccinelli had argued.
The Virginia Health Care Freedom Act was passed as a political and legal ploy solely to challenge a federal law that, at the time, did not yet exist, the Obama administration argued. But Hudson rejected this argument, saying, “The purported transparent legislative intent underlying its enactment is irrelevant. The mere existence of the lawfully enacted statute is sufficient to trigger the duty of the attorney general of Virginia to defend the law and the associated sovereign power to enact it.”
A summary judgment hearing is scheduled for Oct. 18 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, in Richmond.
Virginia had filed the suit in the first minutes after President Barack Obama signed the reforms into law, citing the reforms’ conflict with the state’s newly passed statute. In a separate lawsuit, various state attorneys general are also suing to block the federal health reform act in federal court.
“Today’s ruling was a setback for the Department of Justice and is vindication that the states’ lawsuits have merit,” said Ryan Wiggins, spokesman for Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum.