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Major business group joins national suit against health care law, but not Cuccinelli's

Rosalind Helderman

The National Federation of Independent Business, a leading small business group, has joined the lawsuit against the federal health care law.

No, not Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's suit. The group has joined the other lawsuit that was filed in Florida in March by by 12 attorneys general. Eight other states have now joined that suit, making it the main national legal effort to have a court rule that the federal health care law is unconstitutional.

Cuccinelli has said he filed a suit seperate from other states because Virginia, uniquely, had already adopted its own state statute declaring it illegal to require an individual to purchase health care. But our colleauge David Weigel reported this week that there is a growing fear from conservatives, including some Republican Attorneys General, that Cuccinelli's suit could derail their own larger effort by setting an early precedent on the issue.

After all, Cuccinelli has filed in the Eastern District of Virginia--known as the rocket docket. In all likelihood, his suit will be the first to receive a judicial opinion at the district court level. Win or lose, the suit will undoubtedly be appealed--most legal experts agree the health care suit will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. But if the first legal opinion on health care goes against Cuccinelli , it could set legal precedent. Perhaps politically more difficult for Cuccinelli, it could cement in the public's mind the idea that both suits are frivolous.

On the other hand, if Cuccinelli acheives any kind of legal victory in Virginia, the constitutionality of the entire law would be in doubt and he alone could take credit for causing it be so. It's legal high risk, high reward.

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We asked Brian Gottstein, Cuccinelli's spokesman, whether the concerns from conservatives are valid. In an email, he argued they were not. Here's what he said:

The Virginia suit has standing that the other states and organizations do not have - we are defending a Virginia statute, the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act. One of the main reasons we filed the lawsuit in Virginia is because we wouldn't go to another state to defend a Virginia statute. That standing also makes our argument different from the other states, so a decision on our case should not affect other cases, unless of course, the federal court agrees with us and strikes down the federal health care mandate. The attorney general's obligation is to defend Virginia's law, as well as the Virginia and U.S. constitutions. His defense of the law can't be based on what public perception may be following the outcome of such a case.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  May 14, 2010; 11:21 AM ET
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli , Rosalind Helderman  | Tags: Attorney General of Virginia, Health care, Ken Cuccinelli  
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