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Health care law faces first constitutional battle in Virginia courtroom

Rosalind Helderman

The legal challenge to the federal health care law will begin in earnest this morning, as Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli lobs the nation's first constitutional arguments against the law in a federal courtroom in Richmond.

Cuccinelli and his team will get an hour to argue to a federal judge that the law is an unprecedented overreach by Washington that turns the Founders' intention for a limited federal government on its head. The Obama administration will likewise get an hour to argue Cuccinelli's suit is frivolous and should be tossed from court.

The judge will weigh the arguments and decide in coming weeks whether to allow the case to proceed, the first skirmish in a legal war over the federal healthcare overhaul that will likely not be settled until a year or more from now, 110 miles to the north at the Supreme Court.

The Virginia suit is one of two major efforts led by states with Republican elected officials to kill the federal health care law in court. It is a fast-attack assault that narrowly argues Congress overstepped its authority by requiring individuals to buy health insurance or a face a fine. Attorneys general in 20 other states have joined a separate suit filed in Florida that adds an additional claim, arguing the federal law encroaches on their states' sovereignty by requiring the states to expand their Medicaid programs.

Cuccinelli will attend today's 10 a.m. hearing at the federal courthouse in Richmond but plans to sit quietly and will leave the courtroom argument to Virginia Solicitor General E. Duncan Getchell Jr., a private sector appellate court expert Cuccinelli has said he lured to the attorney general's office when he took office in January with the likelihood of this suit in mind. Getchell will face down a team of lawyers from the federal government, headed by Ian Heath Gershengorn, the chief of the Justice Department's Federal Programs Branch.

They will argue before U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2002 and is best known publicly for presiding over football player Michael Vick's dog fighting case.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  July 1, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama , Ken Cuccinelli , Rosalind Helderman  
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Comments

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Posted by: davidjones01 | July 1, 2010 6:14 AM | Report abuse

You guys should stop complaining cuz one the health care we have now isnt as good as it was supposed to be. also the law has just been signed give it a try u guys are too hard on democrats they went to college and we voted for most of these people.so if u want to say u have the right to choose tell that to ur congress men or state official. as for obama people are just tryin to make it look like america made a mistake he has done things to help us and we had a full 8 years of a terrible president and i will be so as happy as ever when a obama fixes bush's mistakes. You can find full medical coverage at the lowest price from http://bit.ly/9sfoMb obama has to put up with the wo0rld judging his every move and trying to fix the mess we are in we are lucky anyone wants to be our president. STOP COMPLAINING AND GIVE HIM A BREAK. i wanna see one of yall do what he sas done. some people are just so ignorant.

Posted by: davidjones01 | July 1, 2010 6:42 AM | Report abuse

@davidjones01: How can you call anyone ignorant and not use proper grammar? No one can take your comments seriously when you don't know that a capital letter goes at the beginning of a sentence. Sorry, but you fail at defending Obama. Also, if you actually read anything about this law, you'd realize this isn't the solution we need, it is a disaster. And even if it was a GREAT law, if it is unconstitutional, it doesn't matter how great it is, it SHOULD be struck down. There's a reason why we have the Constitution and that is to protect the people and the states from the federal government.

Posted by: Hurmoth | July 1, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Anyone against Health Care Reform is a selfish fool who does not belong in the United States. In this country we take care of each other - it's one of the things that made this great nation what it is today. If you don't want to help take care of your fellow man then find some place else to live. We don't need you here.

Posted by: Voodoo_Idol | July 1, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

These lawsuits are a huge waste of tax dollars and are just grandstanding for the benefit of far right extremists.
This attempt to legislate from the bench will fail to change the law or policy, but will suceed in rallying the teabaggers and getting them to fund cuccinelli's politcal career.

it's shameful and I'm embarassed so many people are falling for this charade.

Posted by: MarilynManson | July 1, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Voodoo_Idol,

Does that mean you'll pay the $1,100 that United Healthcare is trying to jack from me? Thank you, that's very generous of you. You can either pay UHC directly, or you can make the check payable to me. I'll send you a private e-mail with my details.

Posted by: mssnatchquatch | July 1, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

You are required to have care insurance, Homeowner's insurance (AT LEAST FOR THE LIFE of your mortgage), what's so different about a human body?

Things happen and I'd rather pay a little more for coverage than to be stuck in an emergency room waiting hours on end to take care of something routine.

Posted by: BLKManCommonSense | July 1, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

To BLKManCommonense:

Here's the difference. Mandatory car insurance is to protect OTHERS from your incompetence or bad luck.

Mandatory mortgage insurance is to protect the mortgage holder from your incompetence or bad luck.

Mandatory health insurance is a means for you to confiscate the property of your neighbors via the govetnment and use the proceeds to force a health care professional to service you at an arbitrary salary that the government decides and enforces.

And all so you can be less inconvenienced.

Do you see the difference?

If not, here's another difference.

Don't own a car - you don't need to have mandatory auto insurance.

Don't own a home - you don't need to have mortgage insurance.

Know anyone without a body? (Well, besides the legions of dead that vote for Democrats every election)

Posted by: RadicalIndividualist | July 1, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

BLKManCommonSense: Why are you in an emergency room for something routine in the first place? They are for emergencies, not routine things.

access11: Perhaps you should look in the mirror, speaking of belittling.

Constitutionality is what it is. If it's over-reaching, then it should be struck down, period. That's why we have a judiciary - to check and balance the other two. If you don't like it, you can take it up with G.W. and T.J. when you die.

I'll concede the homeowners' and car insurance point, except that they are slightly different. Car insurance is because you can potentially hurt someone else if you were in an accident - and they shouldn't pay for something you did because you didn't have insurance. As for homeowners' insurance, it makes sense you have to have it the life of the mortgage since that's a couple hundred thousand dollars of someone else's money - they want you to protect their investment. It's not really your house until you own it free and clear, technically. With health insurance, it only deals with you - if someone doesn't want health insurance and will pay for things that happen, that should be their prerogative. The problem is when they don't pay for it and we the taxpayers end up paying for it in the end. But if they pay the ridiculously low "fine" for not having the insurance and then still get in a catastrophic accident and don't pay the bills, what then? We pay anyway.

Posted by: JG08 | July 1, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

BLKManCommonSense: Why are you in an emergency room for something routine in the first place? They are for emergencies, not routine things.

access11: Perhaps you should look in the mirror, speaking of belittling.

Constitutionality is what it is. If it's over-reaching, then it should be struck down, period. That's why we have a judiciary - to check and balance the other two. If you don't like it, you can take it up with G.W. and T.J. when you die.

I'll concede the homeowners' and car insurance point, except that they are slightly different. Car insurance is because you can potentially hurt someone else if you were in an accident - and they shouldn't pay for something you did because you didn't have insurance. As for homeowners' insurance, it makes sense you have to have it the life of the mortgage since that's a couple hundred thousand dollars of someone else's money - they want you to protect their investment. It's not really your house until you own it free and clear, technically. With health insurance, it only deals with you - if someone doesn't want health insurance and will pay for things that happen, that should be their prerogative. The problem is when they don't pay for it and we the taxpayers end up paying for it in the end. But if they pay the ridiculously low "fine" for not having the insurance and then still get in a catastrophic accident and don't pay the bills, what then? We pay anyway.

Posted by: JG08 | July 1, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

JG08: While I am with you in wanting the constitution defended, this is a move by conservatives to derail a liberal agenda--it's not straightforwardly about the law, it's about politics. I can't help but remember when FDR's New Deal programs (that saved this country from the Great Depression) were struck down in the courts for political reasons. Similarly, health care reform was really delivered by a huge progressive movement, like in FDR's times; it will take a progressive fight to keep it. There is an excellent piece by HCAN's national campaign manager today, a really good read: http://www.newdeal20.org/2010/07/01/health-care-and-the-winds-of-history-13361/

Posted by: BryceCovert | July 1, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

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