Federal judge hears suit against health care law
A federal judge in Virginia will hear arguments Monday on whether the new federal health-care law is unconstitutional.
Virginia Attorney Gen. Ken Cuccinelli II (R) will argue that Congress overstepped its constitutional authority by enacting a provision that requires individuals to purchase health insurance by 2014 or pay a fine. Lawyers for President Obama will tell the judge that the individual insurance mandate falls within Congress' constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce.
The lawsuit is one of more than 15 filed across the country challenging the health-care law and one of two state-level attempts to kill the law in the courts. A separate suit filed jointly by 20 states in Florida is moving somewhat more slowly through the court system. A judge ruled Friday that the Florida suit can proceed to trial.
Eastern District of Virginia Judge Henry E. Hudson already rejected a motion from the federal government asking that he dismiss the Virginia case. In a hearing that begins at 9 a.m. Monday, Hudson will hear several hours of arguments directly on the case's merits.
Hudson is not expected to issue a ruling in the case Monday, but he may indicate when he plans to rule. And he will question lawyers for both sides. The tone and substance of the queries may give some indication of how he views the constitutional dispute.
If Hudson, who was appointed to the bench in 2002 by President Bush, were to rule that the sweeping law is unconstitutional, its national implementation would be halted. However, the Obama administration would likely seek a stay of the ruling while it pursued appeals. Both sides have said they believe the law's constitutionality will ultimately be resolved by the United States Supreme Court.
In written briefings, Cuccinelli's lawyers have argued that it would unprecedented to allow Congress to force an individual to make a purchase. Failure to buy insurance, they argue, represents the absence of economic activity and therefore cannot be regulated by Congress as commerce.
U.S. Justice Department lawyers, acting on behalf of Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, have countered that a person who decides not to buy insurance has made an economic decision that influences the health care market and can thus be regulated as commerce.
When such people become sick or are injured, the cost of their care is absorbed by the vast health market, lawyers for the federal government say. They also argue that the insurance mandate is key to other provisions of the health-care law. Bringing more healthy premium payers into insurance pools, for instance, will help industry pay the costs of extending insurance to those with pre-existing health conditions, another of the law's requirements.
At the July hearing, Hudson seemed skeptical of the federal government's arguments. However, at that phase of the case, the burden was on Justice Department lawyers to show that the Virginia suit was so without merit that it should be tossed from court. In Monday's hearing, the burden has shifted to Cuccinelli to show that the law is unconstitutional.
| October 18, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Barack Obama, Ken Cuccinelli, Rosalind Helderman
Save & Share: Previous: McDonnell political committee ends September with $1.28 million
Next: Federal judge says he'll rule on Virginia's health care challenge by Jan. 1
Posted by: funlol | October 18, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: LL314 | October 18, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: LL314 | October 18, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: johnqpublic1 | October 18, 2010 9:22 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: johnqpublic1 | October 18, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse