Federal judge says he'll rule on Virginia's health care challenge by Jan. 1
A federal judge for the Eastern District of Virginia said Monday that he would rule on the constitutionality of the federal health care law by the end of the year, a key legal test for the sweeping legislation.
In a packed Richmond courtroom, U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson heard more than two hours of oral arguments by lawyers acting on behalf of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) and the Obama administration.
The suit is one of more than 15 that have been brought across the country challenging the measure and one of two brought by Republican attorneys general. Virginia's suit is separate from a case filed in Florida jointly by 20 other states.
Hudson, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2002, told the lawyers that he planned to review the arguments and "mine deeply" briefings in the case before ruling. But he made clear that he knows his opinion will be only one of many expressed before the momentous case is complete.
"As you well know, this is only one brief stop on the way to the United States Supreme Court," he said.
Speaking for Virginia, the state's Soliciter General E. Duncan Getchell Jr. told Hudson that Congress overstepped its constitutional authority by enacting a provision that requires individuals to purchase health insurance by 2014 or pay a fine.
Hudson told both sides repeatedly that he sees the case's core question as determining whether Congress can regulate an individual's inactivity--a person's decision to go without health insurance--under its constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce.
Getchell said such a move would be "unprecedented, unlimited and unsupportable in any serious regime of delegated, enumerated powers."
"The Supreme Court has never allowed inactivity to be regulated as commerce," he said.
Deputy U.S. Assistant Attorney General Ian H. Gershengorn countered that individuals inevitably consume health services in their lives when they sicken or are injured, noting the costs of caring for people who show up for medical care and have no insurance costs the economy $43 billion a year.
"The appearance of inactivity is just an illusion," he said. "The decision to get or not get insurance and essentially gamble that other people will pay for you when you get sick is not inactivity. It is not passivity."
If Hudson rules that the law is unconstitutional, Cuccinelli has asked for an injunction that would halt its implementation while appeals in the case proceed.
| October 18, 2010; 12:35 PM ET
Categories: Barack Obama, Ken Cuccinelli, Rosalind Helderman
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