The Civil Division of the Justice Department has filed a response to one of the first lawsuits against the health care law enacted in March, giving a hint as to the federal government’s strategy for defending the law in court.
Justice Department lawyers argue that the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan has no standing to challenge the law because the provision at issue — the individual mandate — does not take effect until 2014. The conservative-leaning public interest group is joined in the lawsuit by several individuals seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the law from taking effect.
“They bring this suit four years before the provision they challenge takes effect, demonstrate no current injury, and merely speculate whether the law will harm them once it is in force,” DOJ lawyers wrote in their response filed in U.S. District Court in Michigan.
Because the health care industry operates in interstate commerce, “there is a long-recognized federal interest in its regulation,” DOJ argued.
The plaintiffs claims that the minimum coverage provision falls outside of Congress’ authority to regulate interstate commerce and its power to tax and spend for the general welfare “are flatly wrong,” the brief argued.
Efforts to block the individual mandate provision of the health care overhaul law are underway in 33 states, according to The Washington Post. On Friday, seven additional states plan to join a federal lawsuit that was filed by 13 states in Florida. The Attorney General of Virginia has also filed his own lawsuit against the law.
Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said the government would “vigorously defend” the health care law after it was signed by Obama in March.
Trial attorneys Ethan P. Davis and Jesse Z. Grauman filed the Justice Department’s response, which also lists Sheila Lieber, Deputy Director of the Federal Programs Branch in the Civil Division; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara L. McQuade; Civil Division Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ian Heath Gershengorn; and Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Tony West.
DOJ’s response to the lawsuit is embedded below.