A federal judge on Monday allowed a lawsuit against President Barack Obama’s health care reform law brought by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to move forward, declining the Justice Department’s request to dismiss the case.
In a 32-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson refused to throw out the state’s lawsuit, reported Reuters. Cuccinelli had argued that the requirement that residents have health insurance was unconstitutional.
Hudson noted that his ruling was only an initial step, but said that the question raised in the lawsuit - whether it was constitutional to force citizens to buy something - had not been fully tested in court.
“The congressional enactment under review — the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision — literally forges new ground and extends (the U.S. Constitution’s) Commerce Clause powers beyond its current high watermark,” Hudson said, according to Reuters.
Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said in a statement to Main Justice that the ruling was “merely a procedural decision by the court” to allow the case to move forward.
“We believe there is clear and well-established legal precedent that Congress acted within its constitutional authority in passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. We are confident that the health care reform statute is constitutional and that we will ultimately prevail,” Schmaler said.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) said the law was unconstitutional and congratulated Cuccinelli on the ruling, reported the Washington Post.
“The requirement that all Americans must purchase health insurance or face a penalty is not permitted under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution,” McDonnell said in a statement. “It would also violate Virginia’s Health Care Freedom Act, which was passed by a bipartisan majority of the Commonwealth’s democratically elected representatives and I signed into law this spring.”
If White House staff members were worried, they weren’t showing it.
“This is nothing new,” wrote Stephanie Cutter, reacting to the judge’s ruling on the White House blog. “We saw this with the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act – constitutional challenges were brought to all three of these monumental pieces of legislation, and all of those challenges failed. So too will the challenge to health reform.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius agreed with the Justice Department that the ruling was simply formality.
“We remain confident that the case is solid,” Sebelius told reporters during a conference call, reported Reuters. “This is just a step to move us to the debate on the merits of the case.”
Cuccinelli’s suit was filed shortly after Obama signed the legislation into law in March.