Virginia's Challenge to the PPACA to Proceed
by Charles Lemos, Mon Aug 02, 2010 at 01:32:21 PM EDT
A federal judge in Richmond has denied the Department of Justice's motion to dismiss Virginia's lawsuit challenging the health care reform bill passed by Congress. The ruling is only a procedural step but sets the stage for a full hearing with significant Constitutional implications.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed the state's lawsuit shortly after President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) in March. Cuccinelli is challenging a provision, specifically Section 1501 in the PPACA, that will require individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. Virginia's legislature passed a law earlier this year that prohibits a requirement for individuals to buy health insurance.
In a 32 page decision (pdf), U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson wrote that "although this case is laden with public policy implications and has a distinctive political undercurrent, at this stage the sole issues before the Court are subject matter jurisdiction and the legal sufficiency of the Complaint." Ruling that the existence of the state law "is sufficient to trigger the duty of the Attorney General of Virginia to defend the law and the associated sovereign power to enact it," Judge Hudson has allowed the suit seeking declaratory and injunction relief to proceed.
In his opinion, Judge Hudson summarized:
While this case raises a host of complex constitutional issues, all seem to distill to the single question of whether or not Congress has the power to regulate - and tax - a citizen's decision not to participate in interstate commerce. Neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor any circuit court of appeals have squarely addressed this issue. No reported case from federal appellate court has extended the Commerce Clause or Tax Clause to include the regulation of a person's decision not to purchase a product, notwithstanding its effect on interstate commerce. Given the presence of some authority arguably supporting the theory underlying each side's position, this Court cannot conclude at this stage that the Complaint fails to state a cause of action.
The Secretary's [Kathleen Sebelius is the defendant in this case in her official capacity of HHS Secretary] Motion to Dismiss will therefore be denied. Resolution of the controlling issue in this case must await a hearing on the merits.
A full hearing on Virginia’s lawsuit is scheduled for October and will determine if Virginia has standing to challenge the Federal law.
Beyond his suit claiming the national health care reform law was unconstitutional, Cuccinelli, a Tea Party favorite, has challenged the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases and has told public universities that they couldn't ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
This past weekend, the Washington Post profiled Virginia's rather extremist Attorney General who now finds himself at the epicenter of the national healthcare debate.
Now, at 42, he stands as one of the most high-profile, active attorneys general in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia. His willingness to charge into the most monumental and defining issues of the day -- including health care, climate change and the nature of government itself -- has made him a conservative superman, a toast of the Tea Party movement. As Cuccinelli edits bombshell briefs in his Richmond office -- where a yellow "Don't Tread on Me" banner stands beside the Virginia and American flags -- or barnstorms the state promoting his causes, he could not appear more boyishly eager to be here, now.
"I believe right now the battle of our time is the battle of liberty against the overreach of the federal government," he says. "I wouldn't pick any other four-year period to be in this office."