The Department of Health and Human Services had moved to dismiss the lawsuit, which was filed in March (click here for the complaint), shortly after the passage of the law. But Judge Hudson on Monday denied the motion.
The ruling represents a setback that will force the Obama administration to mount a lengthy legal defense of the law. The suit, filed by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (pictured), alleges that the law’s requirement that its residents have health insurance violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.
Having failed in the legislative arena, opponents of reform are now turning to the courts in an attempt to overturn the work of the democratically elected branches of government. This is nothing new. 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.
Isn’t this what they did in Arizona? Turn to the courts to overturn the work of the democratically elected branches of the government who passed a bill that was overwhelmingly approved of not only in Arizona, but nationwide? I guess they don’t like the same thing being done to them.
It was just a procedural decision so nothing to get too excited about, but it is a step in the right direction. The White House did spin this decision just a tad as the judge did express some concern in his opinion yesterday:
The guiding precedent [on the Commerce Clause] is informative but inconclusive. Never before has the Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause been extended this far. At this juncture, the court is not persuaded that the Secretary has demonstrated a failure to state a cause of action with respect to the Commerce Clause element.
But spin, spin, spin the White House goes…
This morning, a federal district court in Virginia issued a procedural decision to allow a suit filed by Virginia’s Attorney General to move forward. The court did not, however, rule on the merits of Virginia Attorney General’s claim that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. Judge Hudson’s opinion specifically states that the “Court’s mission at this stage is narrow” and that it “does not resolve contests surrounding . . . the facts [or] the merits of a claim.” The court’s procedural ruling states only that the complaint could not be dismissed at this preliminary stage….
…Now that this preliminary stage has ended, the government fully expects to prevail on the merits. The Affordable Care Act falls well within Congress’s power to regulate under the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the General Welfare Clause.
Their right that it wasn’t a huge victory for Virginia, but I don’t think they have any reason to be confident. The judge acknowledged that these clauses have never been extended this far before. Even if Virginia does prevail in this lawsuit I’m sure that “the government” will appeal. This will be a long fight.