Va. Health Care Lawsuit Goes Before Federal Judge

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RICHMOND, Va. -- The state of Virginia has sued the federal government over healthcare legislation passed earlier this year by the Obama administration.

Under the new law, all Americans are required to buy health insurance or pay a fine. A number of states have argued that such a mandate is unconstitutional.

On Thursday, a federal judge in Virginia will hear a motion by White House lawyers to dismiss the lawsuit

Expansion of Power?

Before the ink bearing President' Obama's signature was dry, Virginia filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, claiming the health care reform law is unconstitutional.

The Commonwealth argued the federal government doesn't have the power to compel Americans to buy anything.

"It's an extraordinary expansion of federal power," Virginia's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said.

Virginia was the first state to file suit, and the first to pass a law protecting its citizens from the federal mandate to buy health insurance. Florida is leading 20 other states in a similar lawsuit.

For Cuccinelli, the case is about more than health care. It's about freedom and the boundaries of federal power.

"Take health care out of this bill and put Chevrolets in and it's the same legal and constitutional case basically," Cuccinelli explained. "If they can order you to buy a Chevrolet, make it every three years, so the price tag is about the same as health insurance because health insurance isn't cheap - but not a Ford, just a Chevrolet - because remember in the health insurance example you can only buy the government approved insurance."

Congress claimed authority to order Americans to buy health insurance under the Commerce Clause, which allows Congress to regulate commerce among the states.

Administration officials argued that virtually all Americans will need health care at some point, and that "the (Affordable Care Act) merely regulates economic decisions on how to pay for those services - decisions that substantially affect the vast, interstate health care market."

However, in court papers Cuccinelli noted that the Supreme Court has ruled that federal courts have the ability to resolve competing claims of state and federal power.

"In the view of (Human Services Secretary Kathleen) Sebelius, federalism is so withered and near death that states lack the power and right to go to federal court to test the validity of their own enactments when they conflict with federal law," Cuccinelli wrote.

Obama Campaigns for Health Care

Meanwhile, the president has been working to drum up support for the law, which won't go into effect for several years.

"All of these reforms are about more than ending a dangerous status quo," Obama said. "They're about offering stability and security to Americans who need it."

But according to a Rasmussen Poll released this week, 52 percent of those surveyed support repealing the health care law. Only 40 percent oppose repealing the measure.

"I just think it's terribly unfortunate, the very blaze' attitude that an awful lot of congressional representatives took towards the Constitution in passing this bill," Cuccinelli said.

No matter what the judge decides, the case will likely be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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CBN News
Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at