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ObamaCare Lawsuit Clears First Hurdle

There was a significant development in the ObamaCare lawsuit today. The attorney general of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli put out the following statement:

A federal judge ruled today that Virginia does indeed have standing to bring its lawsuit seeking to invalidate the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  The judge also ruled that Virginia had stated a legally sufficient claim in its complaint.  In doing so, federal district court judge Henry E. Hudson denied the federal government’s motion to dismiss the commonwealth’s suit. …

The U.S. Department of Justice argued that Virginia lacked the standing to bring a suit, that the suit is premature, and that the federal government had the power under the U.S. Constitution to mandate that citizens must be covered by government-approved health insurance or pay a monetary penalty.

In denying the motion to dismiss, Judge Hudson found that Virginia had alleged a legally recognized injury to its sovereignty, given the government’s assertion that the federal law invalidates a Virginia law, the Health Care Freedom Act. …

The Court recognized that the federal health care law and its associated penalty were literally unprecedented. Specifically, the Court wrote that “[n]o reported case from any 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.”

Well, well. It seems that the conservative scholars were right, and those arguing a legal challenge was frivolous were wrong. Moreover, it is not simply a procedural ruling on standing or “ripeness” (that is, whether there is an actual case at present). Todd Gaziano of the Heritage Foundation explains:

On the merits, we are surprised the judge took as much space to conclude that Virginia stated a valid cause of action, namely, that Congress had exceeded its constitutional authority with the individual mandate.  At this stage in the litigation and on the particular motion that was filed (a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for the legal wonks), the judge need not and could not rule on who will win or even if one side is more likely to win.  The only question is whether Virginia stated a legal cause of action (or legal theory) that is cognizable in law.  Virginia certainly has at least a valid substantive theory to challenge the law, because someone with standing is always able to challenge the constitutionality of a statute on the ground that Congress has no constitutional authority to enact it, QED. … Judge Hudson’s discussion of the constitutional issues is somewhat instructive.  It shows he is not hostile or dismissive of Virginia’s claims, which is surely good for liberty.

Obama’s “historic” accomplishment is both legally and politically vulnerable. (Republicans aren’t waiting for the courts to rule it unconstitutional and are thinking up ways to defund ObamaCare.) It seems there really are limits to the left’s statist ambitions.


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