In a dramatic rebuff to the Obama administration, a federal judge in Virginia today (Monday, December 13) struck down the federal health care law’s requirement for
individuals to purchase health insurance. The ruling follows much of
the reasoning advanced by Oklahoma’s recently-elected attorney general,
Judge Henry E. Hudson found that Congress had exceeded its authority in
passing such a mandate. In a 42-page opinion, Hudson wrote as follows:
“Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has
extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily
enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private
market. In doing so, enactment of the [individual mandate] exceeds the
Commerce Clause powers vested in Congress under Article I [of the
Judge Hudson did not enjoin the law, noting that key provisions do not
take effect until 2014. He did not strike down the law’s other
provisions, but the individual mandate is widely considered a pivotal
feature of the law passed last spring.
The case in Virginia, brought by the Commonwealth’s Attorney General,
Kenneth Cuccinelli, is in contrast to two prior lower court rulings on
the issue, in both Virginia and Michigan. The most significant case
might be another challenge in Florida, where 20 states have sought to
overturn the law.
In an October press conference at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City,
Attorney General Cuccinelli told reporters the individual mandate
forcing individuals to purchase health insurance coverage or face
penalties was unprecedented.
He said then, “It is beyond the power of Congress and the federal
government to mandate this activity. … Nothing like this law has even
been done in the history of the United States. It is unprecedented in
its scope and impact on the Constitution and relationship between the
federal and state governments.
“Never before has the government presumed the authority to tell
Americans, force them, to buy a product. The law was passed under the
guise of the commerce powers. It’s a twisting of the federal power for
the government to regulate inactivity as if it were activity.”
Cuccinelli made his comments in a state Capitol press conference on
Monday, October 25, when he also endorsed former state Sen. Scott
Pruitt. In the November 2 election, Pruitt overwhelmingly defeated Jim
Priest, the Democratic Party’s nominee.
In discussions with Oklahoma reporters, including CapitolBeatOK,
Cuccinelli contended, “This is not about health insurance but about
liberty. If the case is lost, it will be the end of federalism as we
have known it.”
Pruitt then told reporters he would, if elected the state’s top legal
officer, join the Virginia or Florida cases now underway, or consider
filing a new lawsuit on the matter. Cuccinelli at the time explained,
“The entire bill is at stake. We’ve asked the court to enjoin the entire
bill.” As noted above, Cuccinelli’s litigation was unsuccessful in
gaining a broader injunction.
Defending the litigation, the Virginian said the attorneys general of
the American states are “the last line of defense. It’s the AGs who
legitimately exercise authority versus the federal government. In the
federalist structure they are the best line of defense to push back
against federal authority that is excessive. … The protection of the
rule of law is a fight to protect the opportunity of all of us.
Regulations always impair opportunity and reduce liberty. This
litigation is fighting against excessive impairment and reduction of