Tuesday, March 23, 2010

With health care reform bill signed, the legal challenges begin

Thirteen states have filed suit alleging that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590) signed into law by President Obama today is unconstitutional. The Attorneys General from South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Washington, Idaho, and South Dakota joined a lawsuit filed by the state of Florida in the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida, alleging the federal government has violated the states’ rights as “sovereigns and protectors of the freedom, health, and welfare of their citizens and residents.” In addition, the suit claims the health care law infringes upon the constitutional rights of residents of the states by mandating that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage or pay a tax penalty. By imposing such a mandate, the law exceeds the powers of the federal government under Article I of the Constitution and violates the Tenth Amendment. Additionally, the tax penalty required under the law constitutes an unlawful direct tax in violation of Article I, sections 2 and 9, the AGs allege. The lawsuit further asserts that the law infringes on the sovereignty of the states by imposing onerous new operating rules that the states must follow and by requiring states to spend billions of additional dollars without providing funds or resources to the state to help subsidize the cost of implementation. Virginia’s attorney general Ken Cuccinelli filed a separate lawsuit on behalf of his state.

Meanwhile, moments after President Obama signed the bill, the Thomas More Law Center, a Christian legal advocacy group, filed its own complaint challenging the constitutionality of the legislation in a federal district court in Michigan, seeking to permanently enjoin its enforcement. “Let’s face it,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Law Center in a press release announcing the lawsuit, “if Congress has the power to force individuals to purchase health insurance coverage or pay a federal penalty merely because they live in America, then it has the unconstrained power to mandate that every American family buy a General Motors vehicle to help the economy or pay a federal penalty.”

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