District Court Judge Henry Hudson has ruled that he will not block a lawsuit by the Commonwealth of Virginia challenging the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, President Obama's recently passed health-care reform legislation. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli argues that the law is unconstitutional because it requires Americans to buy health insurance or face a penalty. This is the first federal court ruling on the health care law. The case will be heard in October. Here's what this means and what happens next.
- Could Accelerate the 20 Other State Challenges The New York Times' John Schwartz writes, "Mr. Cuccinelli is one of 21 state officials fighting the health care law, and this is the first ruling by a federal court on the important question of whether states have the standing to sue. Monday’s opinion does not address the merits of the health care law. It has no direct effect on the other state challenges, but it may influence the other judges."
- The Judge's Ruling Reuters's Jeremy Pelofsky and Lisa Lambert summarize, "[Judge] Hudson, who noted that his ruling was only an initial step, decided the issue the state raised -- whether forcing residents to buy something, namely healthcare, is constitutional -- had not been fully tested in court and was ripe for review." Hudson wrote in a 32 page opinion: "The congressional enactment under review -- the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision -- literally forges new ground and extends Commerce Clause powers beyond its current high watermark. ... [The law] radically changes the landscape of health insurance coverage in America. ... [It] all seem to distill to the single question of whether or not Congress has the power to regulate — and tax — a citizen’s decison not to participate in interstate commerce."
- How Virginia Sought This Lawsuit SCOTUSblog's Lyle Denniston writes, "the state contended that its rights as a sovereign state under the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment are violated by the new federal mandate, because it conflicts directly with a new Virginia law — passed explicitly to set up such a test case — that protects the citizens of Virginia from any such federal health mandate."
- Challenge Against Individual Mandate Is Absurd The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen sighs, "the concept of an individual mandate as part of health care reform was, in fact, a Republican idea. Indeed, leading GOP senators were on board with the mandate as recently as a year ago. It's a detail that seems to be easily forgotten by those who hope you're not paying attention. ... Folks who never seemed especially troubled by mandatory auto insurance or mandatory flood insurance in some parts of the country have now concluded that a health care mandate is the most offensive idea they've ever heard."
- Victory for Reform Opponents Conservative blogger Ilya Somin writes, "any decision made by the district court will surely be appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and ultimately the Supreme Court. Nonetheless, Hudson’s ruling is a victory for Virginia and others who contend that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. It also makes it more difficult to argue that the state lawsuits against the mandate are merely political grandstanding with nobasis in serious legal argument."