Va. AG testifies against health care reform

John O'Brien Feb. 16, 2011, 2:11pm


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli made his case against federal health care reform to the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday morning.

Cuccinelli testified before the committee about what he feels is an unconstitutional part of the health care package, which was signed into law in March but was recently voided by a Florida federal judge. Cuccinelli has challenged a mandate that requires individuals to purchase health insurance or face a financial penalty.

"Despite all of the attention it has received, it should be noted that Virginia's challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is modest. We do not seek to overturn any prior decisions of the United Sates Supreme Court or develop any new doctrine," Cuccinelli said.

"Rather, within the boundaries of constitutional text and precedent, we simply seek a determination that, in passing the individual mandate and penalty as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Congress exceeded the powers granted it by the Constitution."

Cuccinelli filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month, asking it to consider the issue before a federal appeals court does. He says the issue is of such public importance that it is better to have it decided as soon as possible.

Cuccinelli's lawsuit says a mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance or face an annual $695 penalty is unconstitutional and flies in the face off Virginia law. U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson agreed with Cuccinelli's argument in December.

Earlier this month, a federal judge sided with 26 states in a similar lawsuit in Florida.

Because the mandate is too integral a part to be separated, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson voided the entire legislation in the 26-state lawsuit. He called it "a difficult decision to reach."

"If Congress intends to implement health care reform --- and there would appear to be widespread agreement across the political spectrum that reform is needed --- it should do a comprehensive examination of the Act and make a legislative determination as to which of its hundreds of provisions and sections will work as intended without the individual mandate, and which will not," he added.

"It is Congress that should consider and decide these quintessentially legislative questions, and not the courts."

He ruled the mandate regulated inactivity in a marketplace, and wrote, "It would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause."

And to allow otherwise would be dangerous, Vinson ruled. He pointed out that other jurists have opined on the threat of an overexpanded Commerce Clause.

"There is quite literally no decision that, in the natural course of events, does not have an economic impact of some sort," he wrote.

The full text of Cuccinelli's testimony can be found here.

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