ST. LOUIS (Legal Newsline) - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and attorneys general from 20 other states on Monday filed an amicus brief challenging the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's federal health care law.
The states' brief in Kinder v. Geithner, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, argues that the law's individual mandate -- which requires all Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty -- violates the Constitution.
"The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is an extraordinary law that rests on unprecedented assertions of federal authority, pushing even the most expansive conception of the federal government's constitutional powers past the breaking point. The Act imposes a direct mandate upon individuals to obtain health insurance, marking by all accounts the first time in our Nation's history that Congress has required individuals to enter into commerce as a condition of living in the United States," the brief said.
"The federal government identifies no limiting principle that would prevent Congress from employing that same power to force individuals to engage in any manner of commerce so that the federal government may better regulate it.
"Instead, the federal government embraces a sweeping view of the Commerce Clause -- broad enough to reach any subject and encompassing enough to include the power to compel -- that would imperil individual liberty, render Congress's other enumerated powers superfluous, and allow Congress to usurp the general police power reserved to the States."
The states' brief supports a legal challenge filed by Missouri Lt. Gov Peter Kinder and four other plaintiffs. Attorney General Chris Koster has refused to file his own suit on behalf of Missouri against the law or join the multistate lawsuit.
Fourteen states, along with 12 others, filed a challenge to Obama's health care law in March 2010.
The 26 states, like those in support of Kinder's suit, contend that the health care law's individual mandate is unconstitutional.
In January, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson sided with the states, ruling that the individual mandate violates the U.S. Constitution and issued an order striking down the federal health care law.
Vinson said he voided the entire legislation in the multistate lawsuit because the mandate is too integral a part to be separated. 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 wrote.
"It is Congress that should consider and decide these quintessentially legislative questions, and not the courts."
In July 2010, Kinder v. Geithner was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. A judge later dismissed the lawsuit.
As a result, the plaintiffs have appealed their case to the Eighth Circuit. The states' 41-page brief supports the plaintiffs' appeal.
"If this Court were to uphold this assertion of federal power, there would remain little if any power -- reserved to the States... or to the people," the brief said.
"Because that is plainly not the federal government that the Constitution envisions, if this Court reaches the merits of the claims in this case, it should hold that the individual mandate is unconstitutional."
The Missouri lawsuit names U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as defendants.
The states that joined Texas in the brief are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.