Coakley, Cuccinelli to debate health care law

Jessica M. Karmasek Feb. 2, 2012, 10:00am



WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - Two state attorneys general will square off in a discussion next week about the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's federal health care law.

Massachusetts' Martha Coakley and Virginia's Ken Cuccinelli will lead the National Press Club's Newsmaker discussion "The Affordable Health Care Act -- Constitutional or Not?" at 10 a.m. Feb. 9.

The talk, which will be held at the National Press Club in Washington, will serve as a "prelude" to the U.S. Supreme Court's hearing of the case in March.

Coakley and Cuccinelli will speak for 15 minutes on opposing sides and then take questions for 30 minutes from the media, organizers said in a news release.

The attorneys general will discuss several aspects of the case, including the hotly debated individual mandate, tax basis, general welfare aspect, expansion of Medicaid and severability.

Coakley, a supporter of the law, last month filed a brief to the nation's highest court, defending it by comparing to her state's own health care law.

A strong opponent of the reform, Cuccinelli filed his own lawsuit against the federal law only months after taking office in January 2010. He is now running for governor.

The law's mandate requires individuals who do not purchase health insurance to pay a yearly $695 penalty. Cuccinelli argued that the mandate clashed with the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act, which says Virginians are not required to purchase health insurance.

The Fourth Circuit ruled in Cuccinelli's case that he did not have standing to challenge the law on behalf of the state of Virginia because the State wouldn't be affected by the mandate. Only individual Virginians would be, the court said in overturning a district judge's ruling.

Meanwhile, a total of 14 states, later joined by 12 others, filed a separate challenge to the law in 2010.

In September, the states filed a petition to have their challenge heard immediately by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Court, which agreed in November to hear the case, will hear oral arguments on the four issues involved in the challenge over three days in March. It could make a ruling in June.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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