RICHMOND, Va. (Legal Newsline) - The Virginia Democratic Party is attacking state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's decision to sue the federal government over health care reform.
Democrats call Cuccinelli's lawsuit "frivolous" in a petition posted on the party's Web site. Cuccinelli filed a lawsuit last week that seeks to protect Virginians from being forced to purchase health insurance, as they would be forced to do under the threat of monetary penalty by the legislation.
The Democratic Party thinks Cuccinelli's motivations are political.
"We demand that the Cuccinelli recognize that the Office of the Attorney General is our law firm, not the piggy bank for his political agenda," the petition says.
The state's Republican Party sharply criticized the legislation, which President Barack Obama signed into law last week.
Cuccinelli says a recently passed Virginia law prevents the federal government from being able to require Virginians purchase health insurance.
"The health care reform bill, with its insurance mandate, creates a conflict of laws between the federal government and Virginia. Normally, such conflicts are decided in favor of the federal government, but because we believe the federal law is unconstitutional, Virginia's law should prevail," Cuccinelli said.
"Just being alive is not interstate commerce. If it were, there would be no limit to the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause and to Congress's authority to regulate everything we do.
"There has never been a point in our history where the federal government has been given the authority to require citizens to buy goods or services."
The legislation contains a mandate for individuals to have health insurance coverage or face an annual penalty of $695.
Businesses with more than 50 workers would have to provide coverage or pay a $2,000-a-worker penalty if any of their employees get government-subsidized plans on their own.
"With this law, the federal government will force citizens to buy health insurance, claiming it has the authority to do so because of its power to regulate interstate commerce," Cuccinelli said.
"We contend that if a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person - by definition - is not engaging in commerce, and therefore, is not subject to a federal mandate."
A group of state attorneys general filed a separate lawsuit in Florida federal court.
Virginia Democrats have also filed a Freedom of Information Act request, asking how much Cuccinelli is spending on the lawsuit. Cuccinelli did not hire private lawyers for the suit.
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at email@example.com.