December 13, 2010
A federal judge in Virginia has declared the Obama administration's new health care law unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson is the first judge to rule against the law, which has been upheld by two others in Virginia and Michigan. Hudson, a Republican who was appointed by President George W. Bush, sounded sympathetic to the state's case when he heard oral arguments in October, and the White House expected to lose this round.
Congressman-elect Robert Hurt issued the following statement in support of Judge Hudson's ruling:
"[Monday's] decision was a step in the right direction to preserving and protecting our Constitutional liberties and putting a stop to an over reaching federal government. Having now deemed the Democrats' health care legislation unconstitutional, I am confident that we will see similar rulings in support of Virginia's case as the hearings proceed."
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's lawsuit challenged the health care law's requirement that citizens buy health insurance or pay a penalty starting in 2014.
Administration officials told reporters last week that a negative ruling would have virtually no impact on the law's implementation, noting that its two major provisions - the coverage mandate and the creation of new insurance markets - don't take effect until 2014.
The central issue in Virginia's lawsuit was whether the federal government has the power under the constitution to impose the insurance requirement. The Justice Department said the mandate is a proper exercise of the government's authority under the Commerce Clause.
Cuccinelli argued that while the government can regulate economic activity that substantially affects interstate commerce, the decision not to buy insurance amounts to economic inactivity that is beyond the government's reach.
The case challenged the federal government's constitutional authority to impose the requirement. Other lawsuits are pending, including one filed by 20 states in a Florida court. Virginia is not part of that lawsuit.
The Justice Department and opponents of the health care law agree that the U.S. Supreme Court will have the final word.