Posted on 24 Mar 2010
Officials from 14 states have gone to court to block the historic overhaul of the U.S. health care system that President Obama signed into law Tuesday, arguing the law's requirement that individuals buy health insurance violates the Constitution.
Thirteen of those officials filed suit in a federal court in Pensacola, Florida, minutes after Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The complaint calls the act an "unprecedented encroachment on the sovereignty of the states" and asks a judge to block its enforcement.
"The Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage," the lawsuit states.
The case was filed by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and joined by 11 other Republican attorneys general, along with one Democrat. McCollum said the new law also forces states "to do things that are practically impossible to do as a practical matter, and forcing us to do it without giving any resources or money to do it."
McCollum's lawsuit was joined by his counterparts in Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota Texas, Utah and Washington. Virginia's attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, filed a separate case in his state Tuesday afternoon.
All but one of those state officials, Louisiana's Buddy Caldwell, are Republicans. But McCollum said the case is not a partisan issue and predicted other Democrats would join the suit.
"It's a question for most of us in the states of the costs to our people and to the rights and the freedoms of the individual citizens in upholding our constitutional duties as attorneys general," he said.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday that lawyers have advised the administration it would win the lawsuits. And Democratic Party spokesman Hari Sevugan called the lawsuit "a waste of state funds during the worst economic crisis in a generation."
"The American people don't want any more delay, obstruction or hypocrisy on this. They want thoughtfully implemented reform so that it works for all Americans," Sevugan said.
Renee Landers, a law professor at Suffolk University in Massachusetts, said the Constitution gives Congress broad power to regulate commerce and promote the general welfare of Americans.
"If the federal courts follow existing precedents of the United States Supreme Court, I don't think that the claims will be successful," Landers told CNN.
Ryan Wiggins, a spokesman for McCollum, said the case was filed in Pensacola because "we were told that out of all of the places to file in Florida, Pensacola would move the quickest on it."
At least one of the officials who signed onto the lawsuit has run into criticism back home. Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, criticized Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna for joining the case and said she would actively oppose the suit.
Separately, legislatures in three dozen states are considering proposed legislation aimed at blocking elements of the health care bill. But Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Texas, said the Constitution says laws passed by Congress trump state laws.
"We've got a very conservative Supreme Court, but they're not about to overturn 200 years of Constitutional history and interpretation and declare that the supremacy clause is no longer in effect," Jillson said.