McKenna: “If the state attorneys general don’t defend their states' rights against unconstitutional federal encroachment, who will?”
OLYMPIA— The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) made its second argument before a US District Court judge today, continuing efforts to fend off constitutional challenges to provisions of the nation’s new health care law.
The DOJ today argued its motion to dismiss a multi-state lawsuit, brought by 20 states including Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and Attorney General Rob McKenna, two individuals and the National Federation of Independent Business. The argument centered on whether the states and other plaintiffs even had a right to bring the case.
The states responded that resources are already being spent to comply with the law. It is projected that, under the new law, Washington state will be forced to broaden its Medicaid eligibility standards to accommodate as many as 360,000 more enrollees. Medicaid already consumes more than 20 percent of the Washington state budget.
“The DOJ argues that the 20 states that brought this suit do not have the right to challenge the impact on state budgets of the federally-imposed Medicaid expansion and the individual health insurance mandate which will drive millions of additional people into state-funded Medicaid programs,” McKenna said.
The DOJ also argued that the individual mandate falls under Congress’ “taxing and spending” authority – even though President Barack Obama previously stated that the insurance mandate was “absolutely not” a tax.
“Congress has said this is not a tax. The President has said this is not a tax. Yet the DOJ, which did not have a vote in this matter, now claims it’s a tax,” McKenna said. “Even the judge questioned this line of reasoning.”
The hearing before Judge Roger Vinson of the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Pensacola lasted more than two and a half hours.
At the end of the hearing, Judge Vinson indicated that he is leaning toward denying part of the motion to dismiss and that he would issue his order on or before Oct. 14. He established a tentative briefing schedule with both sides and indicated that should he deny the motion to dismiss, oral argument on the merits of the case would take place on Dec. 16.
In August, a Virginia judge rejected a similar DOJ motion, ruling that “neither the US Supreme Court nor any circuit court of appeals has squarely addressed this issue” and “resolution of this case must await a hearing on the merits.”
The multistate lawsuit alleges that the health care bill signed in March exceeds the powers granted to the federal government under the U.S. Constitution.
According to the suit, the new law violates Article I of the Constitution by mandating that every citizen have qualifying health care coverage or pay a penalty, even though the Commerce Clause has never been applied to compel Americans to buy a specific product or service. The financial penalty, if considered a tax, is an unlawful direct tax in violation of Article I, sections 2 and 9 of the Constitution.
The lawsuit also claims the health care law infringes on state sovereignty and violates the Tenth Amendment by imposing burdensome new operating rules that states must follow, as well as requiring states to spend billions to implement the new law.
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More information on the multi-state lawsuit: