A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that a constitutional challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — can move forward, refusing to motion to dismiss filed by the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
From Ashby Jones at the WSJ Law Blog:
The ruling represents a setback that will force the Obama administration to mount a lengthy legal defense of the law. The suit, filed by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (pictured), alleges that the law’s requirement that its residents have health insurance violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.
Virginia’s lawsuit is one of several trying to undo the health-care law. Another large one was filed in a Florida federal court by a handful of state attorneys general.
In his opinion, Judge Hudson ruled:
The guiding precedent [on the Commerce Clause] is informative but inconclusive. Never before has the Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause been extended this far. At this juncture, the court is not persuaded that the Secretary has demonstrated a failure to state a cause of action with respect to the Commerce Clause element.
In other words, off to discovery we head.
Emphasis mine. This bit confirms what we already know — that Obamacare, and especially the individual mandate, have expanded the reach of federal authority to new and unprecedented heights. But as Jones makes clear, this win, while crucial, is just the first of many that will be required to overturn the mandate, and Obamacare.
UPDATE White House health care spokesman Stephanie Cutter responds to the Virginia ruling, eliding the issue of whether Obamacare is actually constitutional:
“Having failed in the legislative arena, opponents of reform are now turning to the courts in an attempt to overturn the work of the democratically elected branches of government,” Cutter said. “This is nothing new. We saw this with the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act — constitutional challenges were brought to all three of these monumental pieces of legislation, and all of those challenges failed. So too will the challenge to health reform.”
Cutter stressed that the court did not rule on the constitutionality of the health-care law. “Today’s decision merely said that the Virginia Attorney General has standing to challenge the lawsuit — which means that the court has jurisdiction to hear further arguments. The federal government believes this procedural ruling is in error and conflicts with long-standing and well-established legal precedents — the types of precedents that, in the words of Chief Justice Roberts, are designed to preserve the “judiciary’s proper role in our system of government” and to ensure that our courts do not become forums for political debates.”