By David Gura
The Obama administration has formally responded to the first of some twenty lawsuits filed by states, charging that the new health care law is unconstitutional, NPR's Julie Rovner reports.
In its motion to dismiss the suit filed by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Department of Justice says that the question of whether the federal government can require individuals to have health insurance is not something states can sue over:
Virginia seeks here to challenge recently enacted federal health care reform legislation. To accept that challenge, this Court would have to make new law and ignore decades of settled precedent. The Court would also have to step beyond the proper role of the Judiciary, for Virginia does not satisfy the basic constitutional prerequisites -- in particular, standing to sue -- to invoke federal jurisdiction.
According to the government, because the requirement in the law is on individuals, states lack standing to sue.
Further, the government argues there is no constitutional problem with the so-called individual mandate, because congress has ample authority to impose such a requirement under the portion of the constitution that lets it regulate interstate commerce:
Congress, in adopting the minimum coverage provision, acted well within its authority under the Commerce Clause. Congress understood that virtually everyone at some point will need medical services, which cost money. The ACA merely regulates economic decisions on how to pay for those services -- whether to pay in advance through insurance or attempt to do so later out of pocket -- decisions that substantially affect the vast, interstate health care market.