NPR logo Obama's HHS Asks Court To Dismiss Va.Health Mandate Lawsuit

Obama's HHS Asks Court To Dismiss Va.Health Mandate Lawsuit

The Obama Administration asked a federal court to dismiss Virginia's lawsuit against the new health care overhaul legislation, arguing in part that the Constitution doesn't permit states to simply nullify federal laws they don't like by enacting their own laws in opposition.

Virginia was the first state to file a lawsuit soon after the federal health care legislation became law, arguing that Congress had overreached by requiring citizens in the 50 states to buy a product or service, in this case health insurance. At least 14 states have filed similar lawsuits.

But the Obama Administration and congressional supporters of the new legislation assert that Congress was well within its power to pass the law under both the constitutional power to levy taxes as well as its authority under the Constitution's Commerce Clause.

As the Associated Press reports:

Virginia's Republican attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Richmond less than eight hours after Congress enacted the law. It argues that requiring people to buy health coverage or pay a fee exceeds federal powers limited by the Constitution's 10th Amendment.

More than a dozen state attorneys general have sued over the legislation on broadly similar grounds in cases that are likely be determined by the Supreme Court.

The conservative attorney general sued in defense of a Virginia law enacted this winter that exempts state residents from being required to have health coverage.

Sebelius argues in her dismissal motion, however, that Virginia lacks the standing to sue.

"A state cannot ... manufacture its own standing to challenge a federal law by simple expedient of passing a statute purporting to nullify it," read the motion. "Otherwise, a state could import almost any political or policy dispute into federal court by enacting its side of the argument into state law."