LIANE HANSEN, Host:
Health care and immigration are two issues already galvanizing candidates and voters in the run-up to the fall elections. On both, one voice has risen to particular prominence in recent weeks, that of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. He joins us now from his office in Fairfax, Virginia. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, welcome to the program.
KEN CUCCINELLI: Glad to be with you, Liane. Thanks for having me.
HANSEN: It's a pleasure. First, I want to talk you about your lawsuit. A federal court last week refused to dismiss your lawsuit challenging the new Health Care Law, rejecting arguments from the Obama administration that Virginia had no standing to sue over the law. What's the basis of you lawsuit?
CUCCINELLI: So we brought suit to, in our view, protect the Constitution and Virginia's own statute. Because normally the Supremacy Clause would have the federal bill trumping the state law. However, that is not the case if the federal bill is unconstitutional, which is Virginia's position. So now it will go forward in October for oral argument, where the constitutionality of the bill will, in effect, be debated.
HANSEN: Hmm, what's your argument that the health care bill is unconstitutional? How is it unconstitutional?
CUCCINELLI: So we know that we are in constitutional Never Neverland, but we don't know whether or not they will agree with Virginia that in fact this is an unconstitutional exercise of power by the federal government.
HANSEN: So, in other words, you're saying that if a person chooses not to buy insurance, they're not engaged in economic activities...
CUCCINELLI: At all.
HANSEN: ...and so Congress cannot regulate the actions as interstate commerce. That's the nut, right?
CUCCINELLI: That's the nut boiled down. And then you get to the fallback, which is the tax argument.
HANSEN: I'd like to move on to another issue that you've been in the spotlight for: The opinion you issued that gives Virginia police officers the okay to check people's immigration status when they stop someone. Are you actually encouraging officers to check immigration status?
CUCCINELLI: I will tell you that law enforcement already knew they can do this. Legislators didn't know it. Local governments didn't know it. The press went relatively crazy over the opinion. We were quite surprised, given that we knew we weren't breaking any new ground.
HANSEN: The American Civil Liberties Union has directly encouraged police officers in Virginia to ignore your opinion. How do you respond?
CUCCINELLI: Well, the nature of their complaints is terribly weak and they mailed that off to the police and sheriffs in Virginia who, like I said, the one category of people who already knew that what I said in my opinion was the state of the law towards law enforcement. So law enforcement knows what to do with that sort of unsolicited advice.
HANSEN: But the nuns' order has said that they're dismayed that has been turned into a political issue. Have you been in touch with them and how do you respond to their reaction?
CUCCINELLI: But even as this was quickly escalating for him personally, he still wasn't being sufficiently prioritized in the deportation process to be moved through and out.
HANSEN: Ken Cuccinelli is the attorney general for Virginia and he joined us from his office in Fairfax. Thank you very much.
CUCCINELLI: Yes, ma'am. Glad to be with you.
HANSEN: You're listening to NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.