Healthcare reform law arguments heard in Virginia courtroom

A two-hour hearing in Richmond yesterday marked the first courtroom battle over President Obama's healthcare reform law.

Virginia is suing the U.S. government over a key provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that penalizes individuals who fail to purchase health insurance. The Commonwealth argues that the federal law exceeds Congress' constitutional power and oversteps a new state law that protects Virginians from being required to buy health insurance, the Roanoke Times reports.

"If the government prevails...Congress will have been granted a virtually unlimited power to order you to buy anything. That would amount to the end of federalism and our more than 220 years of constitutional government," Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said at a press conference yesterday.

The U.S. Department of Justice asked U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that Virginia lacks the standing to bring a suit, that the suit is premature, and that the federal government has the power under the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause to mandate that citizens must be covered by health insurance or pay a civil penalty.

Hudson is expected to rule on the dismissal motion within a month. More than a dozen states have filed similar lawsuits.

For more information:
- read the Roanoke Times article  
- read this Washington Post report 
- check out this Wall Street Journal blog post 
- read Cuccinelli's press release