Virginia judge allows lawsuit opposing healthcare reform to advance

In a ruling against the Obama administration, a federal judge in Virginia issued a procedural decision to allow a suit filed by Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cucinelli against the Affordable Care Act to move forward, Courthouse News reports. Monday's decision means the court has jurisdiction to hear further arguments.

In a press briefing Monday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, called the decision a procedural step. "We remain confident that the case is solid and that there is a full constitutional backing for the passage of the Affordable Care Act, so this is just a step to move us to the debate on the merits of the case," she said.

The court did not rule on the merits of the attorney general’s claim that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, the White House blog later noted.

The administration sounded confident that the challenge to the health reform would fizzle. Opponents' turning to courts in an attempt to overturn the reform “is nothing new,” Stephanie Cutter, assistant to the President for special projects, wrote in the White House blog on Monday. She noted that the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act all faced constitutional challenges, and all of the challenges failed. “So too will the challenge to health reform,” she wrote.

Judge Henry Hudson's opinion states that the "Court's mission at this stage is narrow" and that it "does not resolve contests surrounding ... the facts [or] the merits of a claim," Cutter wrote.

Virginia claims the mandate requiring most Virginians to buy health insurance or pay a fine would interfere with states rights by violating a state anti-reform bill passed signed into law by Gov. Bob McDonnell earlier this year, Courthouse News reports. The government asked Judge Hudson to dismiss the lawsuit, saying it has the authority to mandate coverage to pay the $43 billion yearly medical tab for those without health insurance.

Secretary Sebelius also argued that the bill was a valid exercise of Congress' taxing and spending power, and does not burden state rights.

The federal government believes the procedural ruling is a mistake and conflicts with long-standing and well-established legal precedents that ensure courts do not become forums for political debates.

To learn more
- read the ruling
- read the Courthouse News article
- here’s the Daily Kos blog
- read the White House blog
- see the amicus brief that supports the Affordable Care Act
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