• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Yes Virginia, There is a Constitutional Requirement for Federal Legislation

    In a major blow to an Obama administration seeking to show that the lawsuits challenging Obamacare are “frivolous” by scoring an early dismissal—something it hoped to do before the November elections—a district court ruled to the contrary this morning.  Federal District Judge Henry Hudson rejected the motion by the United States to dismiss Virginia’s lawsuit and allowed it to proceed.

    This is the first decision involving a major case challenging the constitutionality of the individual insurance mandate, and so its impact may reverberate beyond this individual case.  The United States made two jurisdictional arguments and two arguments on the merits for a preliminary dismissal of Virginia’s challenge, all of which were rejected by the district judge.

    At this preliminary stage of the litigation, the jurisdictional arguments presented the most serious obstacle. The judge seemed to concede that the precedents were not absolutely clear, in part because the federal statute’s reach is novel and the state’s interest in challenging it is thus without much judicial precedent.  However, the district court ruled that Virginia has standing to challenge the federal individual mandate provision, not primarily because it was acting its “parens patriae” capacity to prevent general harm to its citizens, but because it was acting to protect its own sovereign interest in enacting a state provision that conflicts with the federal statutory scheme.

    The court also ruled the claim was ripe for adjudication, even though the insurance purchase requirement does not affect individuals until 2014, because the Commonwealth “must revamp its health care program to ensure compliance with the enactment’s provisions” and that such actions are not hypothetical or distant.

    On the merits, we are surprised the judge took as much space to conclude that Virginia stated a valid cause of action, namely, that Congress had exceeded its constitutional authority with the individual mandate.  At this stage in the litigation and on the particular motion that was filed (a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for the legal wonks), the judge need not and could not rule on who will win or even if one side is more likely to win.  The only question is whether Virginia stated a legal cause of action (or legal theory) that is cognizable in law.  Virginia certainly has at least a valid substantive theory to challenge the law, because someone with standing is always able to challenge the constitutionality of a statute on the ground that Congress has no constitutional authority to enact it, QED.  Indeed, we think Virginia ultimately should win on the merits, but it is even easier to show that the correct form of the argument was set forth in the complaint.  Nevertheless, unless the district court’s jurisdictional rulings are overturned, Judge Hudson’s discussion of the constitutional issues is somewhat instructive.  It shows he is not hostile or dismissive of Virginia’s claims, which is surely good for liberty.

    Co-authored by Robert Alt.

    Posted in Legal [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Yes Virginia, There is a Constitutional Requirement for Federal Legislation

    1. West Texan says:

      Federal jurisdictional power is to provide for the union's common defense. Defending the border for example. Health care reform is a domestic matter belonging entirely within the jurisdictional authority of individual states. Opinions, even among the brightest legal minds, can be fraught with corrupted bias. For this reason it's always best to return to our founders basic design.

    2. Bogopogo, Okinawa, J says:

      Isn't that odd – not long after the Arizona decision – we get a decision that is almost opposite.

      "but because it was acting to protect its own sovereign interest in enacting a state provision that conflicts with the federal statutory scheme."

    3. LarryT Central PA says:

      Has any of the legal types tried to obtain the copies of the original legislation with all changes marked and timestamps. With all the behind closed doors tricks done by Mafia Queen Pelosi i am sure that some of the bills passed in house were not what was being voted on, some passed onto seneate were not the ones passed and some of the bills signed were not the ones passed by both houses.

      It is time for BillGate – the illegal passage of bills by congress exposure.

    4. Pingback: Another Victory on the Road to Repeal | Fix Health Care Policy

    5. Tom Seyfried , Wilmi says:

      I hope to see more states following Virginia's path. This administration is the most corrupt I have ever seen. Hopefully this will all be repealled and all who passed it voted OUT…They did not want to hear about the constitution on healthcare , but mention it when suing Ariziona.

      Come on November

    6. TomT, Washington says:

      Truly enjoyed your spirited defense of institutionalized racism in your position on the US Commission on Civil Rights. Saw it on CSPAN2. Awesome performance!

    7. Bill McG says:

      Hi Tod

      Last fall you were quoted saying effectively that you weren't sure Justicice Sotomajor had adequate respect for the notion of corporate personhood. I just read the 14th amendment – its' opening sentences apply it only to persons born here or naturalized. How then did an artificial person concept come into acceptance, creating corporations as a class also protected by the 14th amendment? How did that come to be?

    8. Pingback: Ruling In Va. Health Lawsuit Renews Blogger Interest In Case | Go HealthReform

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.