Legal Challenge to ObamaCare Passes First Hurdle

August 4th, 2010

By Dan Miller

Might the republic prevail? In Virginia, a federal government motion to dismiss the state’s suit against ObamaCare is denied.

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Judge Hudson of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia denied a motion by the federal government to dismiss a suit filed by Virginia challenging the mandatory health insurance provisions of the ObamaCare law. Similar motions to dismiss are pending in other district courts.

By virtue of its procedural posture, denial of the motion to dismiss Virginia’s action does not decide the case. However, it does provide tentative guidance as to how at least one federal judge may eventually rule on whether a federal requirement that individuals purchase health insurance is within the powers of the federal government.

In addition to the Commerce Clause, the federal government invoked its taxing powers under the Constitution — as it recently threatened to do despite President Obama’s earlier assertions that no tax was involved — arguing that its taxing powers are even more expansive than its powers under the Commerce Clause. It also claimed that its powers to promote the general welfare justify the mandatory health insurance requirement.

A number of arcane but important issues — like standing to sue, as the mandatory insurance requirement is not scheduled to go into effect until 2014, and others — are discussed in the decision, and were resolved favorably to Virginia. But according to Judge Hudson, the “centerpiece of the case” is whether the Congress has the authority “to regulate economic inactivity.” The mandatory health insurance requirements of the law present, for the very first time, a question of whether the Commerce Clause is sufficiently broad to permit the requirement to be imposed. Judge Hudson noted:

The congressional enactment under review — the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision — literally forges new ground and extends Commerce Clause powers beyond its current high water mark. Counsel for both sides have thoroughly mined relevant case law and offered well reasoned analyses. The result, however, has been insightful and illuminating but short of definitive. While this Court’s decision may set the initial judicial course of this case, it will certainly not be the final word.

Under the judge’s analysis of Commerce Clause cases, no clear precedent exists to support the federal government’s position. Even though the Commerce Clause has become a bloated catchall for everything the federal government wants to do having any tangential impact on interstate and intrastate commerce, it seems that the federal government may finally have overstepped its bounds.

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One Response to “Legal Challenge to ObamaCare Passes First Hurdle”



  1. Tom Carter |

    This thing has a long way to go before there’s a final decision at the Supreme Court, where it seems to be headed. I just don’t see how the feds can win. Mandating that citizens purchase a good or service under the Commerce Clause power seems absurd. Of course, I’ve always thought the Wickard v. Filburn decision was absurd, too, so what do I know.

    If the feds do win, one has to wonder what will be next. Laws to make us eat vegetables, get eight hours of sleep a night, and exercise daily because that will reduce health care costs? Or, taxes on those who don’t do those things? My libertarian streak (which admittedly isn’t that strong) is getting very irritated.


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