Washington D.C. March 23, 2010 - Using the argument that requiring individuals to buy insurance violates the Constitution, 14 State prosecutors, 12 of them Republicans, ran to court to today to block the historic health care bill minutes after President Obama signed it into law.
In a suit filed in federal district court in Tallahassee, Fla.," Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum said” This bipartisan effort by attorneys general around the country should put the federal government on notice that we will not tolerate the constitutional rights of our citizens and the sovereignty of our states to be trampled on. I will pursue this litigation to the highest court if necessary."
The lawsuit complained that "[t] he Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage,”
Only one democrat signed on to the lawsuit, Louisiana Attorney General James "Butch" Caldwell. The other prosecutors represent Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington State. Virginia's Ken Cuccinelli, Republican attorney general, filed a separate suit.
McCollum hopes other Democrats would join the suit. He said "It's a question for most of us in the states of the costs to our people and to the rights and the freedoms of the individual citizens in upholding our constitutional duties as attorneys general,"
Several distinguished law professors said that the health insurance requirement is clearly within Congress' reach "It would be surprising if the (Supreme Court) says Congress can't regulate people who are participating in the $1 trillion health care market," said David Freeman Engstrom, a Stanford University Law School professor. "The lawsuit probably doesn't have legs both as a matter of precedent and as a matter of common sense."
Sanford Levinson, a University of Texas Law School professor, said that Americans who choose not to buy health insurance could pay a fine under the law. Congress, he said, clearly has the authority to levy taxes and fines.
"As a technical matter, it's been set up as a tax," Levinson said in discussing penalties under the health care law. "The argument about constitutionality is, if not frivolous, close to it," he said.
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"You'd have to imagine that the five conservative Republicans on the Supreme Court would be willing to invalidate the most important piece of social legislation in 50 years on the basis of a highly tendentious and controversial reading of the Constitution."
Constitutional law professor Robert Sedler at Wayne State University in Detroit said the effort isn't going anywhere. "This is pure, pure political posturing and they have to know it,"
The White House commented, that it isn't worried about this lawsuit and many legal experts agree the effort is in vain.
Department spokesman Charles Miller in Washington said, "[w] e are confident that this statute is constitutional and we will prevail when we defend it.”
In fact White House domestic policy chief Melody Barnes dared the prosecutors "To…[b]ring it on,'" He, pointed out that similar suits filed over the Voting Rights Act and Social Security when those were passed. "If you want to look in the face of a parent whose child now has health care insurance and say we're repealing that ... go right ahead."